#1 Lazar Ličenoski1F never specialized in Paris with Marcel Lenoir. These are mere fabrications. And all these details about the would-be exhibition of Lenoir, at the opening of which even Cardinal Dubois appeared, whose ring Ličenoski kissed, who, moreover, sold tickets to the exhibition, have been scrambled up in someone’s sick memory. During Lenoir’s exhibition, which was held from March 1-31, 1928, in his atelier on the fifth floor of Rue de Notre Dame des Champs number 86, without a doubt Cardinal Dubois appeared and his ring was kissed, but not by Lazar Ličenoski, who, at that time, was not selling tickets but was in frustration in a completely different place, trying to draw sketches for the portrait of Mrs. Milutinovich. The fact that on November 20, 1927, Ličenoski knocked on Marcel Lenoir’s door, asking him to accept him into his studio, because he had a stipend for fresco painting, is utterly unfounded, because we know for certain that Ličenoski that day was in a much nicer place in much nicer company… And–this is extremely important–he could not have knocked on the door of the eccentric painter for the simple reason that the door was in Paris and Ličenoski never, ever, was in Paris. And if you have never been in Paris, you can never have knocked on a door there.
#2 Raka Drainac, a correspondent for Belgrade’s Pravda in Skopje, as well as a lover of the above-mentioned Mrs. Milutinovich, a close acquaintance of Ličenoski, and an extravagantly lazy poet, wanting to use his closeness to Ličenoski and the coquetry of his lover, and to make the best of the two relationships, commissioned her portrait, of course with her money, bargaining with Ličenoski about his percentage.
– What percentage, you bum, you should be ashamed of yourself! The painter said to him in private while Mrs. Milutinovich was waiting on the stairs.
– I need it, brother, I need three hundred dinars, fast! Drainac answered, and after he received what he needed, hurried toward the stairs, hesitating in his intention to kiss her, like a child faced with a pacifier left on the carpet.
This confidential and persuasive episode with Drainac is still not sufficient proof concerning the absence of Ličenoski from Paris, but if we take into consideration the date written in Ličenoski’s hand on that very portrait – 15 March 1928 – as well as the categorical statement of Mrs. Milutinovich’s daughter, Isabela the pianist, that her mother never was further away than Vienna, where Isabela studied, then it becomes clear that Lazar Ličenoski, during the time of Marcel Lenoir’s exhibition was not in Paris, but most probably in Skopje. Furthermore, at that time Isabela had not yet studied in Vienna and her mother could not have been there or anywhere else other than Skopje. An even stronger argument that all this happened in Skopje, and not in some other place, is the article of Drainac about Benvenuto Cellini published in three installments in Belgrade’s Pravda in March 1928, where, by the way, he mentions Lazar Ličenoski, saying, “we sat together in a café and he opened my eyes about Cellini.”
#4 All in all, it is difficult to comprehend whoever’s sick memory, as well as the reason it is said that Ličenoski specialized with Marcel Lenoir. The truth is completely different: Marcel Lenoir came to Skopje with the desire of working with Ličenoski, and this coming is a result of the fact that Lenoir had seen a painting by Ličenoski in an exhibition of young Yugoslav painters who lived in Paris, organized in the Yugoslav colony on the occasion of St. Sava’s feast day. How Ličenoski’s painting got in the exhibition is also unknown, because at that time he was indeed “a young Yugoslav,” but not “a painter who lived in Paris.” Marcel Lenoir appeared at the exhibition opened by the Yugoslav emissary in Paris, Miroslav Spalajkovich, and, with the exhibition catalogue (prepared by Krsto Hegedushich) in his hands, inspected the paintings of Lubarda, Luchev, Huter, and Junek with great interest and maximum concentration. He most liked the painting by Leo Junek, and the painting by Lazar Ličenoski (a nude!?) appealed to him in a special way. He asked around about Ličenoski and, eventually, decided to seek him in Macedonia. (“Oh, mon Dieu, dans quel coin du monde se trouve ce pays-lа?” he wondered.) It seems rather unusual that a nude could make so great an impression on a fresco painter, but if one considers that the nude in question is the work of another fresco painter, perhaps these things follow their own logic.
And exactly on November 20, but not 1927, but somewhat later, Marcel Lenoir came to Skopje with a suitcase, a mild pain in his lungs, and a cherished memory of a nude from the exhibition in the Yugoslav colony. He knocked at the door of Ličenoski’s atelier. The reference to November 20 is a sign of untruth in the received version, but such is usually the case when a lie leans toward truth by using all kinds of precise details. So, this November 20 has no connection to that November 20 when Ličenoski supposedly knocked on the door of Lenoir, but actually derives from it. The Western European tendency for painters from unknown countries to specialize in known countries came to the historian (whether a regular one or a historian of art, I do not know), like an ace in the hole in the process of reversing the truth. Thus, the date when Lenoir came to specialize with Ličenoski remained the same, but the direction changed.
Ličenoski worked in a large unheated studio, but he had one small room, overheated, where he received guests, most often commissioners of portraits. He wore a white smock, so spattered with paint that he could be taken for a mobile modernist painting. When Marcel Lenoir knocked on the door of Ličenoski’s studio, Lazar opened it in person, with simplicity and spontaneity on his face, but he immediately focused his gaze on the bulging eyes of his unexpected guest, who looked with excitement toward some indefinite place behind his back. Almost breathless, Lenoir said,
– Je ce jure sur la bague du cardinal Dubois, ce n’est pas un atelier, c’est une montagne, une veritable montagne d’une beautè jamais vue… It is not clear whether Ličenoski could understand these words in French (he had never been in Paris!), but at the same moment he did two things: he reached for the ring on his right hand and turned to see the mountain behind him. He saw neither a mountain with unseen beauty, nor a cardinal. Before him stood the easels with unfinished paintings, scattered cartons with sketches, a woven rug over his chair, not recently white-washed walls, and paint, paint, paint, thrown everywhere and anyhow.
– Yes, Mr. Lenoir? Ličenoski asked, puzzled, but also puzzling us, who know that Ličenoski could not recognize Lenoir, who, not removing his gaze from behind the shoulders of our famous painter, constantly repeated,
– C’est une montagne, une veritable montagne d’une beautè jamais vue…
#5 Then Ličenoski, weak with emotion, turned once again to see what Lenoir saw and remained frozen on the spot: before him, as if on his palm, stretched a Galičnik winter landscape. No easels, no rugs, no walls… Just endless beauty unfolding like reality. The landscape became so Galičnik-like and so real that several large snowflakes adorned the heads of the two great painters. They even felt cold. They both started across the snow, treading a path through the whiteness.
Here is where truth ends and the story of the sick memory begins. Several logical conundrums darken history, both regular and that of the arts, and they are: why did Ličenoski reach for the ring on his hand as soon as Cardinal Dubois’ ring was mentioned (could it be a sign that he did indeed kiss that ring somewhere sometime?), and how could Galičnik enter his atelier, for no matter how large it was, it is still hard to believe that it could hold all of Galičnik. Actually, even if the atelier were large enough to hold all of Galičnik, still, when Ličenoski opened the door for Lenoir, it can easily be surmised that he exited a room and not a landscape. #3 Actually, what kind of connection is there between Lazar Ličenoski’s never having been in Paris with his knowledge of French? And in the end, when it comes to Galičnik, to landscapes, to arts, even to Cardinal Dubois, to hell with all of them!
Lazar Ličenoski, many years after this, wrote, “Although I was sure that the sun for me always rose from Galičnik, still I could not reconcile this with the fact that Galičnik was in the west, and not in the east.” History (regular, or that of the arts) till now has not commented on this.
Translated by: Zoran Ančevski and Richard Gaughran, from the Change of the System: Stories of Contemporary Macedonia, Skopje, 2000, MAGOR.
1. Lazar Ličenoski, Macedonian painter (1901-1964). His exhibition is placed in Blesok Gallery in Blesok no.14. click here. [editor’s note].