The Life of Pavle Beljanski


The Fulfillment of a Dream

After failed attempts in Belgrade, Beljanski offered his collection to Vojvodina, his ancestors’ place of birth, and that brought him closer to the fulfillment of his dream: on 18 November 1957, he signed a Donation Contract with the Executive Council of Vojvodina. First paragraph of this Contract stated that Executive Council of Vojvodina would: «… keep this collection permanently exhibited in Novi Sad, in a separate building which is to be built specifically for that purpose». Based on the project by architect Ivo Kurtović, this modern building was erected in 1961, as a first building in Vojvodina to be built specifically for museum purposes, and a first gallery space in Serbia built to accommodate a private collection. So after his collection was temporarily stored in Matica Srpska Gallery in 1957, Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection was officially opened on 22 October 1961. In building hall is an inscription of Pavle Beljanski, which best describes collector’s love for his people: «I dedicate to Serbian people this collection of artworks, which I collected in deep faith in its creative ability; I dedicate it to the shadows of my ancestors, who persevered in their lasting battle for freedom and independence, to shadows of my parents, Svetozar and Milana, who selflessly served my country, to shadows of my brother Nikola, sisters Aleksandra and Anka and my brother-in-law Nikola, who lost their lives in wars in 1914/18 and 1941/45. Pavle Beljanski.»

Life Dedicated to Art

At the time he donated his collection, aging and of fragile health, Pavle Beljanski again found himself engaged in current artistic events. The reputation he gained through his collection influenced his position as a revered art expert. As a retired diplomat since 1958, he could dedicate himself completely to art. In 1960, he was invited to be a member of a panel of judges of 1st October Salon in Belgrade and to choose the best pieces of our art in the moment they were created, just as he once did for his collection. At the same time, he oversaw the development of new generations of Yugoslav artists as a member of the Art Academy Council (1957–1962).
Apart from such direct involvement in contemporary artistic tendencies and state committees for purchase of artworks, Pavle Beljanski’s artistic criteria were also valuable in important scientific analysis of art. Writing her PhD thesis on Nadežda Petrović, the first detailed study on this founder of modern Serbian painting, Katarina Ambrozić (curator of the National Museum in Belgrade) had sent to Beljanski the integral version of her work, writing to him about problems concerning the acceptance of value of Nadežda Petrović’s opus in professional circles, and asking him to borrow her several of Nadežda’s paintings from his collection for the great exhibition of this artist’s work. Inclined to scientific study of art, Pavle Beljanski founded The Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection Award in 1965 for the best students’ essay and graduation paper on art history submitted in Art History Department of Belgrade University of Philosophy. A year earlier, Beljanski bestowed his art history library on that same department, knowing that its library burned down in 1944 during the retreat of German army from Belgrade. That was his last donation, although he intended to bestow his collection of foreign art onto The Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection. His heirs fulfilled his wish by founding The Pavle Beljanski Memorial in 1966.

Contribution to European Anthology of Art

Unlike many other collectors, who collected works of art only after their value stood the test of shorter or longer periods of time, Beljanski acquired most of the pieces for his collection immediately after they were created. The reputation the collection has gained until today confirms that Pavle Beljanski’s taste for art was exquisite. His main criteria when choosing pieces was whether they have shown the entire potential and gift of talented young artists of his time. Created in a synthesis of aesthetic experiences of modern art, they represent artists’ personal dialogues with themselves and the world that surrounded them. With their authenticity and originality, Lubarda, Bijelić, Šumanović, Milunović and other artists from the collection created masterpieces of their time. They testify that their creators left their mark in the artistic world and that they belong in every comprehensive anthology of European art of the 20th century.