Artworks in the Collection

Milenko ŠERBAN
Fruit (1) (1950)

The theme of still-life as a meditative one, laden with symbolism, is close to the sensibility of Milenko Šerban, and therefore we often encounter it in his artistic opus, both in oil and in tempera and later in pastel. His composition Fruit (1) fits very well into the context of Pavle Beljanski’s collection, which has shown a tendency towards a hedonistic experience of a work of art, the joy of an encounter with a painting, accompanied by calm and relaxed viewing. The painting makes subtle use of a Bonnard-like full gamut, vertical framing and an elongated view, which was what the Impressionists, and later on the Nabis loved in the Japanese print artists: the view from above which continues in a “bird’s flight” to a significant detail in the other part of the composition. This is how Šerban placed the bowl in the foreground, almost in the focus of attention, filled with fruit painted in a juicy, almost sensuous way, on a striped tablecloth which was painted by splashing ochre-yellow paint in smears using steady brushstrokes. This technique suggests that he was to abandon painting the material world and move closer to an expressionistic, and even abstract way of thinking. In 1950, when the painting was produced, such a technique was bold and could be considered as the awakening of a new poetics which is in opposition to the prevailing dogmatic art. The persuasiveness of the foreground of the composition somehow casts a shadow over its finish where the figure of the little girl, the artist’s two years old daughter Nada, who is reaching for the fruit, remained incomplete. According to all these, slightly concealed details, the painting is one of Šerban’s very significant post-World War II works: like a link, it nurtured the unique characteristics and the values of painting from an earlier period, but it also opened up the way for the upcoming phase both for the artist himself and Serbian painting in general.

Milenko Šerban