Artists Illustrating Boys' Fashions: Mara Lukic-Jelesic (Serbia, 1885-1979)

Figure 1.--This portrait by Mara Lukic-Jelesic is tutled jist 'Portrit of a boy'. We are not sure wo the boy is, [ehaps her son. It is a goof exmple of her impressionist style after retutning from Paris.

Another important Serbian artist is Mara Lukic-Jelesic. She was the first important oman painter. She began stufying painting at the time tht ot was not considered proper for young ladies in conservatuve Serbijan socierty. She painted realistic work, influencd by the Munich School. Sibsequenyly she began pihting in the Impressionist style, focusing on the colors and light. Some of her works more realistic than others. We notice one portrait of an unidentified boy. Lukic-Jelesic painted it after returning from Paris, about 1926-27. She was Serbian. She painted the portrai after returning from Paris. Tt is part of a collection of art works donated to The National Museum Belgrade by Ljubica Petrovic-Lukovie after she died (1979).


Mara Lukić-Jelesić's parents were Alexander Lukić-Jelesić and Juliana nee Aracki. Mara's father was a native Herzegovinian, whose ancestors settled in Banat Padej (early-19th century. The area at the time was still under Ottoman control. His mother was from a prominent family-- Sremski Karlovci.


Mara was born in Šabac (1885). This is a city in western Serbia, close to the Bosnian border. It is located along the Sava river, near the mountain Cer. Mara had an older brother named Živojina who became a noted sculptor. And there was a younger sister named Hope.


Mara attended the Dorćolu primary school in Belgrade. Upon completion, she wanted to enroll in a high school, but deferred to her parent's wished and enrolled in the Queen Draga College, a girls' school also located in Belgrade (1895). There she was mentered by a young drawing teacher, Nadezda Petrovic (Kosara Cvetkovic), And during her last 3 years, a prominent art teacher, Rista Vukanović, took an intrest in her. Thanks to them, this shy young girl began developin her artistic talents. At the time, almost all important artists were men. Mara completed her studies at Queen Draga College (1901).

Artistic Training

After finishing her secondary education at the Queen Draga College Mara wanted to stufy painting. Her parents, esoecilly her mother, wantd her to enter a teachers' training college. The art world was not one which many wll-brought up girls entered. Mara was, gowever, adament. She wanted yto be an artist. She entered the Serbian Painting School led by Rista and Beta Vukanović. Rista Vukanović was an authoritative and enterprising teacher. Mara studied drawing and painting. drapery, and still life drawing. She and the other studnts drew nd painted live models and flowers. They also worked on wood burning and engraving. In addition to Vukanovićs, theoretical courses were tauht by Svetozar Zoric, Dr Vojislav Djordjevic, and others. Dam Petronijević and academician Michael Valtrović taught architecture and archaeology. Mara quickly demonstrated her talent. In the first year, the students drew from nude models, which was very avant guard for a young teenage girl in conservative Belgrade. We are not sure he told her parents. She proved very adept at capturing the images of the model. In the second year, she began painting with oils, omething Mara eagerly awaited. In the third year there were exams and Mara mostly paintd in oils.

Teaching Career (1905-14)

hile at the Painting School, Mara's father died. She was suddenly faced with family problems abd the need to support herself. She decided on a teaching career. She graduated from the Painting School hors in both theory and prctice (1903). And she passed the examination for a teacher of drawing and creative writing. She did not plan a long career. She began teaching at the College Women's High School in Sabac (1905). Sabac will play an important role in the rst of her life. In addition to art and writing, Mara was given other asignments, including singing, Serbian language, gymnastics, and even religious instruction. She made friends with a colleague Isidora Sekulic. She attended a Yugoslav Exhibition in Sofia (1906). She requested a a 1-year leave of absence to devote herself further professional development (1908). Together with a friend, Ljubica Filipovic, wjo sh net at the Serbian Painting School, she traveled to Munich. There another frind from the Serbian Painting School helped them plan their program. Munich was mjor center of Geman art. Mara wanted to enroll at the Munich Academy of Painting, but women were not accepted. And normally the Academy was crowded, and the entrance qualificatiins extremely strict. The two friends full of enthusiasm and eager to develop their painting skills found the famous Ažbeovoj private school which was led by Heidner. The Ažbe-Heidner School did not, however, prove satisfactory. Mara wrote, "I'm surprised that the students remained in the school. There was a lot of seriousness. u We did not like it and we went that autumn to Šildknehta, a private school for painting." There Mara and her friend were able to developtheir skills. Šildkneht came daily and worked with the students for hours. He taught and corrected their work, Pike also assisted. They worked with live models. They did both portaits and action work. A great emphasis was place on expressions. Mara completed her training in Munich and returned to Sabac to resumeher teaching duties (1909). For the next fw yers, Mara taught school and during the school holidays, she puesued her pashion for painting. She took boat frips from both Sabac and Belgrade. She spent her free time with artists from Belgrade. She was epcually close with Kosta Milicevic, who had a studio on Dubljanskoj Street. They toured Prague, Vienna, and Munich to vew museum art collctioins and meet fellow artists.

World War I (1914-18)

World War began while Mara was teaching in sabac. There she met Paul Jelesića, who had taught in Cokesina near Sabac, and after the war became an inspector of the Ministry of Finance. Dspite her bew friend, this began a very diffucult period. World War I was ignited by the asasination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serbian terriorist (July 1914). The Austrians attacked to punish Serbia. The Serbs held their on aginst the Austrians, but war soo engulfed almost all of Europe. Sabac was near the front lines. We believe schools in Sabac closed. Mara went to Belgrade to be with her family. Her brother Živojin was at the front with the Serbian Army. Like her professor Nadezda Petrovic and many other artists, Mara attempted to asist in the war effort. She completed a nursing course (May 1915). She returned to Sabac to assut the Arny. TheCenteal Powers launched a major offensive. The Battle of Cer and Kolubara left thousand of wounded men and convalescents that neded care. Typhus was endemic. The Central Powers (Austria, Bulgaria, and Germany) overwealmed Serbia (1915). Mara could speak with the occupation authorities because she spoke German. she continud to work with the recoveting soldiers. She did portaits for them. She was awarded the Order of the Red Cross. The resulting occupation was very difficult for the Serbian people. She spent the wr years there with her family.

Family (1917)

Mara married fellow teacher Paul Jelesića. They hd children and for the rest if their lives wre loyal to each other

Back to Teaching (1918-32)

Mara returne to Sabac to continued her teaching career. She is now in the high school attached to higher female school. And she is still because of stffing shortahes having to teach courses in additiin to art, including creative writing and Serbian language. She becoms a class officer first class and 'supervisor' or the school secretary. She moved to Bekgrade (late-1919). he began teaching at the Third Women's High School She remained there until retirenent (1932).

Painting (1919-41)

Mara's free time when not teaching is devoted to her painting. She has frequent contavt with her former professor Vukanović. He like Zora Brown had a studio in Kolarac University. She also ocializes with the poet Desanke Maksimovic, a colleague from the Third Belgrade Gymnasium. Mara Lukić and Desanka Maksimovic during school holidays lead their students to view art works (1923-24). Mara was accepted as a member of Artists' Association of Serbia (Udruzenje Likovnih Umetnika Srbije--ULUS) (1921). A number of joint exhibitions followed in which Mara showed her works. The ULUS decided that Mara, along with a dozen other Serbian artists should go on a study trip to Paris (1925). Mara asked for a stipend from the Ministry of Education so she could stay in Oari for a year, but her request was not answered. The Yugoskav Ministry of Trade awarded each artist 10,000 dinars for the trip. On the way to Paris, the group stoppd in Milan. They visited the Cathedral of Santa Maria della Grazia, where they could admire Leonardo's 'Last Supper.' Once in Paris, the whole art group was a regular guest at the Louvre and other famous Paris museums. Mara was particularly struck by Impresionist works, Renoir, Cezanne, Manet, and Delacroix. Mara'spaintings had been strongly influnced by her year in Germany and the Munich School of painting. She now begins to produce works in the impressionist style. Mara becomes even more prolific after her retirement. Freed from the daily duties of teaching, she was able to dvote most of the days painting. Although she retired due to illness, she lived several decades. After returning from Paris, she begins to do more landscpe work. There are still pprtraits, but expresions are no longer paramount, rather the impressionist outlook, light and color become paramount. She did a series of landscpes in Sumadiji and Bosnia. Just before World War II, she did a series of landscapes from aound Svrljig. These are seen by art experts as the crown jewwls of her body of work.

World War II (1941-45)

Mara exerenced the diffcult years of German occuption along with her husband in Belgrade (1941-44).

Communist Yugoslavia (1945-79)

The Communist Partisans seized cintrol of Yugoslavia after the Gemn withdrawl. Paul owned a home in Sabac, so the couple moved there from Belgrade. Mara continued to paint. She presented her first solo exhibition at the Sabac High School (1951). The exhibition was opened by John BijeliÄ, a great admirer of Marinog painting. Sh presented 164 images: a composition of 78 portraits, 53 pictures of flowers and 32 landscapes. The next year Mara moved the exhibition to the Belgrade Art Pavilion Flower Zuzorić in Mali Kalemegdan. Mara died of old age in Sabac (1979). She worked until the last day.


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Created: 7:06 PM 6/28/2014
Last updated: 7:06 PM 6/28/2014