Sunday, February 13, 2011
Young girl on a water spring
Uroš Predić was born in Orlovat (village in Serbia), on 7th December 1857. He spent his childhood in Orlovat, then he attended primary school in Crepaja and finished high school in Pančevo. In 1876 he went to Vienna and four years later he graduated from the Art Academy in Vienna. He studied in the class of Professor Christian Griepenkerl, who also taught Predić's contemporary Paja Jovanović. During his studies, he received the Gundel's prize - for a male model painting in oil. In 1882, he worked in private studio of professor Grieppenkerl, and in the period from 1883 to 1885 he was an assistant professor at the Art Academy in Vienna. During that time, under the instruction of professor Grieppenkerl, and the renowned architect Theophil Freiherr von Hansen, he painted 13 paintings of mythological content for the parliament building in Vienna.
It was in 1885 when he returned to Orlovat, where he painted a series of paintings about the life of his fellow villagers. He realized his art in Belgrade, various Serbian towns, and Vojvodina as well. He never broke the bonds with his village Orlovat. He was just like the son of Banat could be – wide like the sky, fertile like fields and quiet like Tamiš. His paintings represent the peak of academic realism in Serbian art from the late nineteenth century.
His canvases, vigorous brush strokes, harmony of colours and shapes seem to arise from his birthplace – Orlovat, the place where he gathered the motives for his art while he listened to farmers, their stories, laments, celebrations, songs and legends. Thus, he became a painter who so exquisitely and vividly depicted the image his villagers had had about themselves. Although denied due to his style, he was praised for technical purity and expression during his lifetime. He painted in the time of continuous innovations in art, when modern art styles brought about new pages of artistic expression, nevertheless, he did not understand or accept them, despite the fact he was well acquainted with everything new, but doubtful about its value.
In his work and the work of Paja Jovanović and Steva Todorović, the academic realism reaches its highest level. The themes Predić developed are various and they range from portrait paintings, through historical and religious motives, to the composition of everyday life that made him popular and beloved by people.
Predić proved himself as a portraitist during his studies attracting public attention with paintings Moravkinja and Sulky girl. The paintings whose main themes relate to historical content and those inspired by folk poetry (Bosnian fugitives, Starina Novak, and Serbs gathered around gusle, etc.) were done with strong colours and skillful perfection, nevertheless they lacked deeper meaning (as some critics put it), though it is obvious that all his talent was put in these works. In the mid-eighties, during his stay in Orlovat, Predić was occupied with the themes from rural life. In this period Predić created the following works: Children near well, Children under the pacifier, Banaćanin in front of the lawyer’s door, There’ll be trouble, Merry brothers and their grieving mother, An orphan on its mother's grave, etc.. Excellent knowledge of artistic craftsmanship, developed sense of humor and benevolent morales can be evidenced in all these works. In these compositions Predic wanted to point out the mistakes of his people and to laugh at them, since thus is the best way of educating them. The period called Vojvodina period included twenty years in between the two centuries. This is the time when Predic reached full artistic maturity. Most of the time he dwelled in Orlovat where he painted landscapes and scenes from everyday rural life in Banat.
The most significant work from that period is the iconostasis of the Church in Bečej, the highest achievement in Predić church art, which proved to be a role model for all his late works. Besides his other works, he did the iconostasis of the church in Perlez, Patriarchal palace in Sremski Karlovci, Njegoš Chapel on Lovćen and many others. During his stay in Orlovat, Stari Bečej and other places of Vojvodina, Predić completed a series of portraits of famous Vojvodinian people from the higher class in society. Thus, he became an official portraitist of the Vojvodina citizens and clergy.
By the end of his life Uros Predić, already a living legend of the passed times and Art, lived in Belgrade. He worked and created diligently not abandoning the realistic spheres, but without any significant achievements. He died in 1953 in Belgrade at the age of 96, as the longest living Serbian painter. On a gloomy February day, people from Orlovat greeted him for the last time and silently saluted the man who with his paintbrush immortalized Orlovat streets, houses, people and nature.
Undoubtedly, Predić is best known for his monumental historical painting, Kosovo Maiden.
The Kosovo Maiden or Maiden of the Blackbird Field (Serbian: Kosovka devojka, Косовка девојка) is the central figure of a poem with the same name, part of the Kosovo cycle in the Serbian epic poetry. In it, a young beauty searches the battlefield for her betrothed husband and helps wounded Serbian warriors with water, wine and bread after the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 between Serbia and Ottoman Empire. She finally finds wounded and dying warrior Pavle Orlović who tells her that her fiancée Milan Toplica and her two blood-brothers Miloš Obilić and Ivan Kosančić are dead. They had before the battle given her the cloak, golden ring and veil for the wedding as a promise of safe return, but they were slain, and Pavle pointed to the direction of the bodies, the poem and Maiden finishes with;
"Unhappy, if I were to grasp a green pine,
Even the green pine would wither"
The poem became greatly popular as a symbol of womanly care and charity. Uroš Predić took up the theme in 1919 with an oil painting of the same title. In 1907, the sculptor Ivan Meštrović created a marble relief of the subject as a part of his Kosovo-sculpture cycle.