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National Gallery pays tribute to painter Ivana Kobilca

Ljubljana, 20 June - The National Gallery, which celebrates its centenary this year, will pay tribute to the author of two of its most popular paintings, Poletje (Summer) and Kofetarica (Coffeemadam). Running until February 2019, the exhibition on Ivana Kobilca (1861-1926) is the first solo display of this acclaimed painter at the museum since 1979.

New York
A portrait of painter Ivana Kobilca by Tomaž Perko.
Photo: Robi Poredoš/STA

Ljubljana
Summer by Ivana Kobilca (1861-1926).
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Ljubljana
Coffeemadame by Ivana Kobilca (1861-1926).
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Ljubljana
Coffeemadame by Ivana Kobilca (1861-1926).
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Ljubljana
A retrospective exhibition of works by Ivana Kobilca (1861-1926).
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Ljubljana
A retrospective exhibition of works by Ivana Kobilca (1861-1926).
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Ljubljana
A retrospective exhibition of works by Ivana Kobilca (1861-1926).
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Ljubljana
A retrospective exhibition of works by Ivana Kobilca (1861-1926).
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Ljubljana
A retrospective exhibition of works by Ivana Kobilca (1861-1926).
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Ljubljana
Autoportrait by Ivana Kobilca.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Ljubljana
A retrospective exhibition of works by Ivana Kobilca (1861-1926).
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Ljubljana
Autoportrait by Ivana Kobilca.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Podbrezje pri Naklem

Live composition of Ivana Kobilca's painting Summer.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

The first retrospective of Kobilca's work in four decades will showcase some 140 of her paintings from different periods, a large part of her oeuvre which is said to exceed 350 pieces.

The paintings will be on display alongside paintings by her contemporaries, other Realists such as Jurij Šubic (1855-1890), Anton Ažbe (1862-1905), Jožef Petkovšek (1861-1898) and Ferdo Vesel (1861-1946).

Kobilca's artistic work is divided into twelve sections, presenting the evolution of her motifs from her Munich portrait studies and Orientalism, children's portraits, genre images and interior to nude and bourgeois portraiture.

Apart from presenting Kobilca's leaning towards plein-air painting, which was modern at the time, the exhibition will also shed a light on the historical context of her allegorical painting Slovenija Se Klanja Ljubljani (Slovenia Is Bowing Down to Ljubljana).

Only a reproduction of this painting will be on display though because the original is too fragile, according to the museum's director Barbara Jaki.

The exhibition will also present the European capitals where Kobilca created her works - Ljubljana in the painter's early and late periods, Paris, Sarajevo and Berlin.

For the purpose of the exhibition, Kobilca's famous Coffeemadam was given a facelift. According to paintings conservator Simona Škorja, the back of the painting was thoroughly restored in 1979, so now the face of the painting was cleaned to highlight the fine details and transitions, and the distinction between the background and the figure.

Next to Coffeemadam and Summer, paintings from private collections that are virtually unknown to the public will be on display as well.

According to Jaki, quite a few new works have been found during the preparations for the exhibition, most notably three of her paintings that were in private collections in Germany. But these are mostly small-formate paintings.

Kobilca painted large-formate pieces mainly for exhibitions and for self-promotion, while she lived off portraits and still lifes.

Since Kobilca made a living off private orders, her works can be found in several countries. A catalogue raisonne of her work will be released in September.

A display of the artist's personal items, newly discovered letters to her family, which are privately owned, and photographies unveil some intimate details from her life.

Kobilca, who was born to a middle-class Ljubljana family in 1861, went to Munich in 1881, the then centre of the German and world art, to learn to paint.

She learned about the art canon of the last quarter of the 19th century in Paris, where she moved in 1891. She was presented at the Salon the same year and became an associated member of the Salon du Champ-de-Mars, which was founded only a year earlier.

More than Cezanne, Monet and Gauguin, she cherished Naturalists and Symbolists like Pierre Puvis de Chavaness.

In 1893, Kobilca returned to Ljubljana, only to move to Sarajevo in 1897, where her work thrived. After eight years, she moved back to Ljubljana for a year before leaving for Berlin following her mother's death.

The start of the First World War brought her back home in the autumn of 1914. She settled in her home town and painted mostly floral still lifes until her death in 1926.

Having experienced everything from a Nietzschean bohemian lifestyle, vegetarianism, to fencing, Kobilca allegedly said a few years before her death that she had lived a very full life and had no regrets.

mab/tv/ep
© STA, 2018