Artworks in the Collection

Ljubica Cuca SOKIĆ
Self-portrait (1942)


When she was younger, Ljubica Cuca Sokić drew her self-portrait on many occasions (1929, 1939, 1940, and 1942). These self-portraits are more than just skillful visual plays: they reflect an essential, existential moment of feeling and life itself. In addition to being closest in form, two of the self-portraits are also chronologically closest (one produced in 1940, property of the author, and the other in 1942, from The Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection): Cuca is wearing the same hat and has an almost identical hairstyle; the neutral background is the same, both paintings show her figure frontally, down to the middle of her chest. There are still some essential differences between them: the first one is dominated by a warm, ochre tonality of the face with even shadings and reflections on the hat’s rim. The serious look on the painter’s face speaks of her self-absorption and contemplation. The hat is decorated with a bunch of cheerful reddish-pink flowers of the same gamut as her lips and the edge of the opening along the neckline of her working clothes – a dark monochromatic apron. The entirety of the painting speaks of the calmness and harmony of the piece, but also of a certain underlying unease. The second self-portrait produced only two years later and reproduced here, during the Nazi occupation and the tragedy which befell the author’s family and her country, in spite of formal similarities, emanates a completely different mood. The entire tonality is in bilious green nuances. The look on the artist’s face is painful but also rebellious and spiteful: with dark rings around her eyes, pale lips, a dramatically darkened left side of the face, with an open white shirt and a brown jacket, reminiscent of Goya’s innocent victims. On the hat there is a casually tied red scarf instead of a bunch of flowers. All these details may be interpreted as a sign of trauma and rejection of the imposed life under occupation and, ultimately, they introduce a deeper and universal human dimension into the painting.

Ljubica Cuca Sokić