THE COLLECTION OF THE 19TH CENTURY
In the middle of the 19th century the Serbian art of painting was characterized by the reception of content and form typical of middle-class art (Biedermeier), but at the same time by working out the programme of historicism. The influx of romanticist ideas primarily resulted from the education and stays of Serbian painters in Vienna and Munich, as well as from their travel to Italy. Social and political circumstances made Romanticism in Serbian art reach its peak at the end of the sixth and the beginning of the seventh decade of the 19th century. In terms of style and themes, Romanticism brought a lot of novelties: a greater freedom of movement and composition, warm colours, complemented by the interplay of light and shadow. Most Serbian painters from that period tried their hands at painting compositions with national-historical content, but while meeting the requirements of their clients, they did not abandon icon and portrait painting.
Katarina Ivanović (1811 – 1882) was the first Serbian female painter in the history of arts in the modern age. During her studies at the Academy in Vienna she travelled to Munich, Paris and Italy. She introduced new themes in Serbian painting: genre-scenes and still life. In terms of style fluctuating between Biedermeier and romantic ideas, she tried her hand at painting historical compositions, too, but she performed best when painting portraits. Her self-portraits make a separate unit. In 1876 she became the first female member of the Serbian Educated Society as the first educated female painter in Serbian painting.
Novak Radonić (Mol, 1826 – Sremska Kamenica, 1890). Apart from religious themes and historical compositions, he also practised portrait painting, in which he achieved most. As someone who recorded Serbian middle-class society through the medium of painting, and who had an extraordinary feel for the features of characters, he left behind a whole painted collection of friends and respectable contemporaries. Self-portraits in which he undertook a romantic analysis of his own character and state of soul constitute a separate unit. Meeting great Italian Renaissance painters made him start doubting his own painting abilities, which led to him finally abandoning painting.
Stevan (Steva) Todorović (Novi Sad, 1832 – Beograd, 1925). In his long and fertile artistic life he moved from Biedermeir via Romanticism to Realism. His best works were in the romantic spirit. His great painting legacy includes portraits, religious and historical paintings, landscapes and numerous studies and drawings. Most of his artistic activity was associated with Serbia and Belgrade, where he actively participated in the cultural and social life. He opened the first school of painting, where he taught the young to draw, sing, fence and do gymnastics.