Works of art and museum pieces form the stock of galleries and museums. It is the duty of the employees of these institutions to preserve, safeguard and study them. They are exhibited in permanent collections and temporary exhibitions, to give both pleasure and instruction. Catalogues of collections — how many are there in Slovenia? – are a matter of course in national institutions all over the world. They are reprinted and supplemented at regular intervals. Up to the present we had not had publications of this kind.
Old and more recent catalogues of collections – in particular those from before World War I – provided only a text, lists of works and perhaps explanations, data of various kinds and bibliography. Some of them are enlivened by reproductions, in the majority of cases of the most interesting items. There are catalogues in two or more volumes, where the first volume contains the text, and the second reproductions. Then there are illustrated catalogues which present works of art in large format, but sometimes also in very small, almost postage-stamp size reproductions. Such catalogues do not give very much data. Usually we get the name of the artist and the dates of his birth and death. If the editors are generous, they also mention where he was born and where he died, the title of the work, and if we are in luck, also when it was produced, the technique, the size and the inventory number. In recent time many people jump with joy when they see colour reproductions and they tend to be a selling point for catalogues, despite the fact that the colours are often distorted.
The great international collections treat themselves to specialised catalogues: according to the period (a catalogue of mediaeval art for example), the artists’ nationality and school (Dutch and Flemish painters), donors (The Lehmann Collection in the Metropolitan Museum) and similar categories.
Galleries which produce catalogues of collections and guides to collections in languages other than their own provide a valuable service. Guides tell the visitor or reader a little about the most important wings, departments, rooms, individual works of art and pieces in the gallery or museum. The introduction usually mentions when the gallery or museum and the collections were established, also included are enthusiastic words about mostly still living benefactors, to whom the institutions are in any way indebted, above all of course for financial support in the production of the catalogue and the mounting of the collections.
At the highest level of catalogues of collections are comprehensive catalogues, which cover all the material that is all the works of art on exhibition or in the depots (e.g. the catalogue of paintings in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam).
The second director of the National Gallery, Dr. Karel Dobida (Kranj 1896-Graz 1964) was instrumental in the publication of a modest book on the collection Vodnik po umetnostnih zbirkah Narodne galerije v Ljubljani: I: Umetnost srednjega veka na Slovenskem [Guide to the Art Collections of the National Gallery in Ljubljana: I: The Art of the Middle Ages in Slovenia] which appeared in 1956. This guide, which was actually a catalogue of the collection, was written by Dr. Emilijan Cevc in a rather more exhaustive form than was customary for normal guides. It provides quite extensive data on well-known and anonymous artists, a detailed classification of the art works, and a list of bibliography, the introduction presents a condensed survey of mediaeval painting and sculpture in Slovenia.
A year later, in 1957, Dr. France Stele wrote an introductory historical survey for the Vodnik po umetnostnih zbirkah Narodne galerije v Ljubljani: II: Umetnost baroka na Slovenskem [Guide to the Art Collections of the National Gallery in Ljubljana: II: The Art of the Baroque in Slovenia]. Melita Stele provided the catalogue part, which gave biographies of the artists and listed the literature about them. This time only the titles of the works, their size, provenance and inventory numbers were given, while at the end was a short overview of the literature on Baroque art in Slovenia. There were no descriptions of the works. The guide covered sculpture, paintings, drawings and prints from the permanent collection of the National Gallery and works which, due to lack of space, had been put into storage – where some of them have remained to this day - although they form the basis of the earlier art in Slovenia. Both catalogues were also published in French. It was characteristic of the times that these publications had only very few, but good, black and white reproductions. The Baroque guide was also a catalogue rather than a guide.
In 1958 Karel Dobida, set out to produce a text for a real Guide to the National Gallery. This included the history of the gallery and a short survey of the works of art in the whole of the permanent collection from the Middle Ages to artists born before the 1900. This guide also appeared in French and English.
In 1961 the Mladinska knjiga publishing house brought out Dobida’s Sprehod po Narodni galeriji [A Walk through the National Gallery] in its series »Knjižnica: Priroda in ljudje« [Library: Nature and People]. This series was primarily addressed to young readers, but it was also useful to lovers of art and nature and to teachers – in short, readers of all ages, since the texts were of course written by authorities on the subjects.
Dobida hoped that it would be possible to continue the series of guides (catalogues) for the gallery: the third volume was to have presented the art of the 19th century and the fourth the 20th century. After his death in 1964 such guide-catalogues were always on the programme, and they still are today, but a multitude of temporary exhibitions and various events – including some not concerning the gallery or art at all – prevented systematic research into at least the material permanently on exhibition. Our only consolation was that the knowledge acquired in the course of the work on some of the exhibitions and the results published in those catalogues would be useful for the production of the long-awaited »real« catalogues of the collections of the National Gallery.
What should these »real« catalogues of the collections be like? They should include all material permanently on exhibition, which should be in chronological order, with a selection of the very best works, which are a feast for the eyes and not only for the intellect. There should be reproductions of all the art works. Readers should enjoy reading them, gain new knowledge, marvel, and remember things they once knew or saw. Above all, catalogues should not put people to sleep.
The guiding principle for the production of this catalogue of European paintings in the permanent collection of the National Gallery is the same as it was for the catalogue of European Painters in Slovenian Collections, Ljubljana 1993. The aim is to give visitors to the gallery - whether they be learned, thirsty for knowledge or simply accidentally there - short, concise and accurate information about the painter and his life and work. Beside the biographies is a column in small print giving the latest literature on the artists. Then come the titles of the paintings, and since the motifs of some of these are taken from ancient or biblical stories, literary sources are given in small print below. If the iconographical motif was mentioned by Andor Pigler in the only handbook on baroque themes, Barockthemen I and II, Budapest 1956, this author is also indicated. The same holds for the only comprehensive Slovenian book on the subject of the Virgin Mary – Lev Menaše’s Marija v slovenski umetnosti, [The Virgin Mary in Slovenian Art], Celje 1994.
The painting technique, size and signature of the artist are followed by information on the state of preservation of the picture, which is usually good. The condition of the paintings before it was »good« can be found in the descriptions in the catalogues of the exhibitions from 1989 and 1993. The artists’ signatures and the datings on the paintings are reproduced. The year of restoration and the name of the restorer are also included.
The provenance of a work is an honourable pedigree, which often increases its value and importance, since it often points to a connection with distinguished former owners, collectors, generous donors or ordinary people in various walks of life, of all ages and nationalities. Beside the honourable pedigrees there is also one of a different nature – e.g. the Federal Collecting Centre – which was the source of quite a lot of art works, which were simply delivered to the National Gallery. – The location of the paintings is given in square brackets, offices in various institutions, where the paintings were temporarily hung, also in corridors, above radiators, above electric cookers where coffee was brewed, and the like – until suitable premises could be found for the collection of European masters.
The catalogue of the present one hundred and fifty-five works of art could not have been compiled in such a relatively short time had not many of the paintings been treated previously in the catalogues of European painters from the years 1983, 1989 and 1993. As an exception, a small mediaeval wooden casket with carved bone panels (Cat. No. 155) is also exhibited among the paintings.
Every one of the catalogue units has been reviewed, many of them were expanded. The old literature on the individual paintings and their journeys to exhibitions has been supplemented with the latest data and new knowledge and discoveries; there are also some corrections. The bibliography and the data on exhibitions show how our paintings have finally also come to life, how they travel the world and attract the interest of foreign researchers, who can no longer ignore them. Fifteen additional works have been researched and are presented here for the first time.
The artists and their works are classified according to nationality and schools. Nineteenth and twentieth century paintings are covered in one chapter. The artists are arranged by generations, that is in chronological order according to date of birth, anonymous masters according to the approximate time of their activity.
The world really is just a single country. Eberhart Keilhau, called Monsu Bernardo, was born in Helsingor in Denmark, where he received his first training. His father was a German painter who had fled to Denmark. Monsu Bernardo undertook further studies »abroad« in Holland, with Rembrandt in Amsterdam. There he adopted the Dutch manner. Then he went to Italy, where he was active for thirty-six years. He worked in Venice, Bergamo and Rome, where he died in 1687. Beside Dutch features there are also Italian elements in his style. How can we classify him? What was he? He was so successful in Italy that it never even entered his head to consider going back to the North. Studies of Italian art – honi soit qui mal y pense – include Keilhau, called Monsu Bernardo. Carl Ruthart, Melchior Roos, Karl Henrici and others are Germans in German surveys, in Italian surveys they are found among the Italians, but this »are found« is not meant in a negative sense, at least not in the majority of cases. An excellent way out, although it is above all also a historical truth, is the concept of the »Central European painter«, where we can include Hungarians, Czechs, Slovenians, »real« Austrians and other inhabitants of the old Austro-Hungarian empire and, if we do not look too carefully, also various »real« Germans, who were active in the Austrian empire. Discussions on European painters, for example Almanach, draw attention to the difficulty and even senselessness of the attempts to define what is »ours« and what – as we used to call it – »foreign«, European. Almanach brought the Flemish and Italian manner of painting to Slovenia, but he was also susceptible to the influence of the German and Central European area, which includes the Carniola of the time, which is today part of Slovenia. It is only right and proper that at least one of Almanach’s works is exhibited in the permanent collection of the art of Slovenia in the old building of the National Gallery (Cat. No. 94), while four are among the European masters.
Big nations have adopted the art of foreign-born masters and include them in surveys of their art (the French adopted Italians, the Italians Flemish painters, Dutchmen, etc.), because such artists, who lived among them for many years, absorbed the influence of the new environment, or vice versa: they enriched the host country with the style of their homeland and their own personal style (e.g. the Flemish enriched the Italians, etc.). This is also the case with Almanach and Metzinger in Slovenia. The painter Francesco Caucig/Kavčič is another example – he was of Slovenian origin, born in Austria, where he was for many years professor and director of the Academy in Vienna, although he was trained mainly in Italy and retained the Roman Neo-classicist style, which includes the influence of French painters schooled in Rome, all his life. Any problems with regard to where some painters have been classified can be solved by reference to the alphabetical index of artists.
Ljubljana, November 1996
Dr. Ksenija Rozman
For the English edition the text was revised and a number of additions were written by the authors in July 1998.
The paintings Cat. Nos. 5, 23–26, 39, 40, 50, 51, 61, 79, 104, 105, 107 and 113, which are marked with asterisks (*) were confiscated from various private owners after World War II. They were taken to the Federal Collecting Centre, which had unsuitable storerooms in the Cukrarna (an old sugar factory), in Ljubljana castle and elsewhere. The Ministry for Education permitted various institutions and privileged individuals to take these works temporarily to furnish offices and apartments. A considerable number of paintings went to the Academy of Fine Arts [ALU] because it planned to establish a Gallery of European Masters. This gallery was to have been open to the public and students of the Academy were to study there. However, due to the lack of suitable premises this plan was never realised and the Academy of Fine Arts »lent« the paintings on to the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
In 1993, a new wing was built for the National Gallery, the aim being to show the public at long last the most important honestly acquired works of European painters from the collection of the National Gallery and the most important of the works which had been unlawfully confiscated after World War II and were located in the rooms of various institutions. As can be seen from the information provided on the provenance of the paintings, the majority of Slovenian institutions showed great understanding and agreed to cede the confiscated paintings which Professor Zeri and I had treated many years earlier and chosen for the present permanent collection. However, so far it has not been possible to come to any agreement with representatives of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts or the Academy for Theatre, Radio Film and Television. The two Academies »lent« the confiscated paintings for the opening of the permanent collection of European masters and for the duration of the »Month of European Culture« in 1997, after which they had to be returned and were again hung in their offices. The painting Cat. No. 26, for example, was once in the castle in Slovenska Bistrica, where it hung in the office of Dr. Ferdinand Attems, who was killed in Slovenia after World War II or died in some unknown prison. Today this painting allegedly still hangs in the office of the President of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Dr. France Bernik.
For the time being the wooden casket with bone reliefs, Cat. No. 155, is no longer on show either. It had formed part of the decorations of the former residence of Marshal Tito in Brdo castle and it is again there today. Negotiations to exhibit it in the National Gallery are in progress.
Ljubljana, June 1999