Biographical timeline

Biographical references

1934-1940 Early childhood

Ljubomir Popović, known in art circles as Ljuba, was born on 14 October 1934 in Tuzla (Kingdom of Yugoslavia) in the family of Spasenija, a clergyman’s daughter, and Aleksa, a well-off merchant, who owned land with an inn and a shop by the road connecting Tuzla and Zvornik. A few days before Ljuba’s birth, King Aleksandar of Yugoslavia was assassinated in Marseilles. Ljuba was used to saying that his advent had been marked by the black flags of mourning and that his mother, traumatized by the events, had had an exceptionally hard delivery. He particularly highlighted the fact that he had been born ‘upside down’. It was the desire of the woman who had assisted during the delivery that the boy be named Ljubomir, and his parents responded to her desire in gratitude, instead of naming him after his paternal grandfather, as demanded by the Serbian tradition. Ljuba was a beloved child, but reticent and fearful. His earliest memories were associated with Steva, a father’s domestic worker, who hunt crayfish for him in the nearby brook, as well as with the scary accounts of hajduks told by his father’s barber, and the grave in the garden where his parents’ deceased baby had been buried. An event associated with the first issue of the children’s magazine Politikin zabavnik also left a strong imprint in his memory. His father, Aleksa, was a subscriber to the daily Politika, which was delivered by the driver of a Belgrade–Tuzla bus, i.e. thrown out of the bus window, while still driving. One day, a children’s magazine with colour images landed just in front of Ljuba. At that very moment, a path to a whole new universe opened – a universe that Ljuba would never want to leave.
Ljuba in his mother's arms, 1935
Ljuba (left) in the company of his little cousin, Tuzla, 1938-1939

1941 - 1952 School years in Valjevo

On the eve of World War II, the family moved to Valjevo (Serbia), escaping the extermination of the Serbian population by pro-Nazi and pro-independence Muslims in Bosnia. Many of Ljuba’s maternal relatives were killed and all traces of their existence (houses, graves, documents, etc.) were erased. During the German occupation, Ljuba completed the four-year primary school. Classes were held in an improvised classroom, in a tavern. German officers requisitioned the cosy urban home of the Popović family, leaving to the owners only one room and a kitchen. The family would never enjoy the comfort of their home because once the Germans had left, the house was immediately requisitioned by communist dignitaries. This period of his life was marked by playing with mates and interest in sports, especially football which was particularly important for him, as well as by his first explorations into the world of adventure novels and the earliest hints of his drawing talent. Lju- ba spent almost all of his free time in Zečinjak (Rabbit Warren). This small shed was used for meat drying by Aleksa Popović, whereas for his son this was a place where he tended rabbits and withdrew to read and draw. At that time, Ljuba made his first drawings in the form of comics inspired by the novels he was reading. As a grammar-school pupil, Ljuba Popović distinguished himself in writing and painting. He won the first prize at a film criticism contest, leaving behind Živojin Pavlović, who would become a film director and Ljuba’s close friend. His first paid assignments were designs for large-format advertising posters for a cinema in Valjevo. At the same time, he started working as an assistant film operator in the projection booth. This is how he developed a passionate love for film, which would persist until the end of his life.
Secondary school football team, with Ljuba standing first to the left, Valjevo, 1951

1953-1957 Belgrade, Academy of Applied Arts

Having completed the secondary school as an excellent pupil, Ljuba had to cope with the fact that it would be impossible for him to continue his education at the University of Belgrade. Except for a public allowance, his family had practically no means: his father, Aleksa, who had lost his fortune during the war, became downhearted and inert, devoid of any business initiative. The small amounts of money that Ljuba occasionally managed to earn made little difference to this situation. Quite unexpectedly, the director of the Sindikat Cinema, Voja Glušac, came to the idea to dispatch Ljuba to Belgrade as a film selector and agent working for cinemas in Valjevo for a modest salary. At the same time, he was to study at the Academy of Applied Arts and acquire training in decorative painting. The idea was supported by his grammar-school art teacher, Bogdan Bakić, who recommended him to the Rector of the Academy, Branko Šotra. Despite a warm welcome, Ljuba left the Rector’s office disappointed, as entrance exams had already been finished. To avoid missing the academic year, he enrolled in the Art History course and undertook a drawing course at the art school in Šumatovačka Street. At the faculty library, he discovered the colour reproductions of the great masters, whereas at the art school, he practised drawing after a live model, realizing the reality of a nude human body. He made close friends among some fellow students who would later become students of the Academy of Fine Arts. Having successfully passed the entrance exam, Ljuba enrolled in the Academy of Applied Arts in the autumn of 1954. Initially, he attentively followed the instructions of his professors but as the time passed, it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to cope with academic drawing and painting rules. Understanding the form and rendering it on paper with mathematical accuracy were not in line with the painter’s calling emerging in him. He desired to reach beyond the manifest appearance and filter through his own sensibility that what was throbbing behind it. Following the practice of his colleagues from the Academy of Fine Arts, Ljuba suggested to his fellow students to undertake life-size nude studies and oil painting. The professors were becoming less tolerant to his peculiar individualism but Ljuba, who had already been inextricably immersed in his artistic calling and stubborn in nature, was not ready to make a slightest compromise. The breaking point was reached at the beginning of the fourth year of studies, when he was officially equired to leave the Academy. A shadow of gloomy days was lingering over him. The years at the Academy of Applied Arts were marked by the budding friendship with the future film director and writer Živojin Pavlović, who would also abandon the studies at the Academy of Applied Arts, pursuing his true calling.
Ljuba during the first year of his studies at the Academy of Applied Arts, 1954–1955
The works done during the studies at the Aca- demy of Applied Arts, 1955
Ljuba in front of the Academy of Applied Arts, 1956
1955, Ljuba avec ses collégues_en
Ljuba and his fellow students (Miki, Rudić, Martinović) in front of life-size studies, Bel- grade, 1957

1957-1959 Belgrade, Academy of Fine Arts

Following the expulsion from the Academy of Applied Arts, a second chance smiled upon him in his career as a painter. Professor Ivan Tabaković,
who appreciated his work and did not agree with the decision, recommended
Ljuba to his colleague from the Academy of Fine Arts, Professor Marko Čelebonović. Ljuba was accepted in Čelebonović’s class, as a student of the fourth year. This exceptional pedagogue supported Ljuba in the pursuit of his own artistic expression, restricting his interventions to occasional friendly advice. At that time, Ljuba had already had a fairly good place for work, which he had found a year before and which he had refurbished with the help of his fellow
students Nikola Rudić and Miša Martinović. That was a spacious hexagonal dome nestled on top of a multi-storey building in Zagrebačka Street, overlooking the Sava River and opening to the sky. Through five upright vertical windows, the beams of yellowish light interspersed the darkness in the studio, creating a curious interplay of shadows. Many paintings made between 1957 and 1959 bear in their titles the reminiscence of the studio: Phantoms of the Attic (1958), Attic Nude (1958), The Green Image of the Attic (1959), etc. The paintings of this period are dominated by the
human figure, often effaced, motionless and confined in an airless space filled with clueless apprehension. His palette ranged between yellow ochre and burnt umber, with occasional hints of red and green shades. At the student exhibition that traditionally closed each academic year, Ljuba’s paintings captured the attention of Leonid Šejka, the founder of the Mediala art group and the creator of its theoretical framework. Šejka’s idea of a synthesis between the Renaissance tradition and modern thought had already earned him the status of a paragon in Ljuba’s eyes and Ljuba was all the more honoured when this charismatic figure, unrivalled in the artistic circles of the
time, promptly told him: “You are one of us”. The following year, Ljuba exhibited two paintings at Mediala’s third exhibition, held at the Grafički kolektiv gallery.
Their friendship, which germinated at that time, fuelled by a strong initiation
element, would end abruptly in 1970, with the death of Leonid Šejka. The presentation of the Urvater collection in 1959 was the first exhibition of Surrealist art in Belgrade. For the first
time, Ljuba was able to see the original works of Salvador Dali, Giorgio de Chirico, Rene Magritte, Paul Delvaux, Max Ernst, etc. He was greatly impressed by the originality and quality of individual
paintings but he could not find a single shared feature between the Surrealist
doctrine and his own artistic impulses. A surrealist overtone can only be found
in the personal writings from his youth, which he usually referred to as Temperatura dana (Day’s temperature).

1960,Kupola u Zagrebackoj_en
The Dome, Ljuba Popović’s first studio, Belgrade, 1968
The interior of the Dome and the paintings A Banker and His Wife (in front of the painter), 1962

1959-1963 Military service and graduation

Having completed the fifth, i.e. the final year of studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, Ljuba decided to undertake additional training for two more years at a ‘Master’s Studio’. He joined the studio of Professor Milo Milunović, although he was concerned regarding the possible influence of this allegedly authoritarian figure on his work. Despite his reputation of an uncompromising man, Milunović was supportive of Ljuba’s deeply personal artistic impulses, limiting his input to technical advice. Due to this, Ljuba could freely enrich his pictorial idiom with new forms, verging between the figural and the abstract, the organic and the mineral, the structured and the amorphous. The paintings representative of this period are Isabelle and A Banker and His Wife. At the beginning of the first academic year, Ljuba made a short trip to Paris, accompanied by several fellow students, seeking to visit the Louvre, to walk along the banks of the Seine and the steep alleys of Montmartre, and to meet Dado Đurić, his mate who had left Belgrade three years earlier. Dado’s intriguing personality had made an impression on Ljuba even before they first met. Once he saw Dado’s paintings ex-hibited in a renowned gallery in Paris – the Daniel Cordier Gallery, the seed of hope that one day he would attain a similar success was planted in his heart. Following the advice of Professor Milunović, Ljuba interrupted the special course after the first year to complete his military service. He was appointed to an artillery unit in Bileća, a small town in the former Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. His sport experience made it rather easy for him to cope with the military training. He also worked as a radio operator, practised drawing and even managed to complete several paintings that he would take to Belgrade, such as Valediction to the Sublimated Residue, Cultivating Metal Boxes, and Jon Ihtem. In the autumn of 1961, Ljuba returned to Belgrade to resume the course with Milo Milunović. The return to the Dome, to his unfinished paintings and to his inner self, stirred in him perplex- ing apprehension and discomfort, which could be appeased only through absorbing work. Having radically reworked the original concept, he finished the painting Saint Sebastian. Only a monochro- matic overtone, a distinctive mark of all his paintings since 1957, was retained. The large-scale painting The Pilgrims of Emmaus marked the climax of his predilection for burnt umber. Shortly thereafter, peculiar pink-reddish shades would appear, accom- panied with unsettled, almost abstract shapes. The departure from the familiar iconographic elements and the rejection of the classical methods of representation was also the departure from the doctrine of the Mediala group. From that moment on, Ljuba’s painting would not conform to any theoretical system. He recognized the same state of mind in Dušan Makavejev, a young filmmaker, with whom he became friends and even took part in the making of his first film Parade.
A page from Ljuba Popović’s Military ID card, 1 October 1960
Ljuba Popović and Miro Glavurtić, one of the founders of Mediala, in 1966, during the filming of The Return by Živojin Pavlović

1963 - 1964 Settling down in Paris and the first exhibition

During the seven years of study, Ljuba was focused on work and withdrawn into his own world. Having left the Academy, he felt lost. The future was vague. At the same time, there was a growing desire to expand his horizons beyond his current artistic expression. In October 1963, he arrived in Paris, hoping to make a living and settle there for good. He brought only five rolled canvases: Danaë, Flowering, Isabelle, Istihon, Beauty Salon. A friend found a room, “tiny as grave”, for him in a shabby hotel in the Passage des Abbesses. Thanks to a letter from Marko Čelebonović, who recommended Ljuba to Ginette Signac, the daughter of the painter Paul Signac, he made his first contacts with the Parisian artistic community. During an opening ceremony at the Creusevault Gallery, Ginette Signac presented him to René de Solier, art historian and critic, who would be the first to take an interest in Ljuba’s work and strive to build his reputation. De Solier introduced Ljuba to Marcel Zerbib, the owner of the Diderot Gallery, on Boulevard Saint-Germain, who purchased the five canvases brought from Belgrade and decided to provide Ljuba with a monthly income in return for new paintings. The difficult period when Ljuba had been forced to work as a house painter to survive would soon be behind him. Yet, he still did not have a studio. He was drawing sitting on his bed, with his sketchbook placed on his knees. For a time, Ginette Signac lent him a maid’s room in her building on the Ile Saint-Louis, where he started working on his first painting in Paris – The Multiplication of the Bizarre. Thanks to the support of his new friends, he was allowed to use the studio of the American artist Ruth Francken, who left for Germany for two years. The studio was located in 11 Rue Lepic, and was spacious, well-heated and pro-fusely lit through a large roof window. In this new space, Ljuba threw himself into work with all his vigour. His first exhibition in Paris was organized already in May 1964. It took place at the Edouard Smith Gallery, owned by Marcel Zerbib’s brother Armand. The instigator of this exhibition was René de Solier. His name, printed on the invitation card, attracted a large audience to the opening ceremony, which extended beyond midnight. Along with the paintings from the Belgrade period, the audience could see the paintings made over the previous months, in Paris: Little Prince, The Multiplication of the Bizarre, The Garden of Delights, The Doors of Paradise… The paintings from the Paris period were marked by a more complex and elaborate structure. Perspectives were multiplied, whereas shapes oscillated between compactness and diffusion in the pictorial fabric. The domination of warm hues was soothed with the subdued shades of green and yellow and, less commonly, with intensive ice blue hues. Once his paintings were publicly displayed, Ljuba began to meet painters, writers and art critics, such as Patrick Waldberg, an authority on and the advocate of Surrealism, and Jacques Kermoal, a writer and journalist at Paris Match. The following year, Kermoal wrote a remarkable article dedicated to Ljuba’s work. During 1964, Ljuba also took part in three group exhibitions in Yugoslavia, including the Fantasy in the Works of Modern Belgrade Artists, at the Cabinet of Prints of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zagreb. The introductory study for the catalogue was penned by Aleksa Čelebonović. A significant change was taking place Ljuba’s private life. He developed a close relationship with the architect Nataša Jančić, whom he had met during winter holidays on the mountain of Kopaonik already in 1955. They married in 1969 and had two daughters: Adriana (b. 1970) and Tiana (b. 1978).
15. 1964., Rene de Solije, istoricar umetnosti i kriticar koji se medu prvima interesovao za Ljubino slikarstvo jpeg
René de Solier, historian and art critic, 1973
14a 1964., Stranice iz Ljubine sveske sa intimnim zapisima_
A page from Ljuba’s notebook with personal notes, March 1964
Ljuba_Natasa_Kod Dade
Ljuba Popović and Nataša Jančić during a visit to Dado Đurić at Hérouval, 1975

1965 Studio at Charenton

In February 1965, Ruth Francken unexpectedly decided to return to Paris, due to which Ljuba was forced to find a new place to work. A friend of Nataša suggested him to move into an affordable two-bedroom apartment that she had previously used at Charenton, a quiet little commune on the outskirts of Paris. Far away from the circle of friends who had been constantly present in his daily life for almost two years, he fully dedicated himself to painting. The football matches played with his Spanish neighbours were the only distraction. Early in 1965, Ljuba’s attention was fully absorbed by the large-scale painting that would later be known as Requiem. The formal and aesthetic, as well chromatic innovations introduced in this painting led to a feeling of discomfort, so strong that he had to remove the canvas from his studio and leave it with a friend, the painter Bata Mihajlović. This is a good illustration of Ljuba’s perplexing relationship with his works. The painting Herania, from the same period, was easier to cope with. Its title was inspired by the heroine of the science fiction novel Out of the Silence by the Australian writer Earl Cox. Ljuba would later say that for him the painting was “like a dream of love and immortality”. At the same time, he completed the painting God of Illusion, started the previous year, and undertook to paint the Last Supper, reinterpreting the composition borrowed from Leonardo da Vinci’s painting. The same year, he painted about fifteen smaller paintings, where he could give free rein to his inspiration both in thematic and technical terms. For example, the background was rendered in tempera or gouache, while sophisticated forms were rendered in oil paint.
16. 1965., Ljuba u ateljeu u Šarantonu, ispred slike Tajna večera_
Ljuba in his studio at Charenton standing in front of the Last Supper, 1965

1966 Montparnasse

In 1966, Ljuba left the studio at Cha- renton to settle, together with Nataša, in an apartment in the centre of Paris, at Montparnasse. The apartment also served as his studio. However, every- day life could not be reconciled with his creative work: he felt that it hindered his work as a painter, which had always been vital to him. Few paintings were painted in this period, but surprising- ly, their visual power remained intact. He started painting Ljiljana or the Milky Way, parallelly with a bizarre painting named Balthazar. According to Ljuba, its title had nothing to do with the name that the members of Mediala gave to a Belgrade vagabond with the intention of fashioning him as a symbol of free life. Severely disheartened, Ljuba also had doubts about the meaning of paint- ing. Once again, he felt the urge to seek answers in a dialogue with the Great Masters. Accompanied by his friend Arsić, Ljuba undertook a trip to Gh- ent to see the polyptych The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by Jan van Eyck. A few months later, a visit to the National Gallery in London would leave him with an unforgettable memory: Ambassa- dors by Hans Holbein. A reproduction of this painting, with the famous anamor- phosis of the skull, a symbol of the interconnectedness between the occult sciences and art, would for long adorn a wall in his studio. Marcel Zerbib organized another solo exhibition of Ljuba Popović, this time in his own galleries, first at Saint Germain-des-Près and a month later in Brussels. A modest booklet was pub- lished on this occasion. It contained an introductory essay by Jacques Kermoal, who wrote: “Knowing Ljuba is like en- tering straight into a world of fantasy where nothing is imaginary except our limited imagination […] If this world is sometimes absurd, this is only so because our way of seeing it is absurd.”
Ljuba with his painting Sorcerer, dedica- ted to René de Solier, 1966
The cover of the booklet published on the occasion of Ljuba’s second exhibition in Paris, 1966
18. 1966., Ljuba u stanuateljeu u višespratnici u kvartu Monparnas, slika Sparivanje_
Ljuba at the balcony of the apartment at Mont- parnasse with the painting Coupling, 1966

1967 Studio in the Odessa Passage

Ljuba finally found a studio that perfectly suited him. In fact, it was a dilapidated and dirty attic and it took him much effort to turn it into a place suitable for work. He was attracted by its size and a glazed roof transmitting cool light. The atmosphere in this part of Montparnasse was significantly dif- ferent from that in the residential ar- eas where he had previously lived and worked. The Odessa Passage was a meeting point of bohemians and young actors, especially after the establish- ment of the Lucernaire, a theatre in a cafe. After a period of diminished activity, Ljuba was so overwhelmed with the creative energy that he started working on several paintings at the same time. One of them was Isabelle, a Few Years Later, which undoubtedly bore a refer- ence to the painting Isabelle, made during his studies with Milo Milunović. This painting, like many others, deals with the fragility of the human body but it also reveals the resilience of Ljuba’s pictorial idiom. During 1967, he took part in several official public exhibitions in Paris, An – tibes, Montrouge and Belgrade. The Rive Gauche gallery, managed by R. A. Augustinci, presented Ljuba’s paint- ings and prints alongside the works of Max Ernst, Dorothea Tanning, Henri Michaud, Wilfredo Lam, etc. at an ex- hibition entitled 22 peintres d’une fig- uration autre (22 Painters of a Different Figuration).
Ljuba with the painting Isabelle, a Few Years Later, 1967
Ljuba with the painting Susanna’s Education in his studio in the Odessa Passage, 1967

1968 The first large-scale paintings

Throughout the year, Ljuba was ful- ly dedicated to work. In his new studio, bright and spacious, he was fully ab- sorbed with the work on the paintings started the year before, and some new ones. The huge painting The Angel of the Wickedness or the Awakening of Small Boxes (195×250 cm), later exhibited at the Salon de Mai in Paris and purchased by the National Centre for Contempo- rary Art (CNAC), stood out among them. The painting exuded vigorous sensuality. Rounded and soft weightless forms sur- rounded the central female figure sug – gesting that the same original magma begot the entire organic world. In May, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey premiered in cine- mas. Captivated by this masterpiece of the seventh art, Ljuba drafted, on a three-metre long canvas, the rough out- lines of the painting that would later be known as Divination or Homage to Arthur Clarke and Stanley Kubrick. In April 1968, he took part in the ex- hibition De l’imagination (On Imagination), organized by R. A. Augustinci at the Rive Gauche gallery in Paris.
21. Ispred ateljea Odesa, 1970_
Ljuba in front of the staircase leading to his studio, Paris, ca. 1970
22. 1968., Atelje Odesa, ekipa televizije, snimanje filma o Medijali_
Studio in the Odessa Passage; the photo was made during the filming of the television show Culture Today, dedi- cated to Mediala: Vladimir Veličković (second to the left), Ljuba Milin (fourth to the left), Ljuba Popović (first to the right) in front of the painting The Divination or Homage to Arthur Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, Paris 1968

1969 A house on the island of Vrnik

Just like every year, Ljuba stayed in Yu- goslavia during the summer months. He met his old friends in Valjevo, whereas in Belgrade, he spent hours discussing painting with Leonid Šejka. With the first hot days, he moved to the Adriatic coast. The barren vegetation and the blue sky helped him to relax, to “purge his mind”. On the island of Vrnik, near Korčula, Lju- ba and Nataša bought an abandoned stone house that had once served as a stonecutter’s workshop. After it had been thoroughly renovated and expand- ed, the house became a meeting place for many Ljuba’s friends from Yugoslavia and France. They included René de Solier and his wife Renée Miesse; Anne Tronche and the writer Philippe Curval; the writ- er André Pieyre de Mandiargues and his wife, the painter Bona de Mandiargues; the publisher Georges Fall; the publisher and the founder of the Quadrum journal, Jacques Goldsmith; Gordon Sacks and Ruth Hofmann, the editors of an Ameri- can book on Ljuba’s art, etc. In an inter- view, Ljuba said: “In my life, Vrnik has had a special flavour and it will always stir pleasant memories.” In Paris, Ljuba regularly met René de Solier. It was still difficult for him to speak French, but the two men did not really need words to understand and respect one another. René de Solier introduced him to Georges Lambrichs, a novelist and the editor of a book series at Gallimard. The painting Divination was finished and exhibited at the Salon du Mai in Paris. At the same time, Ljuba was working on several large-scale paintings: Annabella or the Thirst for Evil, Hibernation, Question of Hysterical Objects, A Lesson in Alchemy, City of Bitten Men, Sleepwalker… In September, the National Museum in Valjevo organized an exhibition of Ljuba’s works covering the period between 1957 and 1963. In November, he took part in the exhibition Signes d’un renouveau sur- réaliste (Signs of a Surrealist Revival), or- ganized by Patrick Waldberg at the Isy Brachot Gallery in Brussels. Ljuba would later tell to a friend that he had been re- served about the exhibition because deep in his heart he had not considered himself a surrealist artist.
23. 1968-1973., Kuća na Vrniku, snimak iz 1973. godine_
House on the island of Vrnik, 1973
24. 1969.09.07., Ljuba, RaŠa, Boća_
Raša Golubović, Boško Milosavljević and Ljuba, during the exhibition at the National Museum in Valjevo, 1969

1970 New friends, the birth of the first daughter, and father’s death

AIn the spring, Ljuba took part in an- other exhibition organized by Patrick Waldberg, entitled Résonnances sur- réalistes (Surrealist Resonances). In the introductory essay for the catalogue, Waldberg wrote: “It is not insignificant that Ljuba, through his art, has made us aware again of the sacred nature of this world of terror.” Ljuba finished the paintings Question of Eternity and Hibernation. He parallelly worked on a large-scale painting Cre- ation of Androids, marked by complex chromatic harmonies. Anne Tronche, one of the greatest experts on Ljuba’s work, would later say: “colour has here become syntax. It unites or brings to- gether the distinct elements of the com- position”. He also painted Gloria. Placed in the middle of the scene, an evanes- cent and milky feminine apparition in- fuses with its soft light a multitude of elongated and crystalline elements. Ljuba was introduced to Alain Jouf- froy, who was running, together with Jean-Clarence Lambert, Opus Inter- national, a magazine supporting the artistic expression of young artists. In 1970, the editorial board was preparing a special issue dedicated to Yugoslavia. On this occasion, Jouffroy wrote an ar- ticle in which he reunited Dado Đurić and Ljuba Popović under the title De Da- do-la-guerre à Ljuba-la-paix (From Dado- the-War to Ljuba-the-Peace). During the summer, Ljuba made a short trip to Florence which, for per- sonal reasons, left a painful memory in his heart. He noted down: “Even today, when I think of Florence, the memory betrays me and I fail to evoke a convinc- ing image. I see a golden city as distant from my personal universe as another planet.” His first daughter, Adriana, was born in May. In the autumn, he met Thessa Herold, who had set up her gallery a few months before. Their long and fruitful collaboration started soon thereafter and it would end with Ljuba’s death, for- ty-six years later. Ljuba’s father, Aleksa Popović, died in September. In December, Ljuba had to face the death of his valued and ex- ceptional friend Leonid Šejka.
26. 1974., Ljuba i Tesa Erold, Njujork, Central park_
Ljuba and Thessa Herold at Central Park, New York, 1974
25. 1966., Ljuba i Leonid Šejka iz vremena snimanja filma Povratak_
Ljuba Popović and Leonid Šejka (with a ciga- rette); the photo was taken during the filming of The Return, a film by Živojin Pavlović, 1966

1971 The first monograph on Ljuba’s art

The series of ‘cosmic paintings’, an- ticipated the previous year in The Crea- tion of Androids and the rough outlines of The Birth of the Cosmic Man, started to develop. Fuelled by the same inspi- ration, Ljuba painted Beyond the Star- gate and The Infinity Ladder. He gradu- ally abandoned indoor scenes, showing one or two figures in a confined space, in favour of spacious and lush scenes. His pictorial idiom was becoming soft- er, more flexible and increasingly flu – id. Impregnated with light and energy, shapes were relieved of their material weight, as evidenced by A Room in Flor- ence, a painting infused with an intimate atmosphere and moving sensibility. In October, the Isy Brachot Gallery in Brussels organized a solo exhibition of Ljuba’s paintings, where thirty-six canvases done between 1967 and 1970 were displayed. The introductory essay for the catalogue was authored by René de Solier. As a fervent supporter of Lju- ba’s work, he also wrote an extensive text that would soon be published as a book. This was the first monograph in French dedicated to Ljuba’s work and also the first monograph dedicated to a Yugoslav painter published in France. It was released in December by Georg-es Fall as part of the series Musée de Poche. On this occasion, Thessa Herold put on display in her gallery (Galerie de Seine) Ljuba’s four large-scale paint- ings. They captured the attention of the art historian and theorist Anne Tronche, who openly expressed her enthusiasm. A few years later, upon the instigation of Thessa and Jacques Herold, Anne Tronche would write a remarkable text about Ljuba’s art for the monograph edited by Gordon Sacks and published in New York. The rich art collector and writer Jean Davray discovered Ljuba’s work and he would soon become a loyal purchaser of his paintings and patron of his art. Thanks to his financial support, the ranking of Ljuba’s paintings on the art market was significantly improved. The Ambassador of Yugoslavia to France, Ivo Vejvoda, organized a recep- tion at his residence in Paris and Ljuba Popović was invited as a guest, along with Salvador Dali. On this occasion, the two painters discussed their re- spective experiences regarding the use of colours.
The cover of the first monograph on Ljuba’s art published in French
Ljuba Popović, Ivo Vejvoda, Ambassador of Yugoslavia, and Salvador Dali during the re- ception at the Ambassador’s residence, 1971
27. 1971, Solije, Nataša, Goldšmit, Bruxelles_
Exhibition in Brussels: Jacques Goldsmith, Nataša Jančić, René de Solier, 1971

1972 A burst of eroticism

A burst of eroticism is the distinguish- ing mark of the paintings done in 1972. Women’s bodies with distinct sex charac- teristics dominate the paintings such as Venus and Death, Sabra or Homage to Mrs. Robin, The City of Lost People and others. Nevertheless, Ljuba persistently denied any figurative intention and any narrative that could potentially accompany it. Pure- ly formal and aesthetic explorations re- mained the focus of his creative pursuits. As he would say in an interview, twenty years later, the only real subject of his painting had always been painting itself. Upon recommendation from René de Solier, André Pieyre de Mandiargues vis- ited Ljuba’s studio in February 1972. A peculiar friendship sparked immediate- ly between the surrealist writer and the painter. In May and June, Ljuba’s twenty-three large-scale paintings, made between 1970 and 1972, were exhibited at the Galerie de Seine. The introductory essay in the catalogue was penned by André Pieyre de Mandiargues and René Etiem-ble. Mandiargues wrote: “In addition to the division into mind- and hand-driven artists, distinction can also be made be- tween the painters driven by a warm hand and those driven by a cold hand, which is in this case exemplified by the opposition between Ljuba and Dali, whose ice cold skill has nothing in common with the ar- dour that pervades Ljuba’s paintings.” Through Count Guy de Lahoussaye Ljuba met the American gallerist Julien Aberbach, who would organize an exhibi- tion of his works two years later. In 1972, Ljuba took part in several group exhibitions in Paris, Brussels and Skopje. While staying in Valjevo during the summer, Ljuba met Slavica Batos, a young secondary school graduate and a future architecture student. Ten-odd years later they would start living togeth- er in Paris. Their son was born in 1989; according to Serbian tradition, he was named after his paternal grandfather, Aleksa Popović.
30. 1972., Ljuba i Andre Pjer de Mandijarg_AP_
Ljuba and André Pieyre de Mandiargues, 1980
31. 1972., Ljuba i Slavica 1977
Ljuba Popović and Slavica Batos, photo taken by Vican Vicanović in his studio, 1977

1973 Artistic mastery

Ljuba, who truly lived only through painting, continued to unveil the agitat- ing impulses under the surface of his consciousness by exploring the pictorial fabric. The space in his paintings bent, multiple visions permeated each oth- er, shapes conformed to various visual perspectives. This is especially evident in the painting Florence, or The Birth of Melancholy, which he undertook to paint in 1972, to finish it the following year, as well as The Sunset or the Lilith Complex, which showed a similar shifted per- spective. In the most important painting of this period, entitled Prayer or The Key to the Universe, it was obvious that the calculated distortions of the perspective The exhibition Collection fantôme (The Ghost Collection) was organized at the Galerie de Seine with the idea of demon- strating the lasting vitality of Surrealist painting, until 1973. Philippe Soupault, one of the founders of the movement along with André Breton, was respon- sible for the selection of paintings and the introductory essay in the exhibition catalogue. Ljuba’s painting Lot and a Lo- tus was displayed along with the works of Brauner, Camacho, Dominguez, Ernst, Klee, Tanguy, Miro, Picabia, etc. In 1973, he took part in group exhibi- tions in Paris, Brussels, Belgrade and presented his work in several Italian cities within the exhibition Surréalisme encore et toujours (Surrealism, Again and Always), organized by Patrick Waldberg.

1974 New York

Upon instigation of Thessa Herold, Alain Bosquet, a French prose writer and poet of Russian origin, wrote a text for the monograph on Ljuba’s work pub- lished by Editions de la Connaissance, a publisher based in Brussels. This was the first monograph in a series aiming to draw attention to the artists who had gained prominence after 1945. The se- ries editor was Jacques Goldsmith, the founder of the journal Quadrum. A book signing was held at the Galerie de Seine, where eight paintings were put on dis- play for the occasion. The same paintings, accompanied with another ten canvases, were dis- played at the Aberbach Fine Arts Gal-lery in New York in September. Despite the radical contrast between Ljuba’s pictorial idiom and the aesthetic trends of the time, the exhibition was unques- tionably successful. The audience’s re- ception of his large-format paintings, including The Temporal Body, Studio, Day and Night, was spontaneous. The intro- ductory essays for the catalogue were written by the American historian of Modern art Sam Hunter and René de Solier. Unlike previous catalogues, this one contained Ljuba’s comments on the displayed paintings, excerpted from his diaries. He stayed in New York for sev- eral weeks, sightseeing and visiting art galleries and museums. He had no de- sire to paint, leaving the studio rented for him by Aberbach desperately empty. In November, shortly after his return to Paris, he was painfully struck by the death of René de So- lier. Late in 1974, Lju- ba was granted the French citizenship.
32. 1973., Ljuba u toku rada na slici Molitva ili ključ univerzuma_
Ljuba working on the pa- inting Prayer or The Key to the Universe, 1973

1975 The last days in the studio in the Odessa Passage

Once the modernization of the Mont- parnasse train station and the con- struction of the business tower reach- ing more than 200 metres in height had been completed, the Odessa Passage was destined for demolition. Ljuba was forced to leave his studio but the very thought of it stirred in him severe anx- iety. Although the paintings from this period are scarce, his creative power remained intact. Ljuba worked on two large paintings: Reincarnation (dedicat- ed to René de Solier) and Cosmic Con- sciousness, where architectural land- marks were blurred, giving way to less structured, evasive spaces. It was also possible to observe the emergence of tumultuous stormy skies in his paint- ings. He also outlined the layout of the The Beauty of the Day and Lady Tamer and the Ghosts. The curious painting en- titled Repulsion (K.E.C.) reveals a fusion between personal memories and the ghosts originating from a deeper an- cestral memory. Michel Lancelot made a film about Ljuba’s art for French television as part of the series Les peintres de notre temps (The Painters of Our Time). During the filming, Ljuba began painting The Beauty of the Devil right in front of the camera. At the same time, Petar Nedel- jković made a film about Ljuba’s art for the Belgrade television. A limited large-format edition con- taining Ljuba’s seven original prints accompanied with Jean-Clarence Lam- bert’s essay Les plaisirs difficiles (Diffi- cult pleasures) was published by Pierre Belfond, as part of the prestigious se- ries Les cahiers du regard. Anne Tronche undertook to write a book covering Ljuba’s entire oeuvre as a painter. Ljuba met Jean-Louis Ferrier, a pro- fessor at the National School of Decora- tive Arts and an art critic. The psycho- analyst Jacques Lacan visited Ljuba’s studio.
Cover of the exhibition catalogue, New York, 1974
Ljuba Popović and Alain Bosquet at the book signing in New York, 1974
36. 1975., Ljuba i An Tronš u vreme rada na monografiji_
Ljuba and Anne Tronche on Vrnik, at the time when they were preparing the monograph, 1976
35. 1975., Kod Dada Đurića u Eruvalu_
A photo taken during a visit to Dado Đurić in Hérouval; left to right: Ljuba, Michel Random, film dire - ctor; Pierre Belfond, publisher; Jacques Herold, painter; and Dado, 1975

1976 Anamorphoses and a homage to Goya

In February, Ljuba saw the exhi- bition Anamorphoses at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris. Since the Renaissance, this kind of painting, which could be roughly described as the reflection of an object in a curved mirror, had questioned the relation- ship of the appearance and the real- ity. Inspired by the exhibition, Ljuba painted Scream, demonstrating that even in modern times a painter could be interested in such eccentricities. Accompanied by his friends, Ljuba made his first trip to Spain. He visited Barcelona, Cadaques, Valencia, Ma- drid and the Prado Museum and was strongly impressed by Goya’s painting Saint Francis Borgia Helping a Dying Im- penitent. Once back in Paris, he painted Spring (Homage to Goya), imprinting on his memory an erotic dimension. At the Galerie de Seine, he exhibited his drawings and ink wash paintings and the catalogue for the exhibition presented his writings, excerpted from his personal notes – Day’s Temperature. Together with Botero, Dado, Chavez, Veličković and Cremonini, Ljuba pre- sented his works at the exhibition Les espaces insolites (Unusual Spaces), or- ganized in Strasbourg by the poet and art critic Jean-Dominique Rey. During the summer, André Pieyre de Mandiargues stayed for a whole month on Vrnik. In a relaxed and friendly at- mosphere, he finally had enough time to socialize and talk with Ljuba. Upon returning from vacation, Mandiargues wrote a poem in prose Ode to Ljuba, evoking his impressions of Vrnik. The poem was published in the literary magazine La Nouvelle Revue Française in 1977. Ljuba moved to a new studio, in Val de Grâce Street, where he completed The Beauty of the Day and Lady Tamer.
Ljuba in his new studio in Val de Grâce Street, 1976
Ljuba in front of the painting Spring (Homage to Goya), 1976

1977 Painting a triptych and a trip to Israel

Ljuba worked on several large-scale paintings for an exhibition at the Beau- bourg Gallery scheduled for the follow- ing year. He finished Earth (Moly) and Fallen Angel and started painting Par- adise Lost, which would later become known as Desire II. His personal notes record the emergence of blue and purple hues, “icy and soft as a death shroud”. He also started working on a huge painting (260 x 400 cm) which, once completed, would become Hom- age to Sir James George Frazer. During a trip to Israel, Ljuba visit- ed Mount Sinai and the monastery of Saint Catherine. He was impressed by the shades of the Sinai desert “ranging from red to cool pink and grey”. Philippe Prince made a film about Ljuba for French television. The film was entitled Metamorphoses. Alain Bos- quet’s text served as a poetic thread linking the paintings. The film has never been released because of a dispute be- tween Bosquet and Éditions Gallimard over copyright.
39. 1977, Ljuba ispred slika Omaž Dž. Dž. Frezeru i Blud_
Ljuba in front of the paintings Homage to Sir James George Frazer and Debauchery (Homage to Laocoon), which would later become part of the same triptych, 1977

1978 Love-Monster

In February Ljuba exhibited eleven large-scale paintings at the Beaubourg Gallery, held by Pierre and Marianne Na- hon. The introductory text for the cata- logue was penned by Anne Tronche. The very sight of all the exhibited works made Ljuba feel uncomfortable for “the de- gree of self-disclosure” in the paintings. On the eve of summer, Ljuba exhibited twenty-five large-scale paintings at the Veranneman Foundation, in a free-stand- ing building near Kruishoutem in Belgium. The introductory essay for the catalogue was written by Alain Bosquet. For the same occasion, Ljuba painted two series of small paintings: Ten Little Nightmares and The Caves of the Unconscious. He made acquaintance of Anatole Dau-man, the founder and president of the pro- duction company Argos Films. Upon Dau- man’s suggestion, the filmmaker Walerian Borovczyk directed a fifteen-minute film Love-Monster. During the filming Ljuba began painting Werewolf and Spring. Svemir Pavić made the film Ljuba o sebi (Ljuba on Himself). Some sequenc- es were captured during the opening of the exhibition at the Beaubourg Gal- lery, whereas the others were filmed on Vrnik during the summer. Pierre Belfond’s publishing house re- leased a monograph on Ljuba’s work. It contained essays written by twelve au- thors. Jean-Louis Ferrier was the editor. Towards the end of the year, Jurgis Bal- trušaitis’s book The Mirror was released. Although well familiar with Baltrušaitis’s studies on anamorphoses, Ljuba was this time struck by the coincidence between the content of the book and his own ten-dencies to fragment space and create par- allel universes in which illusion and reality mingled. In the years to follow, he would create several ‘mirror paintings’. In May, Ljuba’s second daughter, Tiana, was born.
Ljuba and Jean-Louis Ferrier
The cover of the monograph Lju- ba, published by Pierre Belfond, 1978

1979 One triptych replaced with another

The three large-scale paintings orig- inally intended to form the triptych entitled Paradise Lost were separated and their roads definitely parted. From that moment on they would be known as Desire I, Desire II and Desire III. On the other hand, three other paintings, having been partially repainted, were united into the triptych Homage to Sir James George Frazer. The triptych was intended for the main hall of the Sava Congress Centre in Belgrade. Once it reached Belgrade, they were partly al- tered to form a coherent whole. Ljuba painted The Abyss for the Body, Night Woman and the diptych Mirror I and Mirror II. At the International Modern Art Fair (Foire International de l’Art Contempo- rain – FIAC), held at the Grand Palais, the Galerie de Seine dedicated its en- tire presentation area to Ljuba’s paint- ings. Six recent large paintings were displayed, including The Kiss of Death, dedicated to the gallerist Alexandre Braumüller, who had committed sui-cide by throwing himself into the Seine. Braumüller had introduced Ljuba to his friend Jean Davray, who would enrich his art collection with many Ljuba’s paintings. Michel Lancelot organized the exhibi- tion Le Musée Volé (The Stolen Museum) at the galleries Isy Brachot and Galerie de Seine, in Paris. Ljuba’s paintings Iceberg and Double Nostalgia were pre- sented along with the works of Botero, Camacho, De Chirico, Dado Đurić, Del- vaux, Magritte, etc. Walerian Borowczyk’s film Love-Mon- ster was presented in Parisian cinemas as a supporting film screened before Volker Schlöndorff’s The Tin Drum. The art and architecture magazine Cimaise published an article about Lju- ba, written by Anne Tronche and ac- companied with several reproductions. The magazine Zoom presented Isaure de Saint Pierre’s interview with Ljuba, accompanied with colour reproduc- tions. The magazine Opus International also dedicated several pages to Ljuba. The article was written by Henri-Alexis Baatsch. Ljuba’s mother, Spasenija Popović, died in February.
42. 1979. Ljuba i Valerijan Borovščik, 1977_
Ljuba Popović and Walerian Borowczyk during the filming of Love-Monster, 1977.
43. 1979., FIAC_
Ljuba’s paintings in the Galerie de Seine’s presentation booth at the FIAC, 1979

1980 Ice blue

Ljuba made three paintings pervad- ed by a new ice blue overtone: Ice Age, Three Points, and The Mountain of Desire. He believed that they had sprouted from a cool blue square that had first ap – peared in The Abyss for the Body, paint- ed the year before. “Ice crystals” also emerged in the Crucifiction, the painting that had already troubled him though he had just started working on it. To render the tension of the crucified body, in the early stages of work, the canvas was placed horizontally and Ljuba used images of hysterical convulsions as in- spiration. He also took part in an ambitious ex- hibition organized in New York by Pierre Cardin – European Trends in Modern Art: One Hundred Paintings, covering the pe- riod between 1950 and 1980. The author of the exhibition was the writer and art critic André Parinaud. Ljuba exhibit- ed The Games of Love and Death, done in 1970–1971, owned by Jean Davray, and several paintings from Galerie de Seine’s collection.
44a. 1981., Izložba kod Pjera Kardena_
The exhibition organized by Pierre Cardin: Nataša Jančić, Anne Tronche and Ljuba, New York, 1981
44. 1980., Ispred ledenih slika_
Ljuba Popović in his studio in front of the pain- tings of the ‘ice phase’, 1980

1981 Crucifiction

Ljuba completed one of his most important paintings – the Crucifiction. This is how he referred to it in his notes: “This picture is peace and torment, the pain of the purple precipices, the hys- terical tension of the man, and the blue shards of my most beautiful illusions”. Early in 1981, an exhibition of wa- tercolours and ink wash paintings was organized at the Isy Brachot Gallery in Paris. The catalogue included a pref- ace by Michel Lancelot and Ljuba’s text about watercolour. In Pérouges, in southern France, Ljuba presented twenty-seven paintings of various sizes done between 1976 and 1981. The same exhibition was presented once again, in October, at the Pierre Cardin Evolution Gallery in New York. Gordon Sacks, a New York-based publisher, released an extensive mono- graph about Ljuba’s art in English. The project was initiated and financially supported by Thessa Herold, whereas the text was written by Anne Tronche. The monograph included a catalogue raisonné of all Ljuba’s works. The May issue of the magazine Vogue- homme featured an article dedicated to Ljuba, written by Isaure de Saint Pierre and accompanied with photographs by Alberto dell Orto. The June issue of the German magazine Die Kunst brought an article about Ljuba, penned by Gustav René Hocke; it was illustrated with sev- en full-colour reproductions. The same article was later included in the book Malerwelt ab 1900. The Yugoslav literary magazine Gradac dedicates a double is- sue (42–43) to Ljuba’s art. The texts were written by various authors and illustrat- ed with black-and-white reproductions. The writer and documentary film – maker Jean-Marie Drot made a one-hour TV show about Ljuba, as part of the series L’art et les hommes (Art and Men). The film was shot in Paris, on Vrnik and in the Morača Monastery. In the eight-volume Encyclopédie de la sexualité (Encyclopaedia of Sexuality), five pages were dedicated to Ljuba: a text by Isaure de Saint Pierre was ac- companied with five reproductions. In 1981, Ljuba began a collaboration with the Belgrade gallerist Čedomir Edrenić.
45. 1981., Ljuba i Žan Mari Dro_
Ljuba Popović and Jean-Marie Drot during the filming of the TV show for French television, 1981
46. 1981, Alberto 3_
Photo session for Vogue at the studio in Val de Grâce Street, 1981

1982 From The Island of Death to Ecstasy

Ljuba completed the paintings begun the previous year, Love Cages I and Love Cages II, in which he continued to explore the duplication of space and transparent or reflective surfaces. The painting with a gloomy island in its upper section, orig- inally conceived as homage to Böcklin, was transformed into a picture of unbri- dled eroticism – Ecstasy. The painting Night Woman, begun in 1979, which had undergone several radical changes, was purchased by An- dré Serval and exhibited at the Grand Palais as part of the exhibition Le cabi- net d’un collectionneur (The Cabinet of an Art Collector). In October and November, the Marion Meyer Gallery presented a mini retro- spective exhibition of Ljuba’s drawings, watercolours and paintings done be- tween 1958 and 1982. After twelve years, the Galerie de Seine ceased its activities. Hired by L’Oréal, Thessa Herold became the manager of the Artcurial Gallery.
47. 1982., Ljuba u ateljeu Val de Gras_
Ljuba in his studio in Val de Grâce Street, 1982

1983 The first huge landscape

Ljuba finished three large vertical paintings (195×160 cm), started in 1982. After much hesitation, he decided to call them Sodomy and Gomorrah, The Secret of Memory and Temptress. Initially, the last painting was to be reshaped into an elon- gated trapezoidal format, according to the desire of André Serval, who had com- missioned it. While working on it, Ljuba decided to keep the initial, rectangular format and to cancel the commission. He also finished a curious painting showing a bisexual character, started during the previous summer on Vrnik, and named it Saturn’s Dual Face. Ljuba painted Choking (Hara-Kiri or Homage to Mishima). The “cold and me- tallic” hues in this painting surprised and bewildered him. He also started painting his first large-scale landscape, “long-awaited and desired”, with a fe- male nude occupying the lower half of the painting. The body would shortly be covered with a multitude of small objects (rocks, fruits, flowers) and the painting would become Burial Place. In August, the Belgrade gallerist Če- domir Edrenić organized an exhibition displaying ten watercolours and ink wash paintings done between 1980 and 1983 from his own collection. The exhi- bition took place at the Modern Gallery in Budva, Montenegro. Ljuba was introduced to Etienne Cha- ton, a heritage conservation special- ist working in Fribourg in Switzerland. Chaton commissioned him to design a stained-glass window for the church of Saint Peter Carignan, near Fribourg. The stained glass image was to feature the Crucifixion. Ljube began writing articles on art for the Belgrade weekly NIN. He signed them as V. Pop-Ljubojević.
48. 1983., Postavljanje slike Mesto sahrane, 1986._
Installation of Burial Place in the lobby of a company in southern France, 1986
49. 1983., Ispred skica za Vitraž_
Ljuba in his studio, standing next to his design for a stained-glass window for the church of Saint Peter Carignan near Fribourg, 1983

1984 “Man Will never Be God”

A major solo exhibition was organ- ized at the Veranneman Foundation, Belgium. The paintings done between 1979 and 1984 were brought together in three hexagonal rooms. The introduc- tory essay for the catalogue was written by Isaure de Saint-Pierre. She wrote: “Nothing is static in Ljuba’s painting, but whether the movement reaches out to heaven or to hell, it is impossible to say. Likewise, he does not celebrate love happiness or creative self-satisfaction, but the dizzying love of someone who suffers for not possessing the beloved body, who laments over the differences that blemish the beings. Man will never be God. He is condemned to rebuilding his hell and choosing tumults and fury.” The distinctly erotic painting Byzan- tine Ring, done in 1984, was present- ed at the collective exhibition Art, or et bijoux (Art, Gold and Jewellery) at the Vendôme in Paris. Through Jean-Louis Ferrier, Ljuba met Jurgis Baltrušaitis, who visited his studio. Baltrušaitis would include in the new edition of his book Anamorphoses Ljuba’s three paintings: Ingrid, Scream and Landscape, as well as a short ex- cerpt from the Day’s Temperature.
51. 1984., Ljuba i Emil Veraneman_
Ljuba Popović and Emil Veranneman, Kruishoutem, 1984

1985 Water, forests, flying monsters

The painting Burial Place, which took almost three years of work and reflec – tion, was finally completed. A new paint- ing, Lioness was completed fairly quickly. It shows a female nude, bent like a bridge over a large stretch of water. Since 1985, water increasingly pervaded Ljuba’s paint- ings. This is particularly evident in the painting Adam’s First Step, where human figures are tiny, giving the space an im – pression of immensity. The same propor- tions may be observed in the large oneiric composition The Prisoner of Fribourg. This painting anticipated fantastic structures, springs, caves, mists and flying monsters to appear in later works. In November, Ljuba travelled to Yugosla- via to attend the inauguration of the Valje- vo Modern Gallery, founded upon instiga- tion of Slobodan Đukić, Dušan Mihajlović and Ljuba Popović. An exhibition dedicated to Ljuba, cov- ering the period be-fore his departure for Paris, marked the beginning of the Gallery’s activities.
Catalogue of the exhibition at the Veraneman Foundation with the painting Ecstasy, 1984
52. 1985., Katalog izložbe u Valjevu_
Catalogue de l’exposition à Valjevo, 1985
53. 1986., Ispred Moderne galerije Valjevo
Groupe d’amis devant la Galerie Moderne, Valjevo. De haut en bas : Đorđe Bukilica, Slobodan Golubović Leman, di- recteur de la galerie Dragutin Radojčić, Danica Đukić, Dušan Mihajlović, Slobodan Đukić, Ljuba Popović, Miki Manojlović, Slavica Batos, Iskra Manojlović, Živojin Pavlović, 1986.

1986 Tenderness and sensuality

The large-format painting Temptations, started the previous year, was complet- ed. It was marked by a contrast between a delicate female figure and an atmos – phere tainted with threats. Ljuba con- tinued to paint landscapes showing vast water surfaces, mist and waterfalls. The female bodies embodied tenderness and sensuality. The most important paint- ings from this period include: Under the Sign of the Serpent, Study of Tenderness, Waterfall, The Cool Water of the Doomed Castle, Disintegration in Time, etc. A major solo exhibition was organ- ized at the Richter & Masset Gallery in Munich. The introductory essay for the catalogue was penned by Gustave René Hocke. In November, the Penthouse magazine published sixteen reproductions of Lju- ba’s paintings, accompanied with Isaure de Saint-Pierre’s text Black Romanticism. Jean Davray’s collection was offered on auction at Hôtel Drouot in Paris. Michel Poux, who would become a great collector of Ljuba’s works, purchased The Birth of the Cosmic Man. Separated from his first wife, Ljuba started living together with Slavica Ba- tos. Late in December 1986, he travelled to Amsterdam.
54. 1986., Stranice iz Penthausa_
The first two pages of the article published in Penthouse, Sodomy and Gomorrah and Anxiety over the Grand Source, 1986

1987 The Children of Hell

Ljuba continued his explorations into fantastic landscapes, which some- times featured a female body in the foreground. He was perplexed over the rough outlines of a large horizon- tal painting, perceived by him as “a new chromatic outcry”. The painting, com- pleted as late as 1990, would bear the ti- tle The Scream of a Pink Body. Ljuba also undertook to paint a large landscape commissioned by Anatole Dauman but he was soon overcome by the feeling of repeating something already seen. In the middle of the scene, he placed a black angel, believing that Dauman would not like the painting, especially because it was named The Children of Hell. Nevertheless, Dauman purchased it; the painting would remain in his din- ing room until his death in 1998. Other major paintings from this period in- clude: Under the Sign of the Cross, Fire in a Pavilion of Love (one of the few paint- ings in which blue is not dominant) and Purification. The unusual format of the last work (138 × 190 cm) is explained by the fact that it was painted on an old frame belonging to a painting done in 1959, which had been removed from it and sent to the Valjevo Modern Gallery. The March–April–May issue of the magazine Cimaise brought a twen- ty-page essay on Ljuba’s art penned by Jean-Louis Ferrier under the ti- tle Vers le troisième millénaire (To- wards the Third Millennium). The text was accompanied with twenty repro- ductions, both black-and-white and full-colour, covering the pe- riod between 1978 and 1986. The painting Wound was presented at the international exhibition Surrealism, at the Retretti Art Centre in Finland. Ljuba visited Fribourg, where he completed the Cru- cifixion stained-glass window.
55. 1987., Ljuba u ateljeu Vaj de Gras_
Ljuba Popović in his workshop in Val de Grâce Street, surrounded by the paintings Temptations, Romanticism after Rain II, The Scream of a Pink Body and Nocturne

1988 The fiction of the Crucifixion

The work on two large- scale paintings relying on an iconography that he had already mastered, started in December 1987, progressed rather smoothly. Once completed, they would be known as The Labyrinth of the Apoc- alypse and Temptations Revisited. Ljuba painted Hysterical Landscape as a recol- lection of the summer months spent on the beach Plavi gusar (Blue Pirate) on the island of Jakljan. The painting originally bore the title Endangered Nature. In the painting Forgotten Guillotine, which, ac- cording to him, evoked “the coldness and indifference of 18th-century landscapes”, he strove to “engender a rhythm, an in- ner movement, that would encourage viewers to read the painting as a book”. The painting The Return of Ulysses or The Wreck of an Idyllic Landscape was presented at the collective exhibition Méditerranée, sources et formes du XX- ème siècle (Mediterranea, Sources and Forms of the Twentieth Century) held at the Artcurial Gallery, run by Thessa Her- old. The painting Crucifiction was displayed at the exhibition La passion du Christ (The Passion of Christ) at the Museum of Con- temporary Art in Dunkirk. It was only then that Ljuba’s attention was drawn to the spelling error in the painting’s title, which en- dowed the Crucifixion of Christ with a science fiction overtone. The publishers Albin Michel of Paris and Prosveta of Bel- grade published the French and the Serbian versions of the monograph Ljuba, written by Anne Tronche and originally published by Gor- don Sacks (Alpine Fine Arts) in New York in 1981
The cover of the French edition of the monograph Ljuba, 1988
Ljuba working on Crucifiction, 1981

1989 The studio on Jakljan, the son’s birth

The series of paintings focusing on “water and bodies” was growing. Lju- ba painted three canvases of the same format: The Revelation of Truth or Con- cealed Lovers, The Return of a Person from the Past and Poisonous Evaporation. He described them as “paintings fusing tenderness and anx- iety” or as “a roman- tic idyll threatened by palpitating fear”. He laid the first brushstrokes on a huge canvas (240 × 310 cm), nailed to the wall because he was still reluctant to order a frame. The provisional title was The White Light of Death. According to his personal note, the emerging painting represented “the tragedy of disappearance in a white light, devouring, immaterial and pow- erful”. Once the painting was complet- ed in 1990, the title The Enigma of Crea- tion was written on its back. The writer Serge Fauchereau and Philippe Soupault organized the exhi- bition Voyageur Magnétique (Magnetic Voyager) in Montreuil; it was accompa- nied with an extensive catalogue. The painting Under the Sign of the Cross was displayed. Ljuba spent the whole June on the island of Jakljan, one of the Elaphite is- lands near Dubrovnik, where he signed an agreement with Milijan Vasić, the di- rector of the tourist resort, regarding the construction of his art studio and its use for a ten-year period. André Serval, one of the major col- lectors of Ljuba’s works, died in sum- mer 1989. Ljuba’s son, Aleksa, was born in July. On the eve of his birth, Ljuba complet- ed the painting The Revelation of Truth or Concealed Lovers.
58. 1989., Početak slike Enigma kreacije_
Ljuba standing in front of the uncompleted painting The Enigma of Creation, 1989

1990 The devil is in the detail

Ljuba brought to completion the large-format paintings started over the past two years: The Scream of a Pink Body, The Enigma of Creation, Devil’s Caves, and Transparency after the Body. Inspired by an idea put forward by Ljuba, Thessa Herold organized the exhibition Belvédère Mandiargues (The Mandiargues Belvedere) at the Artcurial Gallery to celebrate the 80th birthday of André Pieyre de Mandiargues. On this occasion, Ljuba displayed the paintings Studio (1973–1974) and The Enigma of Creation. José Pierre wrote the text for the catalogue. From June to August, Ljuba stayed in his new studio on Jakljan, with Slavica and Aleksa. He noted down: “I found the balance of body and mind. If ever there was a period of happiness in my life it was during the summer of 1990 on Jak- ljan.” During the summer, he worked on several paintings, including those for the FIAC, to be held in the autumn. Late in October, at the FIAC, the pub- lisher and gallery owner Michel Delorme reserved his whole exhibition area for Ljuba’s paintings. Having seen his paint- ings under the intensive white light of the Grand Palais, Ljuba found some hues to be “crude and harsh” and decided to pay greater attention to “the enrichment of the fabric” in the future, not neglecting the smallest detail. He was very satis- fied with the painting Devil’s Caves. At the exhibition organized on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Valjevo Modern Gallery, Ljuba presented two paintings from the Belgrade period and wrote a text for the exhibition cata- logue.
60. 1990., Ostrvo Jakljan_
The island of Jakljan in the Elaphite archipelago near Dubrovnik
60. 1990. Sa Dušanom Savićem, Jakljan peg
Ljuba with the football player Dušan Savić, Jakljan, 1990

1991 The Last Summer on the Adriatic Coast

Ljuba was elected an external mem- ber of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Belgrade. He undertook to write a new series of articles on art for the Serbian weekly NIN, this time under his real name. The first article, entitled Century’s Misfortune dealt with the exhi- bition of Théodore Géricault’s works at the Grand Palais. Ljuba exhibited eighteen large-for- mat paintings at the Gruyères Castle in Switzerland. The opening ceremo- ny left him indifferent. He noted down: “People are not able to see, nobody is interested in painting.” In Geneva, at the Art Bärtschi Compagnie Gallery, he exhibited his watercolours, ink wash paintings and drawings in ink. A war broke out in Yugoslavia. The summer resort on Jakljan, which housed Ljuba’s studio, was deserted. Ljuba, Slavica and Aleksa stayed alone on the island with a Croatian family, that of the resort’s guardian. They took the last flight from Dubrovnik to Belgrade to re – turn to Serbia. In Paris, Ljuba painted a small paint- ing entitled My Walk after Death. His sil- houette, easily recognizable in the mid- dle of the painting, is surrounded by a cloud of “white and dense light”. André Pieyre de Mandiargues died on 13 December. Ljuba was deeply af- fected by his death as he had lost both a great supporter and a valued friend.
61. 1991., Pozivnica za izložbu u zamku Grijer_
Invitation for the exhibition at the Gruyères Castle, featuring a reproduction of the pain- ting The Secret of the Gruyères Castle, 1991

1992 Beauty and evil

This was a period marked by doubts and anxiety. As always, Ljuba sought refuge in his work. The work on the painting started towards the end of 1991, named Nightmare, proceeded slowly and perplexingly. “A woman’s body in ten- sion. A bridge between our underground passions and a landscape of death, with a sea and dark islands. A strange mani- festation of beauty, evil, ugliness, chaos.” On another canvas of the same format, the body is raised. Its face reflects as – tonishment. The final title of the first painting would be Nightmare I, Homage to Füssli, whereas the second would be called Nightmare II, the Awakening. He also painted A Landscape with Volcanic Dust, “dedicated to a secret love”. Upon starting to paint The Big Picture of Evil, he noted down: “I find the painting very beautiful. Yet, evil is present, I do not know where exactly.” Ljuba was one of the painters cov- ered in the Dictionnaire de l’art moderne et contemporain (Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art), published by the Editions Hazan; the entry was written by Jean-Clarence Lambert. Among other things, he wrote: “Ljuba has developed his own style, between fantasy and mannerism, dream and reality, the im- aginary and the conceptual.” Having lost his studio on Jakljan, Lju- ba stayed, for the first time, in the small Greek village of Xiropotami, near Mount Athos, where he painted Athos, the Holy Mountain. He stayed for two days in the monastery of Hilandar.
62. 1992., Ispred slika Košmar I i Košmar II_
Ljuba in the studio, standing in front of the paintings Nightmare I and Nightmare II, 1992

1993 Sun’s Death

Faced with a tide of disturbing news reaching him from Yugoslavia, Ljuba painted Sun’s Death, “as an anticipation of the explosion”. The Sombor-based publishing house Zlatna grana published a book dedicated to Ljuba. An unpublished text that René de Solier had written in 1971, and had given to Ljuba just before his death, was deciphered, typed and translated to be published in this book. It was accompa- nied with Ljuba’s drawings. In the book Le théâtre de l’âme (The Theatre of the Soul), Alain D. Valade dedicated the chapter Lju- ba ou la volonté de création (Ljuba or the Will to Creation) to Ljuba’s art. After nine years at the Artcurial Gal- lery, Thessa Herold decided to estab- lish a new gallery, this time at Marais, near the Picasso Museum. Along with Camacho, Matta, Mušić, Saura, Zao Wou-Ki, Ljuba was part of the inaugu- ral exhibition Au rendez-vous des amis (A Friends’ Meeting). The introductory essay for the catalogue was written by Pierre Daix. Invited by Jacques Mousseau, a for- mer editor-in-chief of the magazine Planet, Ljuba stayed in Tataouine in Tu- nisia. The vacation in Xiropotami ended in a perilous journey through Macedonia and Kosovo to reach Buljarica (a sea- side village in southern Montenegro). At the end of the summer, he stayed with the art collectors and friends Draško and Branka Milićević.
63. 1993., Sveska Renea de Solijea_
The original manuscript of René de Solier’s text published in the book by Zlatna grana, Sombor

1994 Black romanticism

Ljuba completed the painting Sun’s Death and embarked into the phase of “black romanticism” with three some- what smaller paintings of the same for- mat: The Joy of a Non-Existent Space, Dead Peacock’s Garden (where black lightning revealed his desire to paint storms and disasters) and Vanished World. In the spring, Ljuba’s paintings were displayed at the exhibition Hantises (Hauntings), organized by Guy Bärtschi, at his gallery in Geneva. The exhibi- tion featured works by Bacon, Bellmer, Brauner, Matta, Saura, Veličković, etc. In the autumn, a solo exhibition was or- ganized at Guy Bärtschi’s gallery. The exhibition catalogue included an intro- ductory essay and several poems by Jean-Clarence Lam- bert. The book Sym- bolism by Michael Gibson was pub- lished in four lan- guages by Taschen. It contained a repro- duction of Ljuba’s painting Temptations Revisited. In the issue dedi- cated to the craving for love, the literary journal Poésie published Ljuba’s draw- ings and watercolours, accompanied with texts by Alain D. Valade, André Pieyre de Mandiargues (Ode to Ljuba) and Patrick Grainville. Ljuba spent another summer in Xiro- potami. He painted on canvas nailed on the wall or fastened to it with a strap- ping tape, in the room that served as a studio, living room and a kitchen.
64. 1994., Ljuba sa decom_
Ljuba with his children Tiana, Aleksa and Adriana, Xiropotami, 1994
65. 1994., U ateljeu VdG_
Studio, winter 1994; paintings: Temptations Revisited (left), 1989; the sketch for The City of Souls (behind Ljuba), completed in 1997; and The Island of Heads II and The Breath of Storm, painted in Xiropotami (right)

1995 The Abode of Ghosts

Ljuba continued the work on a very large horizontal painting, the title of which was beginning to take shape. In this stage, The Abode of Ghosts seemed to be a suitable title. Ljuba felt that the painting was beginning to “belong to him”, that he had managed “to creep into it, to inhabit it, to identify with it”. He also noted: “In the past, I would get rid of my torments by placing them on canvas. Today, I am looking for a refuge in my paintings, peace for the soul.” The diptych Soko Grad revealed a new, dif- ferent light, which Ljuba described as “a battle between yellow light and white heat”. In Paris, he took part in the exhibi- tions Figuration – Configuration in Paris, organized by Jean-Louis Ferrier at the Lavigne-Bastille Gallery, and Figuration de l’imaginaire: du Réalisme fantastique à l’Art visionnaire (Figuration of the Imag- inary: from Fantastic Realism to Visionary Art) at the gallery of Franca and Pierre Belfond. In Belgrade, the Verica Art Gal- lery organized a collective exhibition displaying the paintings of Dado Đurić, Vladimir Veličković and Ljuba Popović. The essays in the catalogue were writ- ten by Živojin Pavlović and Branko Kukić. Two documentary films dedicated to Ljuba were made by Ilja Slani and César Sunfeld. Ljuba was introduced to Sarane Alex- andrian, a writer and theorist of Surre- alism. Several years later, Alexandrian would write the text for a major mon- ograph about Ljuba’s art published by Cercle d’Art. The year was marked by health is- sues. Two surgeries resulted in ex- haustion and depressing thoughts.
Ljuba in his studio, Paris, 1995
Ljuba and Sarane Alexandrian, late 1990s

1996 The naivety of times past

Five large-scale paintings done be- tween 1972 and 1976 were exhibited at Thessa Herold’s gallery. The catalogue included an introductory essay by Alain D. Valade and Ljuba’s comments on each of the exhibited paintings. At the opening ceremony, Ljuba was aston- ished by “the naivety of the paintings and the steel determination in execut- ing them”. In October, he took part in the group exhibition Black List at Thes- sa Herold’s booth at FIAC, where he displayed Night Tales, Homage to E. T. A. Hoffmann. The collective exhibition Metaphysics – Still Life, organized at the Valjevo Modern Gallery, was instigated by Ljuba. The introductory essay for the catalogue was written by Živojin Pav- lović. During the summer, in Greece, he painted several medium- and small- size paintings. Once back in Paris, he put the last touches to the Garden of Love under Surveillance, started on the island Jakljan in 1990, and completed White Cloud, The Secret of the Pink Di- amond and The Awakening of Demons, while continuing the work on the large painting The Death of a Maiden, which was at that time filled with dark and threatening flying objects.
68. 1996., Ljuba i Adriana na Tesinom standu, FIACu_
Ljuba with his daughter Adriana at FIAC in front of Night Tales, Homage to E. T. A. Hoff- mann, Paris, 1996

1997 The Death of a Maiden

Ljuba started painting a new large-format painting, where the cen- tral section was occupied with a wom- an’s body, tormented and chained, immersed in a cloud of white-hot parti- cles. Already at this stage, the creative process got stuck and could not pro- gress. He placed the painting The Death of a Maiden next to it, “so that they help one another”. The Death of a Maiden was then subject to a radical change: “the maiden with luxuriant yellow hair and wide-spread breasts” was concealed under a cloud of flying objects and creatures, killing and burying her, in a pictorial sense. Ljuba parted, with regret, with the painting Ishibor, Homage to Beliaiev, which he considered his metaphysical self-portrait. Ishibor (or more precisely, Ichthyander) was the hero of one of the favourite science-fiction novels of his youth, Amphibian Man by the Russian writer Alexander Beliaev. Ljuba painted twelve small paintings under the com- mon title The Wanderings of a Shadow, as well as several paintings for an ex- hibition at Thessa Herold’s gallery, due in 1998. One of them was Hindrance to Eternity, a painting executed with cold perfection stirring in him a strange feeling, “as if it had been painted by someone else”. In Belgrade, the journal Itaka dedi- cated an entire issue (270 pages) to Lju- ba’s paintings and drawings.
73.1997., Atelje VdG_
Ljuba’s studio, Paris, 1997

1998 Endgame

The year was marked by two major exhibitions. In Paris, Thessa Herold presented in her gallery twenty-four recent paintings, twelve of which were painted specifically for this exhibition. The introductory essay for the cata- logue was penned by Alain Vuillot. In Belgium, at the Veranneman Founda- tion, two exhibition rooms were ded- icated to Ljuba’s work. In Belgrade, at the Verica Art Gallery, two large-for- mat paintings, Sun’s Death and The Big Picture of Evil, were displayed. In the Greek village of Xiropotami, where he was spending his seventh summer, Ljuba rented a new house with a shed at the edge of the court- yard that served as a studio. He paint-ed Endgame (Beckett), showing “the joy of deliverance, the celebration of the abandonment of mundane materiality”. In the autumn, he started working on the large-scale painting Ghost Ships and Time Tombs, relying on familiar icono- graphic elements: bodies, intensive light, skeletons, crumbling, dispersion, etc. The Surrealist literary magazine Supérieur inconnu published an inter- view with Ljuba, made by Alain Vuillot, a young philosophy teacher. The inter- view was based on their conversations at Ljuba’s studio. The Valjevo Modern Gallery organ- ized an exhibition of Čedomir Edrenić’s collection. Ljuba’s thirty-odd paintings were displayed alongside paintings by Šejka, Dado, Samurović and others. Towards the end of the year, Ljuba lost one of his best friends, the Serbian filmmaker and writer Živojin Pavlović.
69. 1998., Ljuba i Tesa Erold_
Ljuba and Thessa Herold at the opening of the exhibition, Paris 1998

1999 Tombs for history

The work on Time Tombs was pro- gressing well. At that time, Ljuba was reading Hyperion, a science fiction novel by Dan Simmons, and The Mystery of the Cathedrals by Fulcanelli. He discovered a “splendid correspondence” between the ideas of the famous alchemist and his own universe. He noted down that, thanks to Fulcanelli, he began to grasp the fundamental difference between Gothic and Renaissance art. In April, the painting Time Tombs (Dan Simmons) was completed and “commended to the history of the 20th century”. Ljuba’s text Vers les cryptes du temps (Towards Time Tombs) was published in the October– December 1999 issue of the journal Supérieur inconnu, dedicated to the fin du siècle. Ljuba’s drawing was featured on the front cover of the issue. An exhibition of Ljuba’s works on pa- per (small-scale paintings in oil on paper, watercolours and drawings) was held at the La Hune-Brener Gallery, in Paris. The anthology of modern and con- temporary art L’aventure de l’art au XX- ème siècle (The Adventure of Art in the 20th Century) by Jean-Louis Ferrier was published. It included a text dedicated to Ljuba’s art – Le monde fantastique de Lju- ba (Ljuba’s Fantastic World), and a repro- duction of the painting Venus and Death. The hotel chain Novotel commis- sioned a drawing that would later be reproduced in lithography, in sixty cop- ies. In exchange, Ljuba was awarded with a free family trip to the Cape Verde Islands. In October, he travelled to Bel- grade, where he saw, for the first time, the damage caused by the 1999 NATO bombing. In December, he travelled to the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, upon invitation from Jacques Mousseau. Ljuba was introduced to Michel Poux, French indus- trialist and art lover, who would become his friend and a major collector of his paintings.
71. 1999., Kapverdska ostrva_
Ljuba on the island of Sal in Cape Verde, 1999

2000 The Secret of the Red Door

Ljuba completed the painting Ghost Ships, to which he gave an alternative Serbian title – Tajna života posle smrti (The Secret of the Afterlife). In the cen- tre of the painting, he placed a skele- ton, with a head similar to his own. This macabre self-por- trait is surrounded by crumbling cathedrals, ghost ships, enchant- ed forests, a figure emerging from the underworld, a female musician playing on a femur bone, a beloved woman from the past, a crystalline hall… He believed that this was his first paint-ing reaching out to him from the Other World. Another painting, The Secret of the Red Door, terrified him so much that he believed it had evil powers. Ljuba took part in the exhibition Phantastik am Ende der Zeit (Fantasy at the End of Time) at Erlangen–Nürnberg University, Germany, and in the group exhibition Un regard de Bernard Noël (A View of Bernard Noël) at Franca and Pierre Belfond’s gallery. The literary journal Phréatique pub- lished on the cover of issue no. 93, ded- icated to language and creation, a re- production of the painting Salome. The issue included a text about Ljuba’s art written by Raymond Beyeler. Ljuba’s friend and collector Jova Obra- dović died.
72. 1999., Ljuba i Mišel Puks_
Ljuba and Michel Poux at the airport, returning from the Seychelles, 2003
75. 2000., Luba u ateljeu_
Ljuba in his studio, in front of the painting Ghost Ships, 2000

2001 Deliverance through paintings

Ljuba kept on changing two large paint- ings started in 1999. In one stage of the work, he saw them as The Signs of Heaven, whereas in the other, they were Lolita of Light, Dante’s Women, Lucifer’s Kingdom… Who are the women emerging from dark- ness? – he wondered. Why do their bodies radiate light? Is this the glow of Hell? Ljuba was terrified over the rap – id march of time and the decline of his earthly existence. He wondered: “Is my deliverance through paintings really en- sured?” He completed sixteen small paintings for the special, limited edition of a new monograph dedicated to him. The title L’errance d’un esprit fatigué (The Wander-ing of an Exhausted Spirit) was identical to that of a painting done in his student years. It “sounded shocking” in 1959; in 2001, it “sounded logical”. He took part in the exhibition Autour de la revue Supérieur Inconnu (The Circle of the Journal Supérieur Inconnu), held at the Visitation Chapel at Thonon-les- Bains (Haute-Savoie). Ljuba also de- signed a poster and the invitation card for the exhibition. The journal published the reproductions of The Secret of the Red Door, which was displayed at the exhibi- tion, and Endgame. He also took part in a group exhibition at Franca and Pierre Belfond’s gallery. In February, Ljuba spent two weeks on the Cape Verde Islands. In Greece, he finally found a comfortable house with a studio, where he could isolate himself and work in peace.
76. 2001., Ljuba u grčkom ateljeu_
Ljuba in his new studio in Greece, Xiropotami, 2001

2002 A Dream of Flying

Ljuba put the final touches to the paintings started in 1999 and they were ready for varnishing. The final titles were The Abyss for an Angel and Darkover. He took part in the exhibition San o letenju (A Dream of Flying) at the Museum of Applied Arts in Belgrade, organized by the Yugoslav Airlines, and the collective exhibition Victor Hugo et les artistes con- temporain (Victor Hugo and Contemporary Artists) at Chamalières (France), where he displayed two old paintings: Cultivat- ing Metal Boxes and Out of the Cocoons. In Paris, on FIAC, Thessa Herold put on display one of his recent paintings.
Ljuba in his studio in Paris with the painting Shadow and Light (right) in the initial stages of work, 2002

2003 Shadow and Light

The opposition between the forces of light and darkness, already apparent in his works painted since the early 1990s (The City of Souls, The Death of a Maiden, Black Pulsations, Darkover), was intensi- fied. He painted the large-format paint- ing Shadow and Light and The Return of the Black Angel, which was somewhat smaller and which he clearly defined as a painting “between heaven and hell”. A major retrospective exhibition of Ljuba’s works was organized in Subot- ica (Serbia). About a hundred paintings, done between 1953 and 2003, were brought together and displayed under the title Ljuba ili Prizivanje svetlosti (Lju- ba or the Evocation of Light). The intro- ductory essay for the catalogue was written by Milenko Radović, an expert on Ljuba’s life and work. The monograph Ljuba was published by the Cercle d’Art. It placed the accent on the works from the previous two decades. The text was written by Sa- rane Alexandrian. The Serbian national television, RTS – TV Belgrade, produced and presented a 90-minute show entitled Umetničko veče: Ljuba (Art Evening: Ljuba). The pre- senter Zorica Pantelić then produced another show, Ljuba Popović’s Light and Shadow. A close friendship was born between Zorica Pantelić and Ljuba and it would last until Ljuba’s last days. Ljuba and Michel Poux made their first trip together, to Seychelles. The practice of travelling together to tropi- cal areas for a week or two during win- ter would continue over the following years.
79. 2003., Otvaranje izložbe u Subotici_
Opening of the exhibition in Subotica; left to right: Ljuba, Milan Komnenić, Moma Pavlović, Zoltan Vida, 2003
78. 2003., Izložba u Subotici, konferencija za štampu_
Exhibition in Subotica, press conference; left to right: Nikola Kusovac, Ljuba, Zoltan Vida, Moma Pavlović, 2003

2004 The history of heads

At the Valjevo Modern Gallery, Lju- ba organized an exhibition dedicated to cut-off heads. The previous year, he painted A Contribution to the History of Cut-off Heads specifically for this occa – sion. Giant heads would soon take an important place in his painting. Their mouths would be often wide open, sym- bolizing “the mouth of hell”, which drew and swallowed tiny human figures. He finished the painting Facing Darkness. When the monograph Ljuba by Sarane Alexandrian was published, Thessa Her- old organized, at her gallery, a presenta- tion of the book and a small retrospec- tive exhibition of works done between 1973 and 2003. In Belgrade, Ljuba started his col- laboration with Živojin Ivanišević, the founder of the gallery Umetnički prostor Pariski Klub. In March, Ljuba undertook a short trip to Israel, to the Dead Sea.
80. 2004., Ljuba i Živojin Ivanišević_
Ljuba and i Živojin Ivanišević at the gallery Umetnički prostor Pariski Klub

2005 The Dream of Poisonous Flowers

In Paris, at the Rambert Gallery, a one-painting exhibition was organized: the large-scale painting (230×300 cm) The Dream of Poisonous Flowers, start- ed the previous year, was put on display. The introductory essay for the catalogue was written by Michel Ellenberger. In a note made a few days after a very suc- cessful opening ceremony, Ljuba wrote: “This is not my dream, this watercolour with a dominant bluish hue and red pricks of evil. This is the acid taste of poi-son exuded by each creature confronted with the inevitability of vanishing”. The same year, he finished the paintings Miraculous Séance and The Whiteness of Tomorrow (dedicated to Živojin Pavlović). In Belgrade, Ljuba took part in the ex- hibition organized by the gallery Umet- nički prostor Pariski Klub on the occasion of the publication of the book Pariski krug [Paris Circle] – Ljuba, Dado, Vladimir Veličković, Miloš Šobajić. Ljuba was introduced to Pierre Mahieu, the greatest collector of his drawings.
81. 2005., Sa otvaranja izložbe_
Ljuba, surrounded by visitors at the opening of the exhibition displaying The Dream of Poisono- us Flowers, Paris, 2005

2006 Large format

Six Ljuba’s paintings were displayed in Belgrade, at the gallery Umetnički prostor Pariski Klub. The exhibition was organized on the occasion of the publication of the monograph Veliki format (Large Format). The text Čarobnjak iz doline milosti (The Magician of Val de Grâce) was written by Milan Komnenić. The latest paintings stirred in Ljuba a strange feeling that he was estranged from them. Ljuba was more and more fatigue. He felt that his body was “plotting against him”. The recovery from a knee surgery was difficult, but he continued to paint regularly, as before. He noted down that for him, painting was “a source of energy” that brought him “back to himself”. Ljuba finished the painting Collapse, which would soon be acquired by Michel Poux.
Ljuba and his “friend of all times” Rada Đuričin, at the opening of the exhibition Veliki format, Belgrade, 2006
Milan Komnenić at the opening of the exhibi- tion Veliki format at Umetnički prostor Pariski Klub, Belgrade, 2006

2007 The Expulsion from Paradise

Last touches were put to the large painting entitled The Expulsion from Paradise. Establishing a balance be- tween pale blue and pink hues was truly a challenge. Satisfied with the re – sult, Ljuba noted down that this paint- ing might be his testament. At the same time, he was working on other, smaller paintings, which had temporary titles (Blue Sphere, The Masts of Invisible Ships, Metallic Tears, Eclipse…), seeking, as usual, “to establish a balance between daylight and subterranean nausea”. In Belgrade, he took part in the ex- hibition Gistavu Morou u čast (Homage to Gustave Moreau). Ljuba was the in-stigator of this exhibition organized at the gallery Umetnički prostor Pariski Klub. Two paintings, Homage to Gustave Moreau and Orpheus’ Lost Accords, were painted specifically for this occasion. He also instigated the exhibition Sim- bolično u srpskom slikarstvu (The Sym- bolic in Serbian Painting) at the Valjevo Modern Gallery. Branko Kukić was the author of the exhibition and introducto- ry essay for the catalogue. Ljuba undertook another trip to the Seychelles with Michel Poux. The sum- mer holiday in Greece was dedicated to rest and painting.
86. 2007., Sa Brankom Kukićem, Valjevo, priprema izložbe o simbolizmu_
Ljuba and Branko Kukić preparing the exhibition Simbolično u srpskom slikarstvu, Valjevo Modern Gallery, 2007
85. 2007., Ljuba u Valjevu_
Ljuba in Valjevo, 2008

2008 A very personal hell

Ljuba finished the painting The Signs of the Deluge, started in 2006. The whiteness of the canvas that has here and there re- mained intact creates the impression of vigour and clarity in the central section of the painting. Heads and tiny flying creatures, symbolizing lost souls, are emerging from the shadows surrounding a crystalline city. At the same time, he completed another large painting, Lost Souls, started in 2007. The third large- scale painting, the first outlines of which had been laid down on Orthodox Christ- mas Day (7 January), was completed very quickly. ”Something exploded like a boil. The canvas opened as hell and got filled with nasty creatures, flying or falling in an abyss.” In his personal notes, Ljuba explained that this was a very personal hell, and not the Bible Hell. Towards the end of the year, he would start working on two large paintings focused on the same topic, Invitation to Hell and Innocence and Diabolical Forces. In the TV show for the Serbian nation- al television Moć slike: razgovor sa Ljubom Popovićem (The Power of Painting: a Con- versation with Ljuba Popović), he was in- terviewed by Jasmina Simić. In February, he made a two-week trip to the Seychelles. During the summer, he stayed in Xiropotami.
88. 2008., Ispred slike Silazak u pakao_
Ljuba in front of the rough outlines of the pain- ting The Road to Hell, Paris, 10 January 2008
87. 2008, Ljuba i Tiana_
Ljuba and his daughter Tiana in front of the paintings The Hoard of Cursed Ships and Evapo- ration, Paris, 2008

2009 Planetary mission

Michel Poux, who had already had a collection of thirty-odd works by Ljuba, commissioned a huge painting of the same size (260×400 cm) as the central piece of Homage to Sir James George Frazer (1978). The canvas was stretched on the frame in September and the first strokes were laid down a few days later, while the canvas was still in the horizon- tal position. Ljuba noted down that the theme would probably have to do with the end of the world, the Apocalypse, the Antichrist’s arrival… possibly a walk after death. Ljuba wondered whether he would be able to bring it to completion. He was worried over his health, as the recovery after a knee replacement surgery was difficult. Despite joint pain that often prevented him from working, he painted persistently, because paint- ing was the only thing that made his life meaningful – his “planetary mission”. Ljuba finished a very sensual paint- ing, Innocence and Diabolical Forces, and then another one, Invitation to Hell. As planned, both paintings were purchased by Michel Poux. Sleepwalk II was taken to Israel, whereas Evaporation, Opening of the Abyss and The Abyss for Unknown Objects ended up in Belgrade. At same time, he made two square paintings, en- titled Invitation to Hell I and Invitation to Hell II, in which he revisited one of his favourite scenes: giant heads whose big mouths, wide open, were actually the mouth of Hell. Ljuba also took part in the exhibition Portret između realnosti i imaginacije (Por- trait between Reality and Imagination), or- ganized, based on his idea, at the Valje- vo Modern Gallery. The same exhibition was later presented at Umetnički prostor Pariski Klub in Belgrade. On 11 September, Sarane Alexandrian died.
A rough sketch for the painting Antichrist’s Arrival, Paris, September 2009
Ljuba in front of the painting Antichrist’s Arrival, still in the process of work, November 2009

2010 A Walk after Death

The large painting with the provisional title Antichrist’s Arrival became My Walk after Death and the work progressed well. Ljuba repeatedly changed the face of one of the central figures because he could not harmonize it with the overall atmosphere of the painting. For him, this painting was “the last planetary howl before the final darkness”. Nev – ertheless, he also noticed that the dark areas in the painting were still sparkling with stars. The universe was eternal, not humans. Ljuba finished the painting The Uniqueness of Demonic Action on the Body. Acquired by Michel Poux, it would form a diptych with Innocence and Diabolical Forces. With a seemingly intact vigour, he painted several smaller canvases: Blue Mask and Its Visitors, Pyramidal Love, Submerged Love, The Castle of the Last Hope, Black Castle, The Allegory of the Soul… In Serbia, at the Valjevo Modern Gal- lery, an exhibition of Ljuba’s drawings was organized to commemorate the publication of the book Ljuba: drawings, 1952–1962, written by Milenko Radović.
92. 2010., Ksiropotami_
Ljuba in his studio in Greece, sitting in front of an early version of Loneliness, Xiropotami, 2010
91. 2010., Atelje VdG_
Ljuba in his studio in Paris, September 2010

2011 Is there an afterlife?

Over the year, Ljuba was mostly fo- cused on finishing the details of a large painting, the final title of which would be Is There an afterlife? The five central figures retained the vigour from the initial stages of work, except for one face, which was blurred after repeated changes. Ljuba would not touch them any more. These figures seem to rep – resent all the states of a body between life and death. The body in the middle, bright and airy, might symbolize a rising soul, leaving behind a feeble and per- ishing body, and a stiff corpse under its feet. He started to populate the periph- eral areas of the painting, immersed in darkness, with little demons, torment- ed souls, skulls, grinning heads, vari- ous fantastic creatures… Ljuba was not religious. What he said and wrote seems to reveal the following idea of an afterlife: if there were life after death, it could be attained, for a time, through paintings only. During the first half of the year, Ljuba worked on the paintings The Inventory of Bizarre Objects and Sorcerer. The Queen of Fire (two towers in flame), The Mouth of Hell, The Island of Lost Heads, The Beauty and a Robot, Ruin in Flames, and a series of small canvas- es were painted in Greece, during the summer. The opposition between the body-light and the evil forces of dark- ness was frequently present in these paintings. Giant heads were depicted on several canvases.
The central section of the painting Is the- re an afterlife?, 2011
Ljuba Popović and Zorica Tomić, Ambassador of Serbia to UNESCO, Paris 2011
96. 2012., Ljuba i Slavica, verniranje velike slike_
Ljuba Popović and Slavica Batos during a break in the process of varnishing the painting Is There an Afterlife?, 2012

2012 A painting in a castle

The painting Is There an Afterlife? was finished, varnished, dismantled from the frame and sent to the commissioner and the future owner, Michel Poux. His castle was being reconstructed at the time. Once the reconstruction had been completed, the Assy Castle hosted the biggest private collection of Ljuba’s works, mainly large-scale paintings. Although distraught over parting with his “testament painting”, Ljuba continued to paint. During summer, in Greece, he started working on several paintings, which would get their defini- tive form in Paris: Rolla’s Destiny (Hom- age to Henri Gervex), Metamorphosis, The Master of Lost Souls, Invasion before the Deluge, Saturn’s Head… The milestone of the year was the collective exhibition dedicated to Dada and Surrealist painters Chassé-croisé Dada-surréaliste, 1916–1969 (Dada-Sur- realist Mess, 1916–1969). The exhibition was instigated by Georges Sebbag, who also wrote the introductory essay for the catalogue.
97. 2012., Slika Ima li života... u dvorcu Asi_
The painting Is There an Afterlife? in the Assy Castle, 2015

2013 A year without large formats

This was one of the rare years when Ljuba did not paint any large-scale paintings. He worked on several paint- ings around one metre in size (162×130 cm): The Fiancées from Hell, White Smoke, Metamorphoses, etc. In Belgrade, Ljuba took part in the presentation of the book Ljuba: slike iz privatnih kolekcija (Ljuba: paintings from private collections). The book included essays by Nikola Kusovac, Sreto Bošn- jak, Milan Komnenić and Dejan Đorić and was published by the gallery Umet- nički prostor Pariski Klub, which also organized an exhibition of Ljuba’s paint- ings reproduced in the book. The Valjevo Modern Gallery displayed one of the most beautiful private collec- tions of Ljuba’s paintings in Serbia, that of the Ćurković family. The texts for the catalogue were written by Ljuba Popo- vić and Nikola Kusovac.
99. 2013., Ljuba, Draža i Marijana_
Ljuba Popović with art collectors Draža and Marijana Marčić; the photo was taken at the time of the exhibition Ljuba: slike iz privatnih kolekcija, Belgrade, 2013
98. 2013., Ljuba i Ivan Ćurković, pripremanje izložbe_
Ljuba and Ivan Ćurković, preparations for the exhibition at the Valjevo Modern Gallery, 2013

2014 Hasty, more expressive

Starting with 2012–2013, Ljuba’s art revealed the traits of a “modernism” due to the hasty, more spontaneous and more expressive rendering. This is evidenced in the paintings Woman-Owl, The Invasion of Blue Objects, The Beauty in a Metallic Wood, Tears under the Sun, Bestial Love, etc. The focus was always laid on woman’s body, bright, shame- less, threatening and, at the same time, threatened. Skulls and heads with hor- rifying expressions were present to the point of becoming the only subject of the painting, e.g. in The Tower of Cut-Off Heads. Ljuba took part in several group ex- hibitions in Valjevo and Belgrade. The gallery Umetnički prostor Pariski Klub and the Serbian publisher Paideia pub- lished a book that contained the repro- ductions of Ljuba’s works and selected texts about his arts. The painting Mystery in Full Light was displayed at a one-painting exhibition in Valjevo. The catalogue brought the de- tails of the painting and a text by Alain Vuillot. A quiet summer in Greece was marked by interesting discussions with Nikola Kusovac.
Ljuba and Nikola Kusovac, Xiropotami, 2014
Ljuba with his son Aleksa, Xiropotami, 2014

2015 Macabre and romantic

Faithful to the hasty and expressive manner and mostly macabre subjects, Ljuba painted The Mirrors of Forgot- ten Ghosts, Evil Forces, Dance Macabre, White Moon, etc. Styx-River and The Se- cret of the Red Sea, which reveal mel- ancholy and romanticism interspersed with anguish, were the only exceptions. He undertook to paint the large-scale painting The Empire of Satan. Eleven large paintings were displayed at the RTS Gallery in Belgrade. The in- troductory essay for the catalogue was written by Ljuba’s friend and expert on his art, Milan Komnenić, who died three months after the opening of the exhibition. On the day of the opening, a presentation of the monograph Ljuba: selected works, 1953/2015, published by Pariski krug, RTS and Službeni glasnik, was organized. It fea- tured selected texts by various authors. Four Ljuba’s paintings were displayed at the exhibition The Collection of Draško Milićević. Zorica Pantelić’s show Vreme (je) za eli- tu (The Time [Is] for the Elite) entirely ded- icated to Ljuba was aired on the Serbian national television, TV RTS, in December. Anne Tronche, art critic and theorist, Ljuba’s friend and the author of a re- markable essay published in a mono- graph about his art, suddenly died in Oc- tober. Deeply affected by her death, Ljuba dedicated to her the painting Antinea.
102. 2015., Ispred slike Carstvo Satane_
Ljuba in front of the unfinished painting The Empire of Satan, Paris, 2015
103. 2015., Otvaranje izložbe u RTS_
Opening of the exhibition at the RTS Gallery, Belgrade, October 2015

2016 The last paintings

Early in 2016, during a visit to Lju- ba’s studio, Thessa and Jacques Herold came up with a proposal to organize an exhibition of his works at their gal- lery, just before the summer break. The paintings were already prepared and it only remained to complete The Empire of Satan and refine a few details in the others. The exhibition was opened in June. It was dedicated to Anne Tronche. Her text Ljuba: le monde des tables et des souterrains (Ljuba: the world of ta- bles and basements), taken from the book Chronique d’une scène parisienne (Chronicle of a Parisian Scene, published by Hazan), was included in the cata- logue, along with Mathilde Marchand’s text about Ljuba’s art and an essay by Thessa and Jacques Herold dedicated to Anne Tronche. After the opening, Ljuba left for Greece. As usual, he started working on several paintings immediately upon ar- rival. However, the work was disrupted by health problems. His condition be- came complicated and he was urgently transferred to a hospital in Belgrade. He died on the night between 11 and 12 August. For the first time, his studio in Val de Grâce Street in Paris was empty in September.
2016., Ljuba, Tesa i Žak Erold_
Ljuba avec Thessa et Jacques Herold avant le vernissage, Paris, juin 2016.
2016., Atelje bez Ljube, novembar 2016_
Studio in Val de Grâce Street, September 2016