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.

Paulina Sudarski
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Paulina Sudarski: Artistic Journey through the Royal Art School

The only known traces of Paulina's education before the Academy can be found in the detailed text by Milivoje Nikolajević, in which he describes in detail most of the students who attended the famous Art School at the same time as him (1932-1939). In pre-war Yugoslavia, generations of young painters and sculptors could receive their first lessons in three art schools. In Belgrade, these were the Royal Art School and the Academy of Fine Arts, while in Zagreb, there was the School of Arts and Crafts. In the Royal Art School, there were three departments: teaching - for the education of future drawing and calligraphy teachers, academic - where after three years of joint studies, they learned oil painting and sculpture, and the sculptural department. Nikolajević in the mentioned text emphasizes that the school operated similarly to all European schools of that type, but it was materially quite poor, with classes held in cramped spaces and lacking some departments, such as graphics or subjects like composition and technology.

Artwork by Paulina SudarskiAmong the professors mentioned by Nikolajević during his time at the Royal Art School were Ljubomir Ivanović, Nikola Bešević, Simeon Roksandić, Milan Kašanin, among others. These were undoubtedly also teachers from whom Paulina Sudarski learned. Nikolajević mentions a class that was as numerous as his, and which they encountered in the second year of their studies. This class included exceptionally gifted students like Ljubomir Belogaski, Slobodan Galogaza, Milan Popović, Dragan Ćirković, Dragan Vuksanović, Jovan Erić, Paulina Sudarski, and others. Some of these names can be found signed on the back of photographs preserved in Paulina Sudarski's albums.

Each colleague remembered by Nikolajević receives at least a passage in his text. "Paulina Sudarski Paul, or shortly Pava, Bečejka, was a lively girl, with all the characteristics of feminine liveliness, light brown hair, cheerful nature, very vital, with a cheerfulness that radiated widely and refreshed everyone. In the company of such personalities, one becomes an optimist even when one is not. Such, communicative, sociable, and dear, she was also talented, with a sense for form and color that hinted at beautiful results. However, the war came and ended the life of that dear, temperamental, and almost always cheerful girl."

At that time, there is a noticeable increase in the presence of women in the cultural and social life of Belgrade, and therefore in the Royal Art School, where they make up more than a quarter of the students. Most often, they chose the teaching direction because it provided stable employment and secure incomes. Certainly, among them was Paulina Sudarski, as indicated by a notebook in which she composed, actually practiced writing letters addressed to the Ministry of Trade and Industry: "It is my honor to ask the gentleman minister to appoint me as a drawing teacher in the Lower Women's School in Zemun. Respectfully, Paulina V. Sudarski, female drawing teacher, Belgrade, October 3, 1936." A nearly identical letter was sent to the same ministry a year earlier, suggesting that by October 1935, she had completed her studies at the Royal Art School.

If some names of Paulina's colleagues, almost like hers, have been forgotten today, and their work is insufficiently explored, then this is certainly not the case with Ljubica Cuca Sokic. She is found not only in the list of students who attended the mentioned school but also in some group photographs from Paulina's albums. The fact is that, like her, Cuca Sokic studied the teaching course but later switched to the academic course with Ivan Radovic. Both were of the same generation and, judging by the photographs, certainly socialized during their time at school, even though they were not in the same class. Their paths diverged after completing their studies. While Paulina sent her second letter seeking a job as a teacher, Ljubica Cuca Sokic was already in Paris. When in 1940 Sokic, along with nine other colleagues, founded the group "Desetorica" (The Ten) exhibiting in Belgrade and Zagreb, Paulina was working as a teacher but would soon leave for Cetinje. Thus, the Royal Art School likely remains the last common station where these two painters met.

Cuca Sokic is not the only one close to Paulina at that time. This young woman from Vranjevci evidently captivated with her spirit, just as Milivoje Nikolajevic remembers her as an 'almost always cheerful girl,' which corresponds to the atmosphere we find in her preserved photos with colleagues among whom 'friendship reigned among the young people of the same ambitions.' In the same class with Sudarski was also the two-year older Macedonian painter Ljubomir Belogaski, whom Nikolajević remembers as a strong, dark-haired young man, somewhat robust in appearance but a good-natured person, whose softness and sensitivity were reflected in his drawing and painting.

We do not know exactly when Belogaski painted the portrait of his friend from Paulina Sudarski's class, which is now in the possession of the Gallery of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. It is possible that it was in 1940 when Paulina spent some time, before going to Cetinje, in Skopje, which would become Belogaski's permanent residence. However, it is not excluded that, due to their joint study and socializing at the Royal Art School, the portrait was created a year earlier in Belgrade. At that time, trips were made to Macedonia as part of the famous two-week excursions led by Professor Ljuba Ivanović. Although a teacher of "evening nude and head drawing," he was continuously preoccupied with the appearance of South Serbian, Bosnian, and Macedonian towns, leaving behind numerous drawings featuring old houses with verandas and gates, as well as streets with cobblestones, church towers, and minarets. And precisely in 1935, Paulina Sudarski's watercolor depicts a similar ambiance, and according to one preserved postcard, it may show a part of a street in Ohrid.

However, landscapes will be less represented in Paulina Sudarski's work at that time and even later at the Academy. What will attract her attention the most, and where her talent will be most pronounced, is drawing and painting nudes. Ljuba Ivanović taught life-size nude drawing in the third year, while evening nude drawing was led by the painter Nikola Bešević. In fact, as Milivoje Nikolajevic explains, all students drew evening nudes except for the first year, and they did it in one larger hall with amphitheater-style seating so that everyone could see the model on the illuminated podium well. Interestingly, all the students in the school were supplied with paper for evening nude classes thanks to Cuca Sokic, whose father was the director of the newspaper "Pravda." From there, newspaper paper was brought to the school, cut, and then distributed to the students.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that Paulina Sudarski had the opportunity to exhibit her drawings during the study at the Royal Art School. It happened at the annual exhibition of the Serbian Association of Fine Artists, and she exhibited her works in 1934 as part of the student section. The exhibited drawings were nudes and portraits, which indicates that even then she was seriously engaged in these genres. Unfortunately, it is not known which works she presented, nor are any reviews or comments on her works preserved. From her preserved drawings, we can see that her approach to the female nude, especially in pencil or charcoal, was characterized by precise contouring and attention to anatomical details.

As for the portrait, her works from that period also reveal her interest in capturing individual characters. Paulina Sudarski was undoubtedly a talented and ambitious student who, like many of her colleagues, faced a challenging artistic path marked by the historical circumstances of the time. Her dedication to art and her studies at the Royal Art School laid the foundation for her future artistic development, as she continued her education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade and later pursued a successful career as a painter.

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