Suburban Venus, 1920
oil on canvas
96.5 x 127 cm
In the painting Suburban Venus, Milivoj Uzelac sublimates Cézanne’s and Kraljević’s painterly interpretations into a disturbing scene full of expressionist menace. The gaze and attitude of Uzelac’s Venus, a model from Paris who moved to Zagreb because of him, is full of disdain. She appears resigned wearing torn stockings in a dilapidated studio, surrounded by the inventory of bourgeois pastime such as the Manet-like ribbon around her neck, the mirror, flowers and a book. The hypocrisy and pretence of daily life is additionally emphasized with an emblematic circus or fair scene that is visible through the window. In their aesthetics of the ugly, Uzelac’s engaged and provocative theme, unstable composition, accentuated deformations, juxtapositions of light and dark, are close to the Expressionism of his German and Austrian contemporaries.
Uzelac was educated in Banja Luka, Zagreb and Prague. From a young age, he was very close to Vilko Gecan, both privately and professionally. Although he has lived in France since 1923, he has had a lasting and significant influence on the Croatian art scene, particularly in the interwar period. Despite Uzelac’s fascination with Paris, his youthful obsession with the anxiety of the contemporary moment and especially his ‘collage-like’ fragments connect him to Georg Grosz and the contemporary German Dadaism and the circle around Micić’s avant-garde magazine Zenit. Uzelac’s later paintings are characterized by a ‘return to order’ and an eternal search for harmony and balance.
Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, Senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb