Artists in the Collection

Milenko Šerban
(Čerević, 4 April 1907 – Belgrade, 30 July 1979)

Following a three-year course in painting (Prof. V. Eškičević) and his first solo exhibition in Novi Sad in 1926, Šerban went to Paris, where he first studied at the Académie Colarossi, and later with André Lhote who left a deep trace on his entire creative work: the construction of forms, the strict architectural quality of the composition, the analysis of space, the synergy of light, colour and form which led to a certain geometric quality in his drawings and paintings. During a brief period at the end of the twenties (when he spent time with Krsto Hegedušić), some of his pieces took on a conceptual character. And yet, his opus from the1930s was dominated by spontaneity and intuitiveness, particularly
present in a series of landscapes from the Fruška Gora and later in the boldly conceived portraits with hidden erotica and powerful visual and spiritual sensuality. From 1931, he was a member of the group “Form”. The influential art critics of the time (M. S. Petrov, T. Manojlović, R. Petrović, S. Stojanović, D. Blagojević, D. Aleksić…) followed his
exhibitions with great interest. Gradually, Šerban tamed his artistic technique in the spirit of the 1930s’ esthetism: he got closer to Bonnard in the subtlety of his palette, the intimate scenes and the point from which he viewed ordinary sights, and he moved away from Van Gogh’s forcefulness. He embraced a Matisse-like arabesque, ornamental linearism and a striving towards optical pleasure and joy. His wartime paintings reflect poverty, fear and uncertainty; after World War II, he paid his debt to the prevailing socialist realism without big slogans and loud stage appearances. Gradually, his colourism increased in intensity, and his gesture became freer: countrysides, interiors and still-lifes brush against the problems of abstraction; the artist successfully continued to paint portraits, especially in pastel. He participated in all the exhibitions of the group “The Six”. He was curator and manager of the Matica Srpska Museum and a professor at the Academy of Applied Arts in Belgrade, curator of the first permanent display in the Vojvodina Museum.
He was involved in stage and costume design from the early nineteen-thirties in theaters in Novi Sad and Belgrade.