(1890 – 1942)
Portrait of Suzana the Laundress, 1931
oil on canvas
92 x 73 cm
Petar Dobrović’s Portrait of Suzana the Laundress is based on intense colour that completely surpasses the value of the local hue. Dobrović artfully masters realistic proportions and real spatial relationships, but it is in fact his free colouristic solutions and surprising colour accents on parts of her figure that speak most about Suzana, for example on her hands that are flaming red. Emphasising chromaticism to a euphoric degree, Dobrović became one of the ‘most temperamental’, but also one of the most influential Serbian painters of the first half of the 20th century.
Petar Dobrović was born in Pécs in Hungary, and he obtained a degree in painting in 1911 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest. His beginnings were marked by Impressionism, but after he studied in Paris in 1912/1914, he took on board the modern conceptions of Cubism, Cézanneism and Expressionism. He participated in Hungary’s avant-garde movements, and was arrested in 1921 for his political activities in Pécs. He escaped to Paris then Novi Sad where he worked as a high school drawing professor. From 1921, he lived in Belgrade, where he taught at the Royal Art School and he exhibited regularly. He also participated in the founding of the Form (Oblik in Croatian) Art Group, which advocated the autonomy of aesthetics in art and Modernism between 1926 and 1939. He often spent summers in Dalmatia, on the island of Hvar and in Dubrovnik, where he painted many portraits and landscapes in watercolour and oil. He painted with Milan Konjović and Ivan Tabaković. Dobrović published drawings, vignettes and art criticism in writer Miroslav Krleža’s magazine Danas (Today) in 1934. Being one of its founders (1937), Dobrović taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade, where one of the students he mentored in 1940-41 was Edo Murtić.
Text: Lada Bošnjak Velagić, senior curator at the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023