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Sava Šumanović was born in Vinkovci, Austria-Hungary (now in Croatia) in 1896 where his father was working as an engineer. At four years old his family moved to Šid (now in Serbia). He graduated High School in Zemun, across the Danube from Belgrade, where he was first introduced to the art of painting. He later enrolled in the College of Crafts and Arts in Zagreb then lived in Paris for several years, since 1920. His professor in Paris was André Lhote, while Šumanović befriended Amedeo Modigliani, Max Jacob and various Paris-based Serbian artists and writers such as Rastko Petrović.
Living for a couple of years in Croatia, Šumanović returned to Paris in late 1925, and stayed again for several years, accepting certain influences of the Matisse painting style. Šumanović returned to Šid in 1928 and after another year spent in Paris, eventually settled there in 1930. His major exhibition was at the Belgrade New University in 1939, where he exposed roughly 410 paintings mostly from the Šid period. It was his first major success after many years. He lived queitly in Šid until the outbreak of World War II in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in April 1941, when the Nazi-sponsored Independent State of Croatia, led by the Croatian fascist Ustaše, occupied Syrmia and began a genocide campaign against Serbs and Jews.
Ustaše police arrested Šumanović together with 150 Serbian citizens and took them to a concentration camp in Sremska Mitrovica. Šumanović was executed there on 30 August 1942, together with many other Serbs and buried in a common grave in a Serbian Orthodox graveyard.
His early artistic style was characterized by various influences, first of all Cubism, but Fauvism and Expressionism as well. In his later works, Sava Šumanović managed to develop his own, rather original artistic expression, which he simply called "the way I know and can." Due to innovations and unique style, Šumanović can be described as one of the most prominent Serbian painters of the twentieth century as well as a major painter from the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
A gallery devoted to Šumanović's work was established in 1952 based on a gift from Persida Šumanović, the painter's mother. The legacy of 417 works of art, out of which 356 are oil paintings is located in the Šumanović family home (also used for the Country court). In 1989 the building was renovated and the original exhibition area was expanded from 400 to 700 m2 (4,300 to 7,500 sq ft). This enabled a large number of paintings to be exhibited simultaneously. The main activity of the gallery is the preservation and presentation of paintings obtained as gifts. In addition to this, a rich collection of documentary materials has been amassed, as well as an extraordinarily rich Hermoteca (newspaper and periodical library), containing the catalogues from all the exhibitions held until now.
Also part of the gallery is the Memorial House of Sava Šumanović, as well as the archaeological collection “Gradina on the Bosut”, and an antique sarcophagus. The artistic circle “Sava Šumanović,” consisting of local amateur painters, also operates within the gallery. Ten years after the gallery had been established, the memorial in honour of Sava Šumanović was initiated, an event which takes place every three years.
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