Milan Kašanin, art historian, writer, art critic, essayist and muesologist was born on 21 February 1895 in Beli Manastir, in a poor family, to father Nikola Popović and mother Anka Kašanin. He acquired his primary education at the Serbian national primary school and between1906 and 1914 he attended Serbian Great Orthodox Secondary School in Novi Sad. His rebellious character and participation in demonstrations following the murder of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, prevented him from enrolling in the faculty of philosophy at Zagreb University, so he went on to study Romance and Slavic philology in Budapest. Immediately after completing his first academic term he was drafted, but spent most of his time in various hospitals avoiding participation in the war by presenting false medical diagnoses. He continued his philosophy studies in Zagreb and after the end of the war departed for Novi Sad where he joined the Press Bureau of the National Administration for Bačka, Baranja and Banat. It was not until 1919 that he left for Paris to study art history, comparative literature, and Russian language and literature. He graduated in aesthetics and art history. Kašanin finally returned to Belgrade where he received his Ph.D. in 1926 by presenting his thesis entitled White Church of Karan, its History, Architecture and Frescoes. The following year, along with Veljko Petrović, he published his extensive work titled Serb Art in Vojvodina for which he received an award from Matica Srpska. During that same year he was employed by the Museum of Contemporary Art, first as a curator and then the principal. In 1936 Prince Paul Karađorđević of Yugoslavia appointed Kašanin director in his museum, forerunner of the current National Museum in Belgrade. Kašanin organised premium exhibitions, edited progressive magazines in which he published remarkable contributions and art criticism, and also taught art history at the Art School in Belgrade. After the war he was discredited and was retired prematurely in 1945. In 1953 he was appointed principal of the Gallery of Frescoes. While holding this position, he arranged a number of exhibitions of Serbian medieval painting throughout European capitals and in Latin America. He gave lectures at the world’s universities and popularised Serb national heritage both in writing and with lectures.
Kašanin’s involvement in literature began in grammar school when he first published his writings in magazines such as Obzor (Horizon), Književni jug (Literary South) and especially Savremenik (Contemporary). He wrote stories about life in Vojvodina, fictionalized life in Belgrade, published numerous essays about visual artists, prepared an excellent review of Serb medieval literature, and distinguished himself as a writer of essays, which culminated in his collection of texts about Serb poets and narrators Sudbine i ljudi (Destinies and People), published in Belgrade in 1968. Kašanin died in Belgrade on 21 November 1981.