1934-1940 Childhood in Bosnia
Popović Alekse Ljubomir, or « Ljuba », was born on october 14th 1934 in Tuzla, in the kingdom of Yougoslavia. The king Alexander is assasinated a few days before his birth, black flags are hoisted to the house’s windows. As his mother’s labor was particularly difficult, Ljuba would often say that he was born “upside down”. His parents, wanting to thank the midwife, gave him the name she chose, instead of giving him the name of the paternal grandfather, in keeping with the serbian tradition.As the only child of older parents running an inn on the road from Tuzla to Zvornik, towns of current Bosnia, Ljuba spends his first years folded on himslef. He plays in the garden with their servant Steva, avoiding the place where, under a small tombstone surrounded by stawberry plants, was laying his brother, deceased before his birth at two years old.
1941 - 1952 School years in Valjevo
1953-1957 Belgrade, Academy of Applied Arts
1957-1959 Belgrade, Academy of Fine Arts
1959-1963 Military service and end of studies
1963 - 1964 Paris and first exhibition
Those seven years of study have been marked by regular work and some kind of social withdrawal. Out of the university framework, Ljuba is a bit disoriented. Future seems uncertain, and at the same time, he feels the need to go beyond the painting styles he had become accustomed to. In october, he arrives in Paris, hoping to be able to make a living there, and to settle down definitely. He only brings with him five paintings : Danaë, La floraison (“Blooming”), Isabelle, Istihon, Salon de beauté (“Beauty Salon”).
A friend of his finds him a room “not much bigger than a tomb”, in a low ranking hotel in the street “ passage des Abbesses “. Thanks to a letter from his professor Marko Čelebonović, recommending him to Ginette Signac, daughter of the famous painter Paul Signac, he meets for the first time the parisian artistic environment. During an art exhibition in the Creusevault gallery, Ginette Signac introduces him to René de Solier, historian and art critic, fond of fantastic art, who will be the first to pay close attention to Ljuba’s work and to defend it. It is René de Solier that sends him to Marcel Zerbib, owner of the Diderot gallery, 145 boulevard Saint-Germain. Marcel Zerbib buys him all the paintings brought from Belgrade and decides to ensure Ljuba a monthly income in exchange for future paintings.
The difficult times where he was forced to work as a house painter to survive are now behind him. However, he still hasn’t got any proper workshop. He draws sitting on his bed, sheets of paper on the knees. For some time, Ginette Signac will lend him a small maid’s room in her building located at île Saint-Louis, where he will begin his first parisian painting : La multiplication du bizarre (“Spread of the bizarre”).
Thanks to his new friends, he moves into a new workshop, in the street Lepic, number 11, lent to him by his american artist fiend Ruth Francken, gone abroad for two years in Germany. In this spacious room, well heated and illuminated by a large skylight, he gets into his work with a newly found motivation. In May 1964, his first parisian exhibitit takes place in Edouard Smith gallery, owned by Armand Zerbib, Marcel’s brother. René de Solier was the one that initiated this project. His name, written on the invitation card, attracts many people to the opening, making it last until midnight. Belgrade’s paintings are shown, as well as the newest ones : Le Petit prince (“The Little Prince”), La multiplication du bizarre (“Spread of the bizarre”), Le jardin des délices (“Garden of earthly delights”), La porte du paradis (“Paradise door”)…
Artworks from this period stand out by their richer and more complex structure. Perspectives are multiplying, shapes swing from firm and dissolution into the pictorial matter. The primacy of the warmer tones gets broken by emerging muffled nuances of green, yellow, and a cold/intense blue. Since the exhibit, Ljuba starts meeting painters, writers and art critics. Among them : Patrick Waldberg, main authority in the surrealist field, and Jacques Kermoal, writer and journalist in Paris Match (french newspaper), who will eventually write a relevant article on Ljuba’s work.
During the course of the year 1964, he participates as well to a few collective exhibits in Yugoslavia.
A significant change occurs in his private life as he gets closer to a young architect Nataša Jančić, met during one of his mountain hikes, winter 1955. They will end up getting married, and having two daughters : Adriana (1970) and Tiana (1978).
Nexts parts can be read in the catalog of the exhibit “Ljuba Popovic (1934-2016)”, edited by SANU, 2019