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Art in Slovenia

Biedermeier and Romanticism

Franz Kurz von Goldenstein

(Sankt Michael im Lungau, 1807 − Baden bei Wien, 1878)

Rakov Škocjan
1854, oil, canvas, 56,8 x 61,4 cm

NG S 181, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
The painter clearly depicted how the current shape of Rakov Škocjan came to be –the karst ceiling collapsed into the cave. In the foreground, there are visitors and a dark arch growing with stalactites, while the background features a sunbaked and silted-up riverbed, with a natural bridge. On the far right, there are even more visitors, attesting to the destination's popularity even back in the 19th century. 

Goldenstein depicted several natural landmarks in Slovenia, the Savica Falls (Slap Savice), Waterfall at the Bled Gorge (Slap v Vintgarju pri Bledu), and Waterfall in the Woods (Slap v Gozdu); all three paintings are housed at the National Museum of Slovenia. The National Gallery also houses the painter’s portrayals of St John at Lake Bohinj (Sv. Janez ob Bohinjskem Jezeru, NG S 180), in which the waters of the Savica Falls flow through the Sava Bohinjka into Lake Bohinj. A water feature in a forest (lake, river, waterfall, etc.) was a very popular motif among romanticists. Goldenstein's works feature staffage figures who are not mountaineers or shepherds, but merely people walking about and enjoying the great outdoors; his works were surely commissioned by or at least sold to just such a patron.

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.