Designers & Creators Directory
Birthplace: Bajmok, Serbia
Date born: March 16th, 1912
Date deceased: February 27th, 2008
Education: Academy of Fine Arts, Belgrade (graduated 1947)
Ana Bešlić was a pioneering modernist sculptor who was hugely influential on the Yugoslav art scene through her decades-spanning career. Born to parents Lazar and Karolina of an eminent Bunjevci family in 1912, Ana Bešlić was raised with her three sisters on small farm just southwest of the city of Subotica near the small village of Bajmok (which was at that point the Austro-Hungarian Empire). Deeply curious and engaged with the world around her, she learned to love art at a young age. One source relates that she encountered sculpting for the first time at the age of 18 when her father Lazar (who was an affluent landowner with holdings in Vienna, Graz and Zagreb) brought her back a large piece of clay which he had found while on a trip along the Danube River. With this clay, she created a loving likeness of her father. An additional formative artistic moment from her childhood is also related in an interview that Bešlić gave in 2007 just a year before her passing, in which she speaks about the inspiration for her trademark style (translated here info English): "A red ball I got for Christmas as a little girl influenced me greatly. Its smoothness awakened within me a great appreciation for round shapes. I adored it. The ball was always with me, even sitting with me at night by my bedside".
In 1937, at the age of 25, Bešlić married university philosophy professor Dr. Kajica Milovanov. It was at this point she began her own higher education in sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade, doing so along side other soon-to-be notable figures in the Yugoslav art world such as Jovan Soldatović [profile page] and Ante Gržetić [profile page]. Her schooling was interrupted by WWII, but she ultimately graduated just after the war in 1947. She undertook post-graduate work under Prof. Jerolim Mišea of Zagreb and Prof. Toma Rosandić of Belgrade, during which time Bešlić continued her artistic training and began pursuing her career in the traditional sculptural approach of realistic figurative representation (which at this point in the late 1940s was largely taught in the "socialist realist" style). During this early part of her career during the late 40s and early 50s, she created several notable works and memorial sculptures in locations around Subtoica, such as the "Mother & Child" Monument, dedicated to local victims of fascism during WWII.
Photo 1: A 1958 photo of Ana Bešlić in her Belgrade studio. [source]
Yet, Bešlić's style through the mid-1950s began to abandon the prevailing socialist realist tendencies and instead gravitated towards an artistic expression that was more free-form, organic and streamlined, where she reduced the minimal expressions of dimensional 'drawing' to a spatial form of interpretive representation. This shift was in large part instigated by her visit to an art exhibition in Belgrade in 1955 by famous English modernist artist Henry Moore, who she was also able to meet when he visited Toma Rosandić workship that same year (where she was studying at that time). As a result of this inspiration, in 1957, she and a group of her artistic colleagues (including Jovan Soldatović, Aleksandar Zarin, Jovan Kratohvil [profile page], Olga Jančić, among others) formed an art collective known as "Space 8/Prostor 8", which had a goal of creating bold modern art that cultivated a "symbiosis of sculpture, architecture and its surroundings" in a free public location available to those who might not be normal gallery visitors. It was during this collaborative effort with Space 8 when she created one of her most pioneering works in 1957, "Wings/Krila", which depicts a swooping U-shaped curve with double-pointed tips and is defined by its smooth dynamic lines and energetic simplicity. After the Space 8 exhibition toured at Tašmajdan Park in Belgrade and at Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad, the sculpture was subsequently bought by the city of Subotica and exhibited at Palić Park (where it still sits today), with some sources asserting that it was among the first truly abstract public sculptures in Yugoslavia.
Through her artistic career, which spanned four decades, she continually developed her artistic style, which took her down ever more ambitious pathways. In the mid-1960s, she began to experiment with works which excluded the figurative form all together, instead opting for purely abstract compositions. While she worked in a whole range of mediums, from stone, to bronze, to plaster, but the material she became most known for experimenting with was the combination of fiberglass and polyester resin (a material technique which she picked up while on an industrial arts study trip to the Bayer factory in Germany during the mid 1960s). This material experimentation is most readily seen in her sculptural cycle called "Open Form/Otvorenih formi", a series of works which is characterized by a variety of warped and bulging white spheroids (startlingly organic) that are sliced and splayed to reveal internal colors and dimensions. Sources cite her as communicating that she felt these works of hers to be "deep studies of the female form", very much evoking qualities of the American painter Georgia O'Keeffe. In fact, Bešlić had such an interest in American art and music that she went as far as to dedicate a 1979 sculpture that she made to the female pop R&B singer Tina Turner [see photo HERE]. A further sculptural cycle that Bešlić is known for is a series titled "Pillows/Jastuci" which she created during the 1980s, through which she sculpted numerous graceful folding forms that took the mundane concept of a "pillow" and illustrated how a such utilitarian object can readily be transformed into something contemplative and aesthetically magnificent.
Photo 2: A vintage photo of Bešlić's 1973 work "Dichromatic Sculpture", fiberglass & polyester resin, 55x70x50cm
Photo 3: A vintage photo of Bešlić's 1968 work "Open Form 10", 26x19x21cm
In addition to her personal/exhibition sculptural pieces, a significant number of Bešlić's works through the 1960s onwards were public commemorative monuments, located at sites across Serbia. Most significant of these efforts is the Monument on Šumatno Hill that Bešlić made in 1967 during a collaboration with architect Jovanka Jeftanović. However, she created notable works abroad as well, such as the collaborative memorial piece she made with Nandor Glid in 1965 titled "Monument to the Victims of Nazism", which was located at the central memorial space at Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany. Furthermore, in a continuation of her commitment started in 1957 with her "Space 8" initiative of creating innovative sculptural outdoor art easily accessible to the public, Bešlić contributed pieces to open public sculpture parks across Yugoslavia, such as the "Forma Viva" collection at Portorož, Slovenia, the Dubrova Sculpture Park at Labin, Croatia, the "White Venčac Symposium" at Aranđelovac, Serbia and the terracotta symposium at the Terra Art Museum in Kikinda, Serbia.
In speaking about her artistic approach and aspirations, several sources (1, 2) quote her making the following remarks (translated here into English):
"I feel that narration should be avoided in sculpture. We have words for that. I think that the story should not be embedded in stone, wood or bronze, but that it should be left to the freely-made form of the stone, wood or bronze to speak its own language, to tell its own story... but if a message is sought in a work of art, then I would like (as opposed to an artist who wants to shock the viewer, to make them constantly aware of the evils and misfortunes that surround us) that a person instead look at my sculpture and follow its sets of lines, its relationship of forms, that they experience a kind of catharsis, to perhaps realize in life that it is worth looking for a level of balance to alleviate the frightening dimension of endangerment and security."
Over her career, Bešlić participated in over a dozen solo exhibits of her work and received numerous awards and recognitions for her contribution to the arts. In 1983, she had a major retrospective exhibition of her life's work up until that point at the City Gallery in Subotica. She has had two documentaries made about her: the film "Visiting Ana Bešlić" in 2005 by director Rajko Ljubić and "Testimonies and Sayings of a Serbian Sculptor - Ana Bešlić" in 2007 by director Vesna Majnher. The largest exhibition of Bešlić's work can be seen at the City Museum in Subotica, with other galleries in Belgrade, Sombor, Novi Sad and Kraljevo holding a smaller number of her works. Bešlić passed away in Belgrade on January 6th, 2008 at the age of 95.
Works by this Designer:
This is a listing of a number of memorials, monuments, cultural centers and other notable Yugoslav-era civic works by Ana Bešlić. Those sites listed in the upper part of this section have profile pages, while those listed in the lower part do not yet have completed profile pages. This list also includes non-Yugoslav projects that Bešlić created, as well as her unrealized works for which models only exist for. This list is not exhaustive and will be added to over time.
Yugoslav Works with profile pages:
Click photos to go to page
Name: Monument on Šumatno Hill
Year: completed 1967, w/ Jovanka Jeftanović
Name: Slavic Mythology Mural at Palisad Hotel
Year: completed 1970
Yugoslav Works without profile pages:
Name: Torch of Remembrance
Year: completed 1971
Location: N45°58'01.5", E19°25'25.5"
Name: "Fruit" at Dubrova Sculpture Park
Year: completed 1975
Location: N45°07'00.5", E14°06'51.8"
Name: "Birds" fountain at Palić Park
Year: completed 1957
Location: N46°05'54.0", E19°45'34.4"
Name: 'Wings' at Palić Park
Year: completed 1957
Location: N46°05'49.8", E19°45'36.7"
Name: 'Woman' at Forma Viva Park
Year: completed 1961
Location: N45°30'07.5", E13°35'28.6" [approx]
Name: 'Talija' at Palić Park Summer Stage
Year: completed 1951
Location: N46°06'02.2", E19°45'25.2"
Name: 'Mother & Child', Mon. Vict. of Fascism
Year: completed 1955
Location: N46°04'20.0", E19°40'46.5"
Name: 'Stacks" at Terra Museum
Year: completed 1992
Location: N45°49'48.4", E20°29'24.5" [approx]
Novi Sad, SRB
Name: 'Composition II" at Petrovaradin Fort.
Year: completed 1958
Location: N45°15'05.9", E19°51'48.7"
Slovenj Gradec, Slovenia
Name: "Fruit" at Štibuh Hill Sculpture Park
Year: completed 1981
Location: N46°30'13.8", E15°04'38.6"
International Works without profile pages:
Name: Monument to the Victims of Nazism
Year: completed 1965, w/ Nandor Glid
Location: N48°16'05.6", E11°28'07.3"
Unrealized Memorial Projects
This section contains a listing of design proposals for various memorial projects that were submitted to competitions for consideration, but were ultimately NOT the final proposals chosen by the selection juries for the memorial projects they were submitted for. Below each photo is detailed the monument project it was submitted for, as well as the year it was submitted in.
Name: concept for the Jajinci Memorial Park
Year: proposed 1978, w/ Jovanka Jeftanović
Selected Sources and More Information:
-English Wiki article: "Ana Bešlić"
-Serbian Wiki article: "Ана Бешлић"
-MSUV article: "Ana Bešlić | Emancipation Forms"
-Strategic Art article: "Ana Bešlić & Andy Warhol"
-YugoPapir article: "Ana Beslic stranica mog zivota moj"
-Museum of Contemporary Art Vojvodina: "ANA BEŠLIĆ - EMANCIPACIJA FORME" [PDF]
-Park-Palic.rs article: "Ličnosti iz istorije Palića – Ana Bešlić, prva subotička akademska vajarka"
-Hrvatska riječ article: "Život forme"
-Modern Gallery Belgrade: "Ana Bešlić"
-Plezir Magazine article: "Ana Bešlić: Pionirka moderne skulpture u Jugoslaviji"
-Skulptura-hronologijaizlaganja.rs article: "Izložba grupe Prostor 8"
-PAFA Archives Blog article: "John Rhoden’s circle: Ana Bešlić"