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Art in Slovenia

Biedermeier and Romanticism

Anton Karinger

(Ljubljana, 1829–1870)

Lake Bohinj
1862, oil, canvas, 45 x 62 cm
bottom left: AK 1862

NG S 135, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
This painting employs a traditional aerial view, with the subjects in the foreground depicted in stronger, more detailed tones, and the illuminated mountains in the background painted with broader strokes. The northern ridge rising above the lake is reflected in its surface. The staffage in the foreground hints at the simple, pristine environment around the lake, which today is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.

Karinger also produced a larger, more detailed version of this motif (NG S 138), with the view differing in the shape of the mountains, and there’s also a small hill on the right with a large building on it. The comparison shows how, even when depicting a real scene from a plein air sketch he’d already produced, the painter still subjugated reality to his own artistic license and romantic expression. Within his opus, Karinger’s panoramas of Bohinj can be compared to his portrayals of the Bay of Kotor, in which the ridges and crags similarly soar dramatically above the water’s surface – this time, the sea.

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.