Dubrovnik, Mlini, Cavtat

20th May 2017 - 20 June 2017

The paintings of Milan Konjović are artefacts of great artistic beauty created in a conflict between mimetic reality and artistic vision and express the artist’s victory over the chaos of rough matter and life hopelessness. He drew endless and driving energy from his immediate surroundings and love towards the man. The joy of creation in interaction with the nature is basis of Konjović’s creativity.

Mlini, 1932.

Konjović marked the whole twentieth century by his unique art. He advanced his knowledge and skill tirelessly studying and working in many cities and smaller communities, from Sombor to Prague, Vienna and Paris. It was his close environment that inspired him and occupied his interests. Besides painting motifs of Vojvodina countryside, farmhouses, streets and people of Sombor, Konjović was inspired by the sea coast motifs. His first paintings with those motifs were made in 1927 during his stay in a French fisherman’s place (Cassis- sur- Mer). It was a self-confident step out of  the neoclassicist painting of hard schematic form and, little by little, he entered into the artistically much freer expressionistic painting by which he implied the introduction into the famous „blue phase“.

Ema and Milan, Cavtat, 1936

After his return to his homeland in 1932, Konjović went to Mlini for vacation with his wife and daughter for the first time. The stay in this picturesque seaside place inspired the artist to paint a dozen of oil paintings. Some of the works created at that time are now in possession of the Gallery of “Milan Konjović”: “The Chicken of Herzegovina” 1932. (GMK), “Lying Nude” 1932 (GMK) “Pines and Olives”1932 (GMK).

Blue Cassis, 1929

That was the time when Konjović introduced significant changes in the color gamma of his painting. He changes the dominant harmony of the painting and instead of blue, the red color became the leading tone in accordance with the coloristic complementary gamma. If the Parisian blue was a beginning of the artistic maturity of the artist, then the red phase surely represents his more condense, highly creative maturity.  Sensual, dramatic and colorful suggestive works from this period are a logical sequence of certain artistic elements and a more impulsive artistic expression.

Pines and Olives, 1932

In the summer of 1933 he painted in Cavtat, where he experienced an artistic renaissance. It was Konjović’s way back towards the nature, origins, objects and emotions, which differ a great deal from the motifs of Vojvodina farmhouses, ploughed soil and corn fields, the vast Bačka plain. The coastal regions, the light, the azure colors of the sea, pine trees and olive trees, have enriched Konjović’s pallete with a powerful mixture of complementary colors. This new stormy period oriented the artist towards new thematic stimuli. In addition to the seaside motifs, the artist showed great interest in figures of the picturesque inhabitants of Konavlje in their original national costumes. That year in Cavtat Konjović painted around twenty paintings mostly with motifs of local people of Konavlje: “On the Terrace in Cavtat” 1933 (GMK), “Two Women from Konavlje” 1933 (GMK), a few landscapes and a portrait of Kosta Strajnić.

Ema in Cavtat, 1933

In the following year, 1934, in Prague, he takes part in a collective exhibition of the artistic group “Shape” in the space of the group “Manes” together with several other Yugoslav painters and sculptors: Aralica, Job, Stijović, Šerban and others. Konjović exhibited seven paintings.

A Woman from Konavlje on a Sofa, 1935

With the same artistic group “Shape” he took part at the exhibition in Thessaloniki in 1937. In the same year he exhibited in Paris at the Galerie Mouradian –Vallotton. This exhibition was a very important artistic event in Konjović's work up to that moment. Besides a very positive acceptance by the audience and favorable reaction of the critics, it is worth mentioning the Preface to the catalogue by Maurice Betsz in which he described Konjović's art as „noble, daring, powerful and raw“. At this very important exhibition he presented twenty one paintings, with various topics such as landscapes, still lives, flowers, created both in Sombor and Dalmatia. In recognition of his artistic work, he received an honorary Diploma. His next exhibitions were in Rome, Belgrade, Zagreb, Novi Sad, Sombor and Paris.

Mlini, 1935

He went back to Cavtat again in 1935. Being very inspired and motivated, he painted as many as forty paintings: “A Woman from Konavlje on a Sofa”1935. (GMK), “Veročka”1935 (GMK). This dynamic and productive period enriched his work with a more impulsive and richer coloristic artistic experience. This extraordinarily important and productive period (1933 – 1941) belongs to the “red phase” enriched by the colors of Vojvodina, as well as the themes of the coastal motifs of Cavtat, Mlini and Dubrovnik, which were a bottomless source of inspiration.

Red Fish, 1936

In August 1940, Konjović was a guest at the home of his friend Kosta Strajnić in Cavtat and Dubrovnik where he continued to paint. He came back to Sombor with about ten extraordinary paintings, among others “Odalisque” 1940 (GMK) and “Ema in Red Blouse” 1940 (GMK), etc.

Houses in Cavtat, 1936

This passionate artistic continuity that took place at the end of the thirties, was crowned by an exhibition at the pavilion “Cvijeta Zuzorić” in 1940. Then he opened the Belgrade Fine Art Season by his third solo exhibition which was highly praised by the critics. Pjer Križanić expressed his opinion and paid special attention to the painting “Portrait of Professor S”, the canvas: “in which the artist applied his well-known method, and without deformities, with excellent composition and brush touch he created an excellent piece of art. And in the painting “A Woman from Konavlje”, in spite of richly decorated motifs, he skillfully evaded the air of folklore.”

Dubrovnik, 1948

The war itself and the war years caused a short stagnation in Konjović’s passionate and dynamic painting rise. He went back to Dubrovnik in 1947. It is possible to observe a certain change in the color gamma in the paintings created in the post war period. The stressful war years left impact on Konjović’s passionate and expressive painting. In spite of those causes and their consequences that influenced the artist’s work, in Dubrovnik he made the indisputable masterpieces: “Stradun” 1947 (National Museum Belgrade), “Church of Saint Vlaho” 1948 (GMK) as well as the cult painting “Venus of Dubrovnik”1948 (GMK).

Saint Vlaho, 1951

Konjović’s genuine love for the nature and the man is visible on each and every of his works. As he used to say “Painting is a miracle and always a puzzle, if it was not so, I would have stopped painting a long time ago”. (Taken from the book “Talks with Konjović” by Ljubisav Andrić, issued by Nova 6, Belgrade, 1985.

Nebojša Vasić, author of exhibition

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