Ilija Basicevic - Bosilj

(Šid 1895th to 1972nd)

Ilija Basicevic Bosilj was born in 1895. in Shid. He was a landowner, making his living managing his land and vineyards until he was 62. After Ustashe (Croatian Nazi regime) sentenced him to death in 1942, he left his country with two sons and went to Vienna. Coming back to Shid, Ilija found himself in conflict with the new, communist government for which, Ilija as a rich peasant presented a continuous danger. Because of that, he was heavily persecuted and several times imprisoned. Most of his free time Ilija spent socializing with students, colleagues of his sons, art historian Dimitrije and a doctor, Vojin, as well as reading numerous books from the big house library.

Ilija made his first gouaches and drawings in 1957, and from 1958. he started painting with oil paints. During his lifetime his work was exhibited throughout Western Europe (Amsterdam, Munich, Milan, Dortmund, Basel, Zurich, Rome, Genova), Japan (Tokio, Osaka) and in South America (Mexico City). In 2006. Ilija had a one-man show in New York in Galerie St. Etienne and since than, in 2007 and 2008, Ilija was exhibited several times among the big names of modern art: Picasso, Chagall, Klee, Kandinsky and Schiele. In January 2007, London based magazine Raw Art Magazine listed him as one of the 50 classics of art brut. In 2008. the reproduction of Ilija’s bird was published in The New York Times. Ilija’s paintings entered famous private and museum collections (Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Collection de l´Art Brut in Lausanne, Museum Anatole Jakovsky in Nice, Karlo Ponti collection, Rockefeller collection, Max Bill collection, Museum of Contemporary Art in Vojvodina etc.). Before he died, Ilija gave a big part of his collection to his hometown Shid forming a Museum Ilijanum.

Ilija’s art presents an enigma of modern art because of “its authenticity and originality representing modernistic controversy of art and life. This art belongs to unusual, culturally and artistically intriguing circle from Shid, which includes Sava Sumanovic (born 1896 – died 1942), Ilija’s son Dimitrije Basicevic – Mangelos and Bosilj, himself.” Misko Suvakovic

Ilija has been a subject of major affair in former Yugoslavia, “Bosilj Affair”, in which Ilija’s authorship of his paintings has been contested. Directly or indirectly, Ilija has been accused that he is not the author of the paintings that have been exhibited under his name, that is that the paintings are made by his son, Dimitrije Basicevic Mangelos. Ilija has been forced to demonstrate his painting technique in public, in front of media, in Zagreb in 1965, which is a unique case of proving the painter’s authority in the history of art.

“The thing that matters is the fact that Bosilj is a very original painter and as such, highly recognizable in the world art as a whole. On the other hand, his appearance is so unique because of one characteristic of his: that is, because of the fact that his appearance is a proof that nothing in the art world is predetermined and nothing is impossible, so it wasn’t predetermined and was quite possible that somebody, who was not trained to be an artist and who wasn’t an artist until the threshold of his old age, becomes an artist and remains remembered by his place in the history of art more than by anything else he accomplished in his life. That is, in fact, a complete confirmation of a thesis made and developed by Bosilj’s son, well known art historian Dimitrije Basicevic (today a well known artist Mangelos). According to this thesis art has changed its styles of manifesting but not its essential nature, nature of an unsolvable human power of creation of new and wonderful worlds, which can exist only in art, and nowhere else. A condition necessary for art to happen is richness of artist’s spirit and richness of imagination as well as capability of an artist to make those resources of his visible and available to others, and the oeuvre of Ilija Bosilja confirms that in this case this necessary condition has been fulfilled and executed in an extremely unique way.” Jesa Denegri

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