The Collection comprises Yugoslav and Serbian painting from the beginning of the 20th century until the end of World War II. It consists of more than 900 works of art by 138 authors. The total number of works includes a special collection of 120 watercolors, pastels and gouaches.
The basic concept of this collection was built around the program of an all-encompassing representation of the historical period which ends with the beginning of World War II and the establishing of new socio-political context, which will set a new and different course in the development of art production. The collection provides a deep insight into the genesis and the stages of development of Yugoslav and Serbian modernism, its thematic, stylistic and poetic totality, individual opuses and relevant works.
The beginnings of modern painting in Serbia and Yugoslavia are primarily marked by impressionist impulses featured in the works of Slovenian and Serbian impressionists (M. Milovanović, K. Milićević, M. Glišić). A special position in the works of the pioneers of modernism belongs to the paintings of Nadežda Petrović (Funeral in Sićevo, 1905; Gypsy Woman with a Scarf, 1905) which are characterized by their natural coloring, the audacity of vision and spontaneity of gesture.
The beginning of the 1920s was marked by the domination of Cezannesque and Cuboconstructivistic tendencies with special emphasis on the shape and the structure, which is seen in the works of Sava Šumanović (Drunken Boat, 1927), Milo Milunović (Bistro 1, 1922), Tone Kralj (Rural Wedding, 1926), Vasa Pomorišac (Card Players, 1924), Ivan Radović (Houses, 1922). The first example of abstract art of cubofuturistic and expressionist orientation are seen in the works of Milan Konjović (Cubist Still Life, 1922) and Jovan Bijelić (Struggle between Day and Night, 1921).
The art of the 1930s was created in the spirit of esthetic polarization and ideological conflicts. On one hand, the “pure art” of strong and expressive coloring dominated the works of Jovan Bijelić (Little Girl in a Baby Carriage, 1933), Milan Konjović (Little Ministrant, 1936), Zora Petrović, Ignjat Job, Petar Dobrović. Moreover, the “intimistic art” of a poetized vision of reality propounded by the likes of Marko Čelebonović (Interior with Plaster Head, 1937), Ljubica Sokić and Kosta Hakman also played an important role. On the other hand, a socially engaged and political art which neglects the dominant “Art for Art’s Sake” emerged in the works of the artists gathered around an art group from Zagreb called “The Earth” (Krsto Hegedušić, Marijan Detoni, Vinko Grdan, Ivan Tabaković) and the Belgrade group “Life” (Đ. Andrejević-Kun, Đurđe Teodorović). Surrealism and Post-Surrealism are featured in the collection in the works of Radojica Živanović, Milena Pavlović Barili and Stane Kregar.