Artists in the Collection

Jovan Bijelić
(Village Kolunić, hamlet of Revenik, 30 June 1884 – Belgrade, 12 March 1964)


Whether through the influence of Polish culture which was spreading in Slavic countries under Austro-Hungarian rule or due to a general trend of going to study in Poland or the Czech Republic i.e. Bohemia, Jovan Bijelić graduated from the Krakow Academy as the first Yugoslav painter educated in that city on the Vistula River. Like many other contemporaries, he went on to do further studies in Paris upon graduating. He was pleased with the museums, the spirit and atmosphere there, considering them to be “true urban values,” but the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and professor De Chirico did not fulfill his expectations. He painted panoramasin impressionist style in an attempt to bring his Krakow experience closer to the French ideals. His visit to a Cézanne exhibition left an indelible mark
on his stay in Paris as well as on his further artistic development. Bijelić had his first solo exhibition in the Ulrich Salon in Zagreb in 1919. As it was well received by more progressive critics, the exhibition was one of the decisive factors which led to his position as a scenographer in the National Theater in Belgrade. In the early 1930’s, Bijelić spent time in Berlin, Dresden and Prague. His youthfully insufficient grasp of modern tendencies was replaced by a desire to experiment. The paintings entitled The Struggle between Day and Night and Abstract Scenery were created in that period. This successful foray into abstract art, however, remained only a brief albeit significant adventure. In 1926, he opened his own school of painting in his studio located in the attic of the Second Boys’ High School, a school
which would produce many distinguished Serbian artists or art historians such as Lazar Trifunović.
He himself stated that his favorite painters were Tintoretto, because of his lively temperament and Delacroix, because of the zeal and the verve with which he painted his works. In the 1930s, Bijelić underwent a transformation in style that was embodied, above all, in the accentuated use of colours and free strokes, only to see his activities subside
significantly during World War II. The new transformation was characterized by freedom from the objectivity in the second half of the 1950s when the “Storm” cycle was created.