This year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Nadežda Petrović. This lady which we can see on the 200 dinars banknote is a very talented painter. However, Nadežda Petrović was very versatile, so she dealt with art criticism, photography, pedagogical work, women's emancipation, but also political and national issues. She had done many important things for the Serbian people and giving her life for them. She died of typhus at the age of 42, and contracted it while working as a nurse in the war. She volunteered because she felt it was her duty. She healed many wounded soldiers, but in the end she could not help herself.
Serbian society was patriarchal at the beginning of the 20th century; women's needs were disregarded. The Serbian Civil Code provided for the authority of the husband over his wife. Within the framework of property law, the incompetence of a married woman was particularly highlighted. A married woman was equal to a child. Maybe that is why it is not surprising that Nadežda broke off her engagement and wrote in a letter to her mother that she was happy because she did not get married.
"I am not looking for love, husband, man or heart and respect, I will live only for myself and my parents. (...) There is no question of my marriage anymore, I want to be a painter, not a wife (...) if you really want me to be happy, then you will only expect me to be a painter, not a bride." ( Munich, 1898)
She was an important figure during the founding of the Circle of Serbian Sisters. This organization brought together women who carried out numerous societal actions.
Some define this association as humanitarian, others emphasize the patriotic element, and some historians see a feminist moment.
In those years, Nadežda put a lot of effort into organizing the First Yugoslav Exhibition, in which artists from Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Bulgaria took part. Although Nadežda Petrovic's paintings were in line with the most contemporary art trends in Europe, critics in Serbia did not respond well to them. Nadežda did not care much about it. She was a woman with great confidence and courage and she believed in what she was doing.
Exhibition NADEŽDA PETROVIĆ. MODERNITY AND THE NATION at the National Museum of Serbia was organized in Nadežda's honor. This exhibition is open until April 15th. I highly recommend you to visit it and find out more interesting information about this great artist and heroine.
Author: Jelena Čolović