The permanent collection entitled Themes and Ideas – Serbian Painting from 1900 to 1941 aims to point to the development of the idea of modernity in Serbian art in the first four decades of the 20th century as well as to their connection with historical, political and social circumstances in which it emerged.
The characteristics of modernity in the Serbian society are inextricably linked to the process of the development of capitalism, the urbanizations of cities and various social phenomena shaped by the need to be fitted into the current and suitable European context. The temporal framework from 1900 to 1941 was symbolically marked by two `world` events. `The World Exhibition` in Paris, where Serbia presented itself with its national pavilion, intending to show its economic and cultural development as a proof of belonging to Europe and World War II, as the beginning of changes in the socio-political structure of Serbia, which consequently transformed art, too, its ideological essence and the meaning of the notions of modern, modernistic, and modernity in general.
In the period between 1900 and 1941 Serbian painting, with its stylistic aspirations and progressive transformations, consistently respected the formal and linguistic genesis of the main courses of modernism all over the continent, although often after a temporal gap as compared with the quick advancement of European Modernism. A simple typology of scenes and motifs can also lead to the impression that Serbian artists did not deviate significantly from the universal preoccupations of the epoch. However, the careful layering of thematic choices, the shaping of specific narrative and ideological differences by singling out characteristic forms, as well as the inextricable link between art and social circumstances led to noticing, and then interpreting the peculiarities of Serbian modernism in the first half of the 20th century.