(Ljubotin, 27 July 1907 – Belgrade, 13 February 1974)
Following his wartime years which he had spent as a prisoner of war, Petar Lubarda came to Belgrade, after which he moved to Montenegro in 1947. Because of the artist’s direct experience of unique Montenegrin landscape, this move was of crucial importance for the transformation of his painting from the interwar- towards the postwar understing of visual language, having far reaching consequences for his entire artistic position. In the history of Serbian art of the second half of the 20th century, Lubarda’s solo exhibition in the Association of Fine Artists of Serbia (ULUS) Gallery in 1951 is considered to be the “breakthrough“ exhibition, and, at the same time, it opened a whole series of very noticeable performances by the artist in contemporary international art scene, marked by awards at the Biennale in Sao Paolo in 1953, and in Tokyo in 1955. He also held solo exhibitions in Paris in 1952 and 1954, in London in 1955, and took part at the Venice Biennale in 1960, but also in Rome in 1962, and in New Delhi in 1963. Lubarda’s international successes reflected the extreme originality of the artist’s visual language, because – according to critic Petar Ćuković – “his modernism is altogether original, it is a modernism sui generis, profoundly linked to the idea of genius loci, to the spirit of the place, and to a homegrown tradition.“
The “breakthrough“ which – according to Miodrag B. Protić – was considered an important feature in the postwar Serbian art, and a consequence of Lubarda’s 1951 exhibition, did in no way assume a rejection of figurality and adoption of abstraction. Moreover, his key paintings from the early 1950s – like the Gusle Player (1952), Battle of Kosovo, and Horses (1953) as well as some others – were pronouncedly thematic, possessing an evident notion of a powerful symbolic content. Even some imitators of Lubarda’s “breakthrough“ style openly strove to protect him – in line with the current social and political context – from any possible belonging to abstraction: “To call this romantic phase of Lubarda an abstract phase would not be correct. It is a very subjective phase but not a non-communicative one – something which is an essential characteristic of abstract art,“ wrote painter Momčilo Stevanović in his review of the 1951 exhibition. Also, in response to Lubarda’s particiation at the Biennale in Sao Paolo in 1953, artist and critic Dimitrije Bašičević aka Mangelos noted that “the problem of Lubarda’s painting at this moment is not a problem of abstract painting at our home scene but rather a problem of our Yugoslav painting“. Nor did Lubarda consider himself an abstract painter, of which we have as a testimony his refusal to take part in the auteur exhibition staged by critic Lazar Trifunović, entitled Abstract Painting in Serbia in the Cultural Center Gallery in 1971.
The essence of the ambivalent typology of Lubarda’s painting, based on unity of suggestive representation, and high and pure painterly qualities, were described by M. B. Protić in the following analysis: “Lubarda takes his expression into color, line and matter as such, which means that they are autonomous with regard to the object – which almost disappears, and then returns, transformed – and they are functional with regard to the inner necessity and idea“.