Paulina Sudarski from expressive cheerfulness to the tragic end

An Inquiry into the Painter's Past: A Study of Pauline Sudarski's Formative Era Through a Close Look at Her Path Through the Royal School of Art - Unknown Paths and Portraits of Youth Shape Her Artistic Legacy.

The history and legacy of Pauline Sudarski

Painter without borders: The history and legacy of Pauline Sudarski

In the Preschool Institution 'Pava Sudarski' in Novi Bečej, there is also a bust of a young painter, cast in bronze, the work of sculptor Milan Besarabić. Until a few years ago, along with Ljubica Cuca Sokic, he was our oldest artist. Both attended the Royal Art School at the same time as Paulina.

Paulina SudarskiMilivoj Nikolajević described Besarabić in his text as a colleague 'who loved to discuss, even philosophize. In his work, he was serious, with a visible talent.' The sculptor himself said in an interview with 'Politika' that he was the last student of the Royal Art School: 'When I graduated, they locked up the school and opened the Academy.' He portrayed his colleague realistically, with characteristic features, adding a small stylized painter's palette to the front.

The works left behind by Paulina Sudarski, stored in two museum institutions and one educational institution, as well as with her heirs, represented good material for organizing exhibitions about the deceased painter's work, in which the Zrenjanin National Museum particularly excelled. This is understandable given that this institution also preserves most of her works bequeathed by Paulina's mother, and museologically defined as a legacy.

However, the first so-called commemorative exhibition of Paulina Sudarski's works was organized in 1958 in her hometown, Novi Bečej. Three years later, in 1961, an exhibition was organized at the Zrenjanin National Museum in honor of the twentieth anniversary of the Yugoslav people's uprising, and afterwards the same concept was set up in the Social Center of the 'Servo Mihalј' combine, then in the premises of the Youth Center in Novi Bečej, and finally in the National Museum in Kikinda. Considering Paulina's social engagement, primarily as a young woman before the war, and then during the war itself, and finally because of her tragic end, it seems that all the exhibitions proved suitable either for celebrating International Women's Day or were organized on various anniversaries and jubilees related to World War II. Among the more significant ones is certainly the one organized also in 1961 at the Academy of Fine Arts, where, in addition to Paulina Sudarski, four other painters who died during the war were presented: Jurica Ribar, Bora Baruh, Dušan Vlajić, and Bogdan Šuput.

One of the larger exhibitions of Paulina Sudarski was organized at the Zrenjanin National Museum in 1979, on the occasion of International Women's Day. The curator was Vukica Popović, and the exhibition was co-conceptualized by the Historical Department, whose curator Vidak Vuković presented the documentary part on the Battle of Sutjeska. The exhibition was then transferred to the Workers' Hall in Novi Bečej and held in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia and the League of Communist Youth, as well as on the occasion of the Day of the 'Pava Sudarski' Preschool Institution. In a small catalog printed for this occasion, the mentioned text 'The Seven of Them' by Ljubina Perović was published, while the Novi Bečej poet Tomislav Kurbanjev composed verses in honor of his deceased fellow citizen:
'Mornings of painting hues
(To Pava Sudarski, a painter who died at Sutjeska)
People will forever love
the beauty of those landscapes
that give birth to mornings
of your painting hues.'
In recent years, Paulina Sudarski's works have also been presented within thematic or retrospective exhibitions promoting works from the Art Collection of the Zrenjanin National Museum. At the end of 2011, an exhibition titled 'My Body-Your Work' was organized, consisting of paintings and drawings on the theme of the human body, from the funds of this museum.
A total of 13 works by Paulina Sudarski were presented, and a part of the exhibition was arranged as an imaginary studio of this painter, with an inevitable floral background in front of which Paulina often placed nudes, like her professor Petar Dobrović.

In June 2014, marking the centenary of Paulina Sudarski's birth, almost on the day of her death at Sutjeska, an exhibition was opened, organized by the Zrenjanin National Museum, the 'Pava Sudarski' Preschool Institution, and the Cultural Center of the Novi Bečej Municipality with the generous assistance of Mr. Andrea Karolј. Once again, the people of Novi Bečej showed their respect for their fellow citizen, leaving a bouquet of flowers next to Besarabić's bust with Paulina Sudarski's likeness. For the painter, nurse, former student of the Royal Art School, and student of the Academy of Fine Arts, this is perhaps the most beautiful place of remembrance instead of a grave whose location is unknown. However, her stepfather, Vladimir Vrbaški, erected a monument on the Vranjevačko Orthodox cemetery during her lifetime, where, in addition to his name, he had the name Jovanka Vrbaški engraved, and after her death in 1977 and his marriage to widow Danica Dujin, he added the name of his second wife. Of course, with great pride and love, Uncle Vlada, as he was called, also put the name of his stepdaughter, Paulina Đuričić, née Sudarski, on the monument.
Her name is inscribed in two other places in Belgrade. In the hallway of the Faculty of Fine Arts, formerly the Academy, there is a plaque with the names of thirteen students of this institution who died in the People's Liberation Struggle 1941-1945, including Paulina Sudarski. The other, very similar to this one, is a plaque located in the 'Cvijeta Zuzorić' Art Pavilion on Kalemegdan, where Paulina's name is engraved alongside the names of other fallen fighter-painters.
One hundred years have passed since the birth of Paulina Sudarski. It has been more than eight decades since her death. Today, looking at her paintings and drawings, we can only imagine the direction and boundaries her art would have developed. Art critic Đorđe Jović wrote about her as a 'painter whose palette was cleansed of amateurism and prepared for artistic seriousness, but the Sutjeska and enemy bullets excluded that art from the artistic biography of Vojvodina and Yugoslavia.' Curator Vukica Popović, who organized several of Paulina's exhibitions, spoke of her expressionism that 'is not turned to the dark and mysterious, but to the sunny side of life. She loved the sunlight. In love with the azure sky and rural trees, with the luxuriance and undulation of vegetation, with the warm, soft, rosy whiteness of a woman's face and body.' Jelena Knežević, who, after Vukica Popović, as the curator of the Art Collection of the Zrenjanin National Museum, continued to care for Paulina Sudarski's legacy, wrote similarly.
This cheerful, bright, and elegant girl walked away from Belgrade's promenade at the end of the fourth decade as one of the first graduates of the Academy of Fine Arts. A year later, she did exactly as Serbian writers and artists addressed their people in their proclamation: '... we have joined you, we went into the woods together with you, doubly armed: with a pen and a rifle, with a brush and a bomb.' Some of the painters did not live to see their works included in the selection of pre-war exhibitions, as they already depicted war themes on their canvases and papers, thus becoming witnesses and participants in many events. And they died... Bogdan Šuput at the age of 28, Jurica Ribar at 25, Bora Baruh at 30, and Paulina Sudarski at just under 29, too little for all that beauty of spirit and creative power that this young woman carried within her. She was a daughter, a student, a university student, an activist, a colleague, a painter, a wife, a teacher, a friend, a nurse... Always with someone - with colleagues, with collaborators, with her husband, with her students, finally with the wounded... In everything measured, diligent, dedicated, determined, and just as she signed in official correspondence - courteous Paulina Sudarski...

59 Milan Besarabić (Čačak 1908 - Belgrade 2010) graduated from the Royal Art School in 1938. Before that, he graduated from the Faculty of Law. He also attended music school. He was engaged in pedagogical work as well as literature.
60 Milivoje Nikolajević, Memorial to the Art School in Belgrade, Yearbook of the Matica Srpska, year 164, February 1988, book 441, vol. 2, pp. 265-287.
61 Gvozden Otašević, Nudes under a scarf, Politika, May 26, 2008.
62 The opening of the exhibition at the Zrenjanin National Museum was attended by the painter's mother, Jovanka Vrbaški.
63 Exhibitions: "Woman in Artistic Creation" and "Women-Painters, Writers" were organized in 1961. They are followed by: "Women Painters and Their Works" (1963), "Paulina Sudarski - Painter, Revolutionary, and Fighter" (1965), "Woman in the Artistic Creation of Vojvodina Painters" (1970)...
64 These were guest exhibitions "Banat Painting - 18-20th Century" at the Hercegovina Museum in Trebinje, by Jelena Knežević (2009), and "Masters of Banat Painting from the 18th to the 20th Century" at the House of the Serbian Army in Belgrade, by Olivera Skoko (2011).
65 Exhibition "My Body-Your Work", Zrenjanin National Museum, December 2, 2011 - February 2, 2012, by Olivera Skoko.
66 Exhibition "Paulina Sudarski - One Hundred Years since Birth", Cultural Center of the Novi Bečej Municipality, June 12 - June 30, 2014. (text authors in the catalog: Olivera Skoko and Andrea Karolj).
67 Đorđe Jović, Exhibition of Painters Fallen during World War II, Art Council of the Applied Arts Association, Novi Sad, 1975.
68 Vukica Popović, Sudarski Paulina - painter, revolutionary, and fighter (exhibition catalog), Novi Bečej, 1979, and the magazine "Spona", no. 21-22, Novi Sad, 1979.
69 On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Paulina Sudarski's death, Jelena Knežević wrote a text about the life and work of this painter in the magazine "Ulaznica", no. 89, year 1983.
70 Excerpt from the Proclamation of Serbian Writers and Artists Antifascists to the Serbian People, Rudnik, August 14, 1941.

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