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Art in Slovenia

Biedermeier and Romanticism

Matevž Langus

(Kamna Gorica, 1792 – Ljubljana, 1855)

Anton Rudež
1833, oil, canvas, 82 x 63 cm
signed lower right: Langus. pinxit

NG S 1367, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
Anton Jurij Rudež (1818–1839) was the first son of Jožef Rudež and Marija Sadnik, owner of the Ribnica Manor, a landholder at Tolsti Vrh and in Dragomlje, and owner of house no. 54 on Stari Trg in Ljubljana. As the firstborn, Anton was supposed to assume ownership of the estate in Ribnica along with the castle that is depicted in the background of Langus’s portrait. This portrait portrays what was a rather early assumption of a social role in Anton’s adolescence. The 15-year-old was forced to abandon his carefree youth and take on the offices of a wealthy landowner. This role is hinted at by the hunting rifle, which can be taken for a requisite, archetypal attribute of a grown man. But the blush of his cheeks, the off-center hat, and the rifle cocked to the side hint at the boy’s awkwardness and lack of experience. His life did not pan out according to his expectations, as he passed away in 1839, just 6 years after this painting was produced.

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.