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MIHAILO S. PETROV
country
Ex Yugoslavia
period
1915-1946

Mihailo S. Petrov (1902 – 1983, Belgrade), was a graphic artist, painter, illustrator, poet and critic, professor, book and poster designer and typographer. He studied painting in art school in Belgrade during 1919 – 1921 with prof. Lj Ivanovic and M. Milovanovic, and continued in Vienna (1922), in Cracow (1923), and in Paris (1924 -1925). Thanks to  mediation by Stanislav Vinaver who was in Belgrade collecting contributions for "Zenit", Petrov became one of Zenir's most active collaborators during its first phase (1921), as well as a collaborator with other avant-garde magazines like Dada Tank and Ut.

Petrov was a member of Group Oblik / Form from 1926 to 1929. He was the founder of the Graphic Department at the Academy of Fine Arts and the Academy of Applied Arts in Belgrade. He was also one of the organizers of the 6th Yugoslav Exhibition in Novi Sad 1927, and the first graphic exhibitions in Belgrade in 1934. In particular for "Zenit", Petrov worked in linocut, creating works which represented the culmination of his artistic oeuvre and which included him in current art trends. From those times Zenit and Petrov created a remarkable moment in the history of Serbian art, because the work authentically contibuted to the international avant-garde movements of the time.

Linocut Self-portrait and Present-Day Sound are printed with his song Fragment of Our Sins with the notation : "Very young and very affirming. Our new value. One should only feel it", ("Zenit", no. 6, 1921.), followed by Linoleum (No. 8), Linoleum (No. 9), Rhythm (No. 10) Linocut (No. 12), and Zenit (No. 13). He also published a poem: Fragment of Our Sins (Zenit, no. 6) and Rhythm From the Desert. Song Similar to a Letter. (Zenit, no. 11). The print  Present-Day Sound was republished in Ivan Goll's book Paris Brennt (the second book of the Zenit Editions, 1921). For these works Petrov is likely to have been inspired by Kandinsky, whose texts he translated into the Serbian language, and also by other contemporary artists whose work was familiar to him. He executed a reduced, geometrical drawn portrait of Ljubomir Micic which was printed on the cover of the catalogue for the International Exhibition of New Art  (Zenit, no. 25, 1924, presently lost).

During the Zenit Exhibition Petrov participated with a single work (according to the catalog), but critics mentioned more paintings (in oil with "vivid colors", which were not precisely marked). Micic's collection included three of Petrov's works: Composition (1922), made under the influence of Kandinsky and Rodchenko, a Portrait of Branko Ve Poljanski (1924), mildly geometric figure, dandy suit styling with urban vista in the background, and a third work, a poster for the International Exhibition "Zenit" (1924), with exaggerated stylization of the urban environment, clear colors and collage parts taken from the catalog of the mentioned exhibition. The last work is one of the earliest collages from the region. During his zenitis period Petrov produced an extraordinary work, Composition 77 (Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade) - dedicated to Branko Poljanski in anagram, and thematically related to his book 77 Suicides (1924).

That same year, Micic presented Petrov with a lithograph Study of the Figure by Alexander Arhipenko (with the Zenit stamp on the back). The lithograph probablydates to the time when he published a monograph album Arhipenko - New Sculptures. Though fragmented, the preserved correspondence between Petrov and Micic somewhat reveal the reasons for their disagreement and split - they were primarily of a financial nature. After the end of his collaboration with Zenit, Petrov continued his work:  producing prints, paintings with conventional and intimate themes and expressive color, during the entire decade. In the postwar period, he returned to making abstract prints, adding enformel and lyrical structures.

I. Subotic