Milan Mrkusich was one of the country's leading modernist painters. Born in Dargaville in 1925, he was educated in Auckland and later took up an apprenticeship in Writing and Pictorial Arts with Neuline Studios in Auckland, also attending night courses at Seddon Technical and taking life-drawing classes. Over this period, Mrkusich spent two years painting full time, laying the groundwork of his geometric expressionist painting style.
Mrkusich became a partner in the architectural design firm Brenner Associates in 1949. Using geometric forms and influenced by developments in international abstract art, he painted Emblems in 1963 and, two years later, the renowned Elements and Four Elements. In 1968 he embarked on a new style. Initially explored in the Monochromes, the Meta Greys and the Dark Paintings, this style saw the elimination of forms and elements, resulting in what Susan Sontag has referred to as "silent art". He was recognised with his first retrospective exhibition at the Auckland City Art Gallery in 1972. Following this, he expanded into Zone and Area works in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. This style continued in 1982 and 1983 with his interpretation of constructivism, the Segmented Arcs. In 1982 Mrkusich participated in the 48th Carnegie International in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, USA. There was a second retrospective show at Auckland Art Gallery in 1985, and after this a new direction surfaced resulting in the Journey paintings.
Mrkusich's work is probably best known by Wellingtonians and overseas visitors, being most publically displayed in the capital through the large plates of coloured enamel windows on the street-facing frontage of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Since receiving his Icon Award in 2003, Mrkusich has continued to exhibit and produce work to great acclaim. He was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) in 1997 for his services to painting.