The collection of works on paper consists of 5630 items. The material is significantly divided into two categories, one being the core, the so-called Slovene drawings and prints, and the other being the diverse materials of various European schools. Drawing is predominant in the first category, whereas the other one consists almost exclusively of prints. The core developed systematically, at least from the efforts made by Jakopič, still in the first decade of this century and onwards, for that was the main founding principle of the institution. All the rest happens to be the consequence of incidental occasions, thus having the nature of a collection of curiosities.
The National Gallery of Slovenia keeps an important collection (91 pieces) of drawings by Franc Kavčič (1755-1828). By making a donation of as many as 85 drawings to the National Gallery in 1935, Fran Windischer played a key role in the formation of this collection. To be found among them, are historical compositions, scenes from various genres, moralising motifs, as well as landscape studies of ambitious size. This part no doubt constitutes the most invaluable material of this collection. The core of the drawings by Matevž Langus (1792-1855) consists of eight signed sketchbooks, seven of which originate from the collection of Lord Karl Strahl from Loka, and the eighth one from the possession of Josip Dostal. The sketchbooks are an important testimony to the artist's schooling and growth. They cover a thematically wide range of artist's interests, but are slightly more modest in their variety of drawing genres.
The second most prominent part of our collection comprises the collection of over four hundred drawings by Janez Šubic (1850-1889) and the collection of nearly one hundred by Jurij Šubic (1855-1890). It is notable for its wide motif and typological scope, particularly in Jurij's opus, even though it is less numerous than Janez's. The major part of this collection was brought together under Zorman's guidance, but a substantial part came from the Society for the Preservation of Cultural Property of the Republic of Slovenia and from Trpin's bequest.
The drawings by Jožef Petkovšek (1861-1898), Anton Ažbe (1862-1905), not to mention the valuable study by Ivan Grohar (1867-1911), his famous painting Krompir (Potato Harvest) and Jakopič's Avtoportret (Self-portrait) in charcoal are ranked among the most precious works of the collection. The most extensive collection of drawings and a few prints is the one by Matej Sternen (1870-1949), selected by the staff of the National Gallery from the artist's bequest. His entire collection consists of slightly under 1,200 drawings and prints. Apart from a number of nudes, there are also monotypes and water-colours among them. The latter are a rich testimony to Sternen's restoration activity. The best represented artists among the Vesna Group of artists are Hinko Smrekar (1883-1943) and Gvidon Birolla (1881-1963). It was precisely this group that fostered prints and drawings like no other previous generation. With both artists, their collections comprise an extensive opus of works, done in different techniques, which the National Gallery managed to obtain after the Second World War.
The possibilities for a continued collection of works on paper of older Slovene art are exceptionally slim. On top of the already modest production, not many works on paper have at all been preserved, due to the fragility of the material and the undervaluation of this medium as of secondary importance and a necessary evil of the métier.
Andrej Smrekar, PhD, Museum Councillor