Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Painter Milene Pavlović Barili (1909–1945)

Mirjana Stojkovic-Ivkovic
Belgrade, Serbia

Composition (1938)

Milena Pavlović Barili was one of the most avant-garde and interesting personalities of the world art scene in the first half of the twentieth century. Suffering was inextricably linked to her life. Through suffering, pain, and dreams colored with melancholy, she experienced her own existence and created in solitude. Loneliness, isolation, and melancholy influenced her artistic creation. She painted many self-portraits, in which she sought to tell us that illness and death are always present, and that we must endure suffering. Her female characters are sad, moody, without a smile, melancholic.

In the painting Composition, we notice a symbolic representation where the artist appears to us as a double character, as a religious and as a naked woman, becoming in her ambiguity humble and demonically seductive at the same time.

Barili was born in Serbia in 1909 and grew up partly in Italy and partly in Serbia. She completed elementary school in Germany and Belgrade and later studied painting in Munich and Rome. She was an intelligent, educated woman who spoke six languages and worked as an illustrator for prestigious fashion magazines Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Charm, and others. She made sketches of theater costumes as well as of stage decors for operas and theaters.

Barili was in fragile health from birth and had a heart defect. At the age of twenty-two, she had typhoid fever, developed an abscess of her spinal column, and underwent surgery. She died in New York in 1945 at the age of 36, most likely from a heart attack.

Self portrait (1933)
Self portrait (1938)
Cover of Vogue

MIRJANA STOJKOVIC-IVKOVIC was born in Vranje, Serbia and received her medical degree in Niš. She specialized in psychiatry and works at the Institute for Healthcare of Railway Workers of Serbia, Belgrade.

Winter 2023



One response

  1. I thought she dies as a result of a horse riding accident in New York.

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