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Milena Pavlovid Barili was a Serbian painter and one of the most interesting figures of

European and American art between two world wars. She was born in Poarevac, on
November 5th, 1909 as a child of the famous Italian composer, musicologist and poet Bruno
Barili, and Danica Pavlovic, who was a pianist and teacher.
Milena's talent was anticipated by her mother, while collecting her drawings made when she
was a child. As a child, she drew unusual human figures, elongated, without eyes. When she
was 12 years old, she enrolled Art school in Belgrade. Parallel to the art school, she also
attended Second female gymnasium. When she turned 17, she moved in Munich, first to
preparatory school and then on Academy of Arts. Her professor accepted her in his class as
the only female student. However, serious health problems prevented her to continue
education. She finished only two semesters and went back to Yugoslavia in 1928, and after
recovering, she organized first solo exhibition at Journalistic home in Belgrade. She got many
compliments, and art critics announced her as an outstanding painter who is waiting for a
bright future and artistic career.
She decided to build her career abroad, so she went with her mother on a study trip in
Spain. Because of her father's origin, she held Mediterranean deep inside herself, and it
attracted her very much. She stayed there for three months, visiting idyllic landscapes of
Seville, Malaga, Valencia and Granada, while studying Velasquez and Goya in Madrid's
museums. During her stay in Spain, she met one different culture, magic and bizarre at the
same time, and that's what encouraged her to seek for her own way. The entire series of
interesting compositions was created, and was later exhibited in London. Hard work and
searching for her own way she continued in London, where huge amount of aquarelles,
brilliant pastels, and few temperas with dark motives of London's streets and facades were
First introduction to art public and critic out of Serbia she had on February, 27th, 1931 in
Bloomsbury gallery in London. That exhibition represented a crucial moment in Milena's
artistic creation. Then somehow, she finished with a previous realistic way of expression.
Slowly, she entered one new period and showed a variety of her creative curiosity, unusual
imagination, and subtlety in creating compositions with oriental motifs, craft skills,
mastering the art techniques and materialization which reached real virtuosity in several
pastels. In Bloomsbury gallery she exhibited several paintings created in academic way of
thinking, composition and form shaping for the last time. According to the experience she
got from her professors, she was building one original, modernized academicism which will
over romanticism, moderate expressionism and fiction outgrow in imaginary and oneiric.
Period between fall 1931 and October, 1932 was crucial in forming of Milena's artistic
personality. In chronological span of less than a year, sixty paintings and twenty drawings
which are telling one quite more complex story were made.
Boldly and with self-confidence she was given in Belgrade and London, Milena came in Paris
in fall, 1931 and quickly fit into the group of famous intellectuals, artists and writers. During
the next few months, one mysterious and imaginary world was being created. That world
was something what opened her door of Parisian society and secured her exhibiting with the
most famous names of European artistic avant-garde. In Paris her art experienced revival,
revealing one new poetic-fiction world. During the period of only few months, she decisively
went in the domain of the unreal and magical, creating one complex story. Her first
appearance on the Parisian arts scene happened on April 29. , 1932 in Jeue Europe gallery.
As before, she was warmly welcomed by both journalists and critic. Later, she definitely
formed her imaginary and oneiric world and completely rejected anything that could
associate with the school and its templates (rules). She bravely embarked in collisions of
fantastic and realistic in one world full of architectural elements. Then she went to Rome
and exhibited at Gallery d'Arte DI Roma in October, 1932. The opening of the exhibition
was attended by the most famous names in art, politicians, high class, strangers and
journalists. They declared her as the happening of the season.
While living in Paris, she was surrounded by her father, family and some of her father's
friends who were art lovers. She was also associated with famous artists such as De Chirico,
Kokoschka and Max Ernst with whom she exhibited, the writer of surrealism manifesto
Andre Breton, and Andre Lhote who dedicated her few songs he wrote. Half a year after
opening the exhibition in Rome, with about her 10 new enigmatic paintings as well as one
series of extraordinary surrealistic drawings Milena represented herself to the Florentine
audience on April 15th, 1993 in Sala d'Arte de La nazione. Regarding to this exhibition
Cuban publicist Raomon Vasconcelos dedicated her an extensive article which he published
in El Pais Excelsior magazine.
At the beginning of October 1933, Milena returned in Paris where she participated on XII
Salon Tuileries with her 4 paintings. She stayed in Paris till the end of the following year. At
the end of the year she got an invitation to participate in II quadrennial d'Arte Nazionale
exhibition, which was opened on February 4th, 1935 in that exhibition she exhibited few
observed paintings.

Milena already gained the reputation on artistic scene, and the most important period of her
creative work belongs to thirties. Then the key part of her opus was created.
After Quadrienalle she returned to Serbia, where she stayed for a year and a half, preparing
one grandiose exhibition, which was agreed for roman Galleria Della Cometa. Then she
entered the one new, metaphysical-renaissance period, influenced by the old masters. In
that period ensued the capital paintings which are today kept in Museum of temporary arts
in Belgrade. After the exhibition in Rome she went to America. That period brought a huge
reversal in her life and artistic career. She came to America with the ship which arrived in
New York's port, four days before the war started. Since she didn't book anything, she found
accommodation in the cheap boarding house which was the property of one man from
vicinity of Poega, in which our emigration was gathering. Later, she changed few addresses
and the last one was 88. Street in Manhattan. She was very introvert, and she wasn't coming
in touch with people before. Thanks to the knowledge of many languages she could
communicate with everyone, and then, out of necessity, she became a little friendlier. She
started to make contacts with her friends who were in touch with gallerists. They enabled
her contract with the most popular fashion magazine in the world, Vogue. That cooperation
helped her financially and opened the door to other jobs.
Her design of women's clothes and footwear, graphic solutions for beauty products and
jewelry commercials were published in many famous magazines such as Town and
Country, Charm, Glamour, and House beautiful. As a result, her name was starting to
be published in many magazines and that was what enabled her to exhibit in Julien Levy
gallery where were usually held the exhibitions of surrealists. She had the first exhibition half
a year after arriving in New York. That was when the brilliant texts and critics started. Then
she turned to pure art, but she simultaneously worked with commercial design.
Unfortunately, when she was moving to New York, she left many of her paintings in Paris
and those paintings are misplaced. They were never found.
During her lifetime, she was also writing the poetry, and was publishing it in French and
Italian in Italy, where she was getting very affirmative reviews.
She died in New York on March 6th, 1945 of the consequences caused by falling from a
horse. Probably of a heart attack.
The artistic career of Milena Pavlovid Barili can be separated into a few phases.
The first phase is education, where can be noticed the refinement of sensibility, talent,
interest in 'realistic' in a painting, but already connected with symbolism and decoration of
secession, most commonly in fashion design. She mostly used pastel which highlights slight
exceeds and the softness of expression. She was also doing drawings.
The second phase is a linearly period from 1932 to 1936. That was when the strong visions
and developed symbolic system were developed and done still with light, superficial but
determined lines.
Third phase- she was developing iconography rashly, bringing enigmatic compositions with
allegoric characters combining memory painting with antique architectural elements,
Renaissance costumes, connected with modern characters where she was often inserting
her own character combining temporary with permanent and eternal. Inspiration for her
artwork she was finding in irrational, dream, and from great masters of surrealism. She
wasn't relying on destructive in surrealism, but with metaphysical relation to reality. Trying
to find independence, she created her own world filled with a system of permanent values.
In that way, she created her own mythology.
Fourth or American phase highlighted the nostalgia. She was painting characters from
high class, as well as the series of paintings dedicated to religious symbolism. She was
working with fashion design with which she gave a contribution to New York's fashion scene.
During this period she was collaborating with leading fashion magazines.
Some of her most popular paintings are Self-portrait with veil, Madonna, Black woman
with figure, Composition from 1938 and Angels in dawn.

Even though she belonged to the group of avant-garde painters, surrealist Milena is not
classified into orthodox surrealists.
Her importance in the development of Yugoslav and European art is priceless, firstly because
she complemented very meager scale of these concepts between two world wars. She is one
of our rare post-surrealists and her work is unique.
Milenas paintings were exhibited in Milan, Florence, Hungary, Stockholm and became more
and more wanted in organizing the exhibitions of avant-garde painters in the period
between 1910 and 1940.