Ilija Bašičević Bosilj, naive painter from Šid


Ilija Bašičević Bosilј is one of the most famous naive painters in Serbia, and in the world. He was born on 18 July 1895 in Šid, as the ninth child in the family. He attended elementary school of four grades in Šid. He engaged in farming and livestock breedeing almost his entire life. During World War II, together with his two sons he spent time in Vienna, and in this period he sufered from tuberculosis. After the war, the family was left without any land. The loss of land and fragile health that prevented him from doing hard physical work, placed Ilija in a situation where he had some spare time, and as a hardworking man, he had to find a way to make it meaningful. Ilija's first painting – family saints Kuzman and Damjan, was made in 1957. In the beginning, he used the techniques of drawing and gouache, but in time he started working on oil paintings on various materials (food, canvas, hardboard, cardboard, glass, securit).

The works of Ilija Bašičević Bosilј can be classified into several major theme areas: most numerous are the paintings with motives from the Bible (particularly the Old Testament and Revelation to John), followed by the sequence inspired by Serbian popular epic songs, miths and legends. The sequence Ilyad, named after the artist and not Homer's work, represents his standoff against human stupidity, duplicity and hypocrisy. There are also many works representing animals, most numerous being the ones depicting birds, particularly peacocks, as well as fantastic creatures with human bodies and animal heads or vice-versa. Finally, there are also pieces dedicated to flying, astrological creatures.


A strong characteristic of Bosilj's works is that they are not descriptive, but most commonly, a quite layered allegory. The works lack perspective, the background is mostly monochromatic, rarely with slightly wavy lines (the artists called these "paje"). The most striking feature in his works are the two-headed creatures, be it human or animals. The artists explained this by saying that, during his life, he stood convinced that all God's creatures represent two-faced handkerchiefs, showing one face to the world, while hiding the other, true face, only visible to selected few. Observing Ilija's paintings, the spectator is not sure whether to look at the painted angel or modern astronaut, emperor Lazar or the king of Ilija's Iliad, the domestic, wild or apocalyptic animals. In interpreting his paintings, he are often helped by the titles he gave his works.

Ilija Bašičević Bosilј died on 14 May 1972 in Šidu. At the third Triennale of naive art in Bratislava in 1972, he was posthumously awarded a recognition by an international jury for the achievements in naive art. The magazine Raw Vision (winner of UNESCO award for the best art magazine in the world) included Ilija Bašičević Bosilј among the 50 leading artists of the so-called outsider art in the world, 35 years after his death.

The Museum of Naive Art "Ilijanum" was established in 1971, when Ilija Bašičević Bosilj gave around 300 works as a legacy to his hometown of Šid. The museum's art fund includes 338 works (336 paintings and 2 wooden sculptures). The majority of art fund involves paintings by the patron, Ilija Bosilј, himself – 287 paintings, while 51 works were made by other naive artists from the country and abroad - the artist exchanged works with them during lifetime, and in some cases they were gifts to the museum (I.Generalić, J.Generalić, E.Feješ, M.Skurjeni, M. Rašić, F. Filipović). In addition to the permanent exhibition, the museum also organizes guest exhibitions by other naive artists, while the paintings from the museum are also exhibited in other similar institutions in the country and abroad. 

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Ilija Bašičević Bosilj_Išetala carica Milica.jpg

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