Artworks in the Collection

Two Nude Women (1956)

In the fifties Zora Petrović painted a series of large female nudes, bodies with marks of age, pregnancies, illnesses and life experiences. They indicate a crisis of the ideal beauty of the body begun by the expressionists in the early years of the 20th century and it is reminiscent of the labyrinths of man’s inner multiplicity. The painting expresses two opposite intentions, indicated by almost grotesque forms of mature, “merry” women and the beauty of the painted matter, the noble facture of the yellow layers they were painted in. The conflict of beauty and ugliness turns the painting into an unambiguous sign of something which is at the same time desirable and repulsive – into something shameful. Such an image was never meant to impress the observer but to contribute to the understanding of the complexity of life; it attacks the conventional manner of representing reality in art in the name of dynamics and the freedom of diversity. Thus the painting becomes the place where social prohibitions and taboos are overcome in the best tradition of the expressionist ideology, both in the individual and in the social sense of the word. A unification of the beauty of artistic methods and the deep truth about human beings in order to show the complete, true “self” of the subject was a process which, in the case of Zora Petrović, took place spontaneously and intuitively, and in this sense her painting relied more on the philosophical work of Henri Bergson than on Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis. Paintings such as the Two Nude Women broke through the aesthetics of poetic realism and created an expressive and suggestive kind of painting where the individual experience of the world was transformed into a criticism of stereotypes and myths about beauty.

Zora Petrović