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Art in Slovenia

Biedermeier and Romanticism

Cornelis Johannes van Hulstijn

(Jutphaas, 1813 – Celje, 1879)

A Vase with Flowers
1864, oil, canvas, 65,8 x 50 cm
signed and dated lower right: C. J. van Hulstijn f / 1864

NG S 2369, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
On a marble shelf stands a porcelain vase with a bouquet of flowers, other flowers are strewn beside it. In the bouquet we see a crown imperial (Fritillaria imperialis), lilacs, a Primula parbescens, peonies, blue bindweed, a nasturtium, pansies, roses, verbena and lady-day clover (Coronilla varia). Stylistically this painting is typical of the Viennese Biedermeier in all its diversity. The links with 18th century Dutch still lifes are obvious, but at the time of the Biedermeier they were interpreted academically, almost like oleographs, rather like painting on porcelain.

Preservation: Good. Industrial canvas
Restored: 1988, Kemal Selmanović.
Provenance: Unknown. FCC 1945; Government of Slovenia, Inv. No. IS 19280; 1986 entrusted to the Narodna galerija.
Exhibition: 1989, Ljubljana, No. 65.
Lit.: Zeri and Rozman 1989, pp. 106, 122, 153, Cat. and Fig. No. 65.
Note: Stamped on the back: Wien / ..Ille

Biedermeier and Romanticism
Heavily censored public life between the Congress of Vienna and the Spring of Nations in 1848, weakened Church patronage, and the ascending middle class marked the era when life focused on the privacy of the family circle, individual dignity and the sense of belonging; this is expressed in the Central European art as the style of Biedermeier which coexisted with a Romantic view of nature. 

Portraiture was the genre of painting that saw its heyday in this era. Matevž Langus, Jožef Tominc, Mihael Stroj and Anton Karinger established themselves as individually formed portraitists who demonstrated their self-confidence as artists also through their self-portraits. The painters initially relied on formal characteristics of Neoclassicism. Stroj’s late portraits and particularly those by Karinger abandoned the Biedermeier manner and adopted a more realistic approach. 

Interest in landscape first appeared as the background of portraits; towards the mid-century first autonomous city vedute emerged. The Biedermaier landscape is idyllic, descriptive, and furnished with staffage figures. Painters were attracted by tourist destinations and locations that were related to homeland identity: Mt. Triglav, Lake Bohinj, Bled. Anton Karinger and Marko Pernhart established themselves as explicit landscapists. The latter became famous for his multi-part panoramas from mountain peaks. 

Still lifes became an attractive decoration of a middle-class home, and they also found favour with amateur women painters, one of whom was Countess Maria Auersperg Attems.