About Milena

Milena Pavlović Barilli achieved a powerful artistic expression, which left a mark on the European avant-garde of the fourth decade of the twentieth century, with its immense wealth of visual imagination enriched with the poetry of colors. She was an artist of delicate sensibility who expressed the questions and answers in her canvases, using enigmatic compositions, metaphors, symbols and visions. Her powerful artistic creativity is evident through her various interests - drawings, prints, aquarelles, pastels, temperas, oils and - verses.

In the words of her mother Danica: “Everything in Milena’s life is extraordinary – the beginning, the duration and the end”.

Milena Pavlović Barilli was born in Požarevac on 5th November 1909 as the only child of Danica Pavlović and Bruno Barilli. On her mother's side, Milena was the descendant of Karađorđević dynasty by Sava, the eldest daughter of Đorđe Petrović, the founder of Karađorđević dynasty, and on her father's side, of the famous artistic family of Barilli from Parma. Milena's parents gifted her not only with artistic talent, but also with extraordinary education and versatility.

Milena's short life was marked by her hometown of Požarevac, but also Belgrade, Munich, Rome, Paris and, finally, New York.

As an exceptional talent, she was educated in the Belgrade School of Art by Beta Vukanović, and then went on to prepare for the Munich Academy in the private art school Blocherer Schule. Her teachers in the Munich Academy were Hugo von Habermann and Franz von Stuck.

During her early days, Milena relied on the academism of the Munich school reflected in the skilled precision and a poetic idea of feelings. The subjects of her paintings are portraits of family members, close friends and movie stars like Rudolf Valentino. Her "Self-portrait" from 1929 belongs to this period.

he road took her to Spain first in 1931, and then to London where she held a solo exhibition in the Bloomsbury Gallery. From London she went to Paris, the European intellectual and artistic center of the day where she lived until 1939. This period is characterized by the introduction of symbols and topics which she would be attracted to permanently. The line becomes the dominant element of her paintings combined with delicate, sophisticated color tones. She was inspired by Giorgio de Chirico.

Jean Cassou entered her creative life at the time and wrote a critique of her Paris exhibition. Among other things, he wrote of her: “Milena possesses the keys to the dreams of painting.”

Milena’s versatile artistic spirit did not stay still and was not fulfilled only by painting. She wrote poetry and started publishing it in magazines (“Quadrivio”), always accompanied by illustrations and drawings. Besides Serbian, Milena wrote poetry in Italian, Spanish and French.

After Rome, she held exhibitions in Florence and Venice. There is a change in her painting, under the influence of the Old Masters, the line faded and the color took over its role. This was the period that saw the creation of her works “Self-portrait with an archer”, “A girl with a lamp” and “Venus with a lamp”.

On the feast day of St. Nicolas in 1936 she visited her mother in Požarevac and that was her last stay in her homeland.

In the next two years she held solo exhibitions in the most famous galleries in Rome and Paris. As a part of the new generation of artists she set the artistic tone in the capital of the European and world art – Paris.

She did not forget her roots and her childhood — together with Yugoslav artists of the time she held collective exhibitions in Paris and The Hague.

In the wake of the Second World War, which would shake Europe to its foundations, in the summer of 1939, Milena boarded a ship and sailed to America, to see the surrealists at the Great World Fair in New York. In the first months there, she was troubled by the lack of funds, her nostalgia for Europe, home town of Požarevac and her mother. To make a living, she started doing illustrations for the popular fashion magazines like “The Vogue”, “Glamour”, “Harper’s Bazaar”, “Charm”. The illustrations are exquisite and radiate the spirit of her art. She also did artistic design for “Revlon” cosmetics. She became a very sought-after artistic designer, as her friend Rosamund Frost, the art historian, testified. On invitation from the composer Gian Carlo Menotti she tried her hand at scenography – she designed the costumes for the ballet “Sebastian”.

In her American period Milena painted a series of portraits of celebrities and royals like Swedish prince Karl, Austrian archduke Franz Josef and king Peter II Karadjordjevic. In 1939 she painted her “Self-portrait with a veil” and held her first American exhibition in the gallery “Julian Levy”. It was followed by another New York exhibition, and then a Washington exhibition in 1943.

At her Washington exhibition she met Robert Thomas Gosselin and married him in late 1943. Next spring, she hurt her spine in a horse riding accident. She still worked hard although she had to wear a metal corset.

Her heart stopped on March the 6th 1945 in New York.

The urn with her remains was transferred to Rome in 1947 and laid to rest in the cemetery Cimitiero acattolico degli stranieri. Later, both her parents were interred by her side, her father Bruno Barilli in 1952 and her mother Danica Pavlovic in 1965.

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