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Born in Arad, then part of the Habsburg Empire, on 10 December 1898, to a Serbian family. He studied at the Budapest Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest, and afterwards, at the Royal Academy of Applied Arts in Zagreb. Tabaković’s education under the mentorship of Ljubo Babić in Zagreb and with Hans Hofmann in Munich directed his painting towards the foundations of modernist painting vocabulary. In the autumn of 1922, Tabaković left for Munich, only temporarily interrupting his studies in Zagreb. He attended the Academy of Fine Arts for two semesters, in the class of Professor Becher Gundal, as well as Hans Hofmann's private school. In 1926, after the proclamation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, he was engaged as a part-time draftsman at the Institute of Anatomy, spending time with Postružnik and founding the Zagreb group “Earth” (1929) led to an emphasis on satirical criticism of human weaknesses and flaws, which he elevated to the level of a parable, personification or allegory with expressive language, and which culminated in the painting Genius (1929), the zenith of his Zagreb period (1925–1930), which was a result of his activities in the group “Earth” (until 1932). He moved to Novi Sad in 1930, and started his pedagogical work in 1938 at the School of Applied Arts in Belgrade.
His Novi Sad period (1930–1938) was marked by a gradual abandonment of that which is morphological and stylistic, and partially of the ideological procedure of “Earth,” which can be seen in his paintings with a social theme. It was characterized by a multitude of extraordinary depictions of private and public spaces, still-lifes and landscapes with brilliant drawings possessing elements of an intimist, melancholically Proustian sensitivity and with a splendidly shaded and refined use of colour.
His Belgrade period (1938–1977) encompassed several experimental-creative phases. The first one (1938–1955) continued an already established melancholic-poetic procedure often permeated by elements of grotesque, irony and sarcasm. After the foundation of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's Academy of Applied Arts (in 1948), he continued his work at the Ceramics Department. This resulted with politically motivated passionate criticism of his art after World War II. A true turning point in Tabaković’s opus came with the entities of “The origin and forms of visual expression” and “Sources of visual research – Analysis and photographic records,” with theses that had the character of manifestos (1955). The second Belgrade period (1955–1977) was characterized by emphatic independent research into the fundamental principles of the modernist painting, chiefly its two-dimensional plane, as well as the non-mimetic approach through the use of pure, non-descriptive visual elements. His other research was aimed at the object, sculpture, collage and trick photography with the application of the visual logic of the early post-modern, aimed at the creation of super oeuvre created by the proliferation of landscapes, fragments, paintings, clippings, signs, emblems and symbols. It was this eccentric, creative and experimental period of the second half of the twentieth century that made Tabaković one of the most significant, exceptionally individual, indigenous innovators in Serbian modern art.
He became a member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1965.
Tabaković won a Grand Prix for ceramics on the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne in Paris (1937).
Tabaković died at Belgrade on 27 June 1977.
- Genius (1924)
- Shadows (1954)
- Message (1968)