Artworks in the Collection

Milan KONJOVIĆ
Old Porcelain (1944)


Since he was thrown out of his studio in the District Hall tower by the occupaying forces upon his return from a interment camp to Sombor, Konjović worked for a time at his relative’s, aunt Malka’s [Vukićević] home, where this painting was done as well. At the time his powerful gesture, flaming colours and global rhythm of the painting gave way to the emphasis on accentuating the tonal values of colours, the subject matter and the role of the painted motif, remaining faithful to his own powerful and unique creative personality. Old Porcelain is a painting of monumental concept and extraordinary accumulated power, with tense facture, full to the point of bursting. In order to accentuate even more its rusticity and force, the artist often replaced the brush with a spatula. Radoslav Putar, a famous art critic from Zagreb, called this painting in the 1960s “a masterpiece of modern Yugoslav painting.” At the time the picture was painted, art critics (Jovan Popović, Branko Šotra) were fiercely attacking Milan Konjović’s art from the viewpoint of the pragmatic requirements of socialist realism: art was supposed to be topical and clear in content, realistic and easily interpretable in form, a means of mass-education in the hands of daily politics. Konjović was made a target of critics as the director of the Sombor museum, (opened in October 1945 in an adapted building with Pavle Beljanski’s collection) for spreading decadent western art. “In spite of the attacks, I was able to preserve the Beljanski collection in the Sombor museum. Pavle had already told me that he was going to give it as a gift to Vojvodina in memory of his family who had been killed. Beljanski is a remarkable person, and as a man he has a pure soul and a heart of gold. Infatuated and crazy about those paintings of his, he was willing to make any sacrifice for them. It was in the
Sombor museum that he first saw his collection as a whole and as the fruit of his labour. I am of the opinion, and I wish to say it, that this collection is our anthology assembled with a most artistic sensitivity, with masterpieces of our painting between the two wars, chosen from each artist with refined taste and vast knowledge of an extraordinarily cultured collector. Beljanski is indeed one of our great men,” Katarina Ambrozić recorded Konjović’s words.

Milan Konjović