No influences of any kind or of anyone have been able to direct my love for art, in general or my love for painting, in particular. From the first moment I can recall anything about myself, as early as preschool, I have been drawing and painting passionately. Thus inspired by the artistic ideal, I’ve been moving relentlessly in the narrow path of a difficult life, working day and night, with a single objective – art.
– Lazar Lichenoski
(From the collection of the National Gallery of Macedonia)
Lazar Filip Lichenoski
Contemporary Macedonian art can not be imagined without the personality and work of Lazar Lichenoski. Along with his contemporaries Nikola Martinoski and Dimitar Pandilov Avramovski, they are part of the first group of contemporary Macedonian artists.
He was born in Galichnik, on March 26, 1901, and died in Skopje, on April 10, 1964. He studied in Belgrade, from 1921 to 1927, where he graduated from the Art School of the Teachers’ Department in the class of prof. Beta Vukanovikj, Ljuba Ivanovikj, Petar Dobrovikj. During that time he was associated with his colleagues Gjorge Andreevikj Kun, Anton Huter and other junior fellow students. For a period of two years (1927 – 1929) he received a scholarship and was on a study visit to Paris, specializing in wall techniques in the studio of Marcel Lenoir and Paul Baudouin, in the School of Applied Arts, the Academy “Grand Schomier” as well as in the studio of Andre Lot.
He lived in Belgrade from 1929 to 1944, and then, from 1945 until the end of his life, he lived and worked in Skopje.
At the beginning of his student life he wrote for the literary magazines “Nova Makedonija”, “Razgledi”, “Sovremenost”. In his biography it will be written that he was a professor and director of the School of Applied Arts, he was a member of the commission that equipped the Art Gallery – Skopje (today National Gallery) when in 1946, together with Dimo Todorovski, Dimce Koco, Borko Lazeski received three million dinars to buy paintings and sculptures from all over Yugoslavia for the newly formed Gallery in Skopje.
He was a member of the Belgrade group “Oblik”, from 1945 he participated in the exhibitions of DLUM and SLUJ, he was a member of SANU.
He has been awarded several awards and recognitions in the field of art: Award of the Ministry of Education and Culture of the People’s Republic of Macedonia in 1947; October Painting Award in 1959; Order of Labor of the First Order in 1954; Order of Merit for the People with a Gold Star in 1961. He made a number of study trips: in 1954 in Italy (Venice, Rome, Florence) and in France (Paris); in 1956 again in Italy (Venice, Rome, Naples) and France (Paris).
He has participated in many solo and group exhibitions in our country and abroad.
In this virtual chamber exhibition on the occasion of March 8, several portraits and nudes of this fruitful author of ours are thematically displayed.
Like his life, his works can be divided according to the stages that follow his life path and his painting themes and preoccupations. The exhibition includes works covering his Belgrade period from his student days, then works from his Paris internship, which visually show his themes of interest, private life and artistic impressions and influences.
The portraits can be grouped thematically: we have portraits of his contemporaries, initially fellow students (example: Roberta Birbridge); civil society figures (civic portraits: Fani Politeo, Stanislava Magljeviеkj, Ksenija, Sonja Gaboj …); while in his painting there is a continuous representation of Galichnik women, which connects him to his hometown (eg: Portrait of Stojana, his sister, Portrait of a Galichnik woman), and of course, as an inexhaustible inspiration, in the cultural heritage left to us by this great his wife Zoe Lichenoska is represented, who was his “icon”, muse and model for many of his paintings.
Roberta Birbridge’s portrait is noticeably different in sensibility from his other portraits. It recognizes the Parisian influence, and yet the realism of the specificity of its features, the childish shape of the face, softly rounded, with striking eyes and lips, is faithfully conveyed on the canvas. The work is painted in a post-Cubist form, with a fine emphasis on the border tone tones and the application of light gamma, beige and ocher color.
In the Portrait of Fani Politeo, on the other hand, we can see a darker color and expressionist painting manuscript, and the obvious influence of the medieval icons is recognizable. This influence is due to his interest in that part of our Byzantine heritage, and to the fact that in his younger years he worked with painters from whom he gained some knowledge, while specifically researching the Ohrid churches in the summer of 1925, when he was called to make icons for the iconostasis of the new church in the Struga village of Mali Vlaj.
In the performance of his sister Stojana and the Portrait of a Galichnik woman, the rusticity of the expression is noticeable, while the women are dressed in the attribute of belonging to the Mijak area, in a traditional Galichnik folk costume.
Lichenoski is known for his color, a style he has nurtured since his student days and for which he was recognizable, which is why his professor Milovanovic, before going to specialization in Paris, instructed him to keep his color advantage, to avoid bad manners and influences in Paris, and to see pictures of Manet and Renoir.
His works move in the style of academic realism. He is well versed in drawing (as we can see in his acts and portraits made in charcoal), and further, in the development of his painting he best expresses himself through color, more precisely, color expressionism.
His favorite painting is The Act, which he worked on in 1928 in the studio of Roberta Birbridge, whom he met at the Grand Schomierre Academy during his study days in Paris. That painting was included in an exhibition of Yugoslav artists in Paris at the Institute of Slavic Studies the same year. This painting, as he has stated, reminds him of his first success in Paris, a success that he introduced among the current artists at the time. Since then, he has made contacts with the best Yugoslav artists living in Paris, and for the first time an article about that act and the name of the young academic painter Lazar Lichenoski was published in Belgrade’s “Politika”.
In the construction of his own style, in the making of the acts themselves, the Parisian influences and the lessons of his mentor Marcel Lenoir are recognized. In their conversations he always encouraged him to follow the works of the old masters (Delacroix, Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cisle, Pizarro, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Degas, and especially Picasso), with a note to study the painters who with color rule sovereignly and who built their style, like Matisse, Viar and Bonar. Also, Marcel Lenoir was the one who noticed that in the acts Lichenoski aspires to Picasso, to the plastic form and to the volume. During this period, apart from painting and working in parallel, Lazar Lichenoski visited all exhibitions, galleries and museums in Paris, and during that time of his life he will say: “I will study fresco technique with Marcel Lenoir and painting with Auguste Renoir”.
What Lichenoski’s acts have in common is that they are all in Picasso manner and with a monumental figuration; It is indisputable his (short-lived) influence, in addition to the color that the author has ruled since the academic days and what will remain his trademark.
Lichenoski is undoubtedly an original, contemporary artist who deservedly holds the place at the top of the Macedonian fine arts, with artistic, pedagogical, human values that permanently engrave him in our art history. With this exhibition of his portraits and acts on the occasion of Women’s Day, we pay tribute to him and his work.
Happy March 8 to all women!