A Bird’s Eye View of Slovene Impressionism in Paris

Slovene Impressionist and Their Time exhibition poster,  Petit Palais Paris 2013

Slovene Impressionist and Their Time exhibition poster, Petit Palais Paris 2013

From 18 April through 13 July 2013 the international public has the chance to see 200 selected art pieces at the Petit Palais in Paris which present Slovene Impressionism and their Time 1890–1920. Five years ago a comprehensive project was presented at the National Gallery of Slovenia: four Slovene painters – Ivan Grohar, Rihard Jakopič, Matija Jama, and Matej Sternen – were exhibited along with their Slovene contemporaries in the fields of painting, sculpture, photography, film, architecture, book illustration and caricature, outlining the peculiarities of the modernist movement around 1900 in a country that at the time belonged to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy.

The nearly one-hundred-year-old vivid debate regarding modernism in Slovene fine arts has brought much mythologisation as well as many controversies about the sources and repercussions of its representatives. The interpretation of impressionism or “naturlyricism”, postimpressionism or symbolism goes hand in hand with the analysis of a  social and cultural-political context. Namely, that this group of artists which communicated across many art disciplines had a significant impact on the development of Slovene art as well as the establishment of the local art scene and its institutions (Jakopič set up the first exhibition space in 1909).

Jakopič Pavillion in Ljubljana and the group of artists, 1909. Fran Vesel Photo Collection. Source: dLib

Jakopič Pavilion in Ljubljana and the group of artists, 1909. Fran Vesel Photo Collection. Source: dLib

Let us mention just one example of such cross-impacts: Ivan Grohar’s Sower (1907) is  linked to Giovanni Segantini’s painting and based on Avgust Bertholdi’s photo of the sower. It acquired the status of a national icon quite soon and now remains imprinted in the collective visual memory also as the sower of stars on the 5-cent euro coin. In 1987 the painters’ collective Irwin of the Neue Slowenische Kunst used the sower as the dominant motif in the project Slovenske Atene (Slovenian Athens) that also resulted in the international exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana in 1991.

Ivan Grohar's Sower, 1907. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Slovenia.

Ivan Grohar’s Sower, 1907. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Slovenia.

The Slovene impressionist painters connected in Munich: the impact of the Munich academy, the Secession movement and a well-known private painting school by the Slovene Anton Ažbe were formative for their creation.  A shift to the French context brings new departure points – we read in the press release for the Paris exhibition:

“Their style, however, drew less on the original Impressionism born in France in 1860–1870 than on the form it was given by Monet in his Haystacks and Rouen Cathedral series, Van Gogh and his gestural Expressionism, and Giovanni Segantini, whose symbolism-inflected landscapes were a potent influence in this part of Europe. Their ambition was to transcend landscape painting’s anecdotal realism in favour of an emotional power some of them strove for in compositions verging on the abstract.”

In the next few months the Culture.si team will bring you selected chapters from the period. Check out also the Slovene Impressionism related content on our portal.

Helena Pivec

Comments are closed.