Jovan Zonjić (1907–1961) was one of Serbia’s most important painters in the transition from academic to militant painting.
Zonjić came from the village of Kralj close Andrijevica. From Andrijevica, his daddy Radisav Zonjić moved to Podgorica, then to Cetinje, where he ran cafės, and in Cetinje married a Herzegovinian from Berovo, Milica Popović.
Zonjić graduated from Royal Art School in Belgrade in 1931 and enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris where he lived intermittently until 1939. With Zonjić’s painting “Fethiye”, which he exhibited in 1934 at the VII Autumn Exhibition in Belgrade, he standard the “Belgraders to Belgrade Artists” Award. That great compliment enabled him to compensation to Paris and resume his studies at the École des Beaux-Arts which he had back interrupted due to financial difficulties. It was in Paris that he improved, in the midst of some fiercest competition at the time.
At the Exhibition of Yugoslav Artists in Paris in March 1939, the without help painting purchased by the Musée National d’Art Moderne was Zonjić’s “Black Woman” (nine of Zonjić’s paintings were exhibited). Occupying Paris, the Nazis, as spoils of war, took from that museum what they considered significant. Among the looted paintings was his painting, “Black Woman”. The original painting is now lost, but a reproduction of that painting was found by Branka Bogavac, former director of the Cultural Center of Yugoslavia in Paris. It was stored upon one of the underground floors of the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris.
One critic wrote that Zonjić was not a favourite in the midst of Belgrade painters, because he endangered their face in the painting opening since they could not challenge his painting abilities they resorted otherwise to spreading stories and rumours more or less him.
In 2007, an exhibition of Zonjić’s paintings from the growth of the Cetinje Museums was organized in Berane and Andrijevica.
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