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Exhibitions and Projects
12 April – 21 May 2017

Albert Sirk

the Painter of the Sea

In 2015, the ZTT Publisher (Založništvo tržaškega tiska) issued a comprehensive monograph on the Slovenian marine painter Albert Sirk, who was born in 1887 at Križ/Santa Croce near Trieste. The motifs of the sea are dominant in his oeuvre, although the artist was also an outstanding portraitist and draughtsman. He lived in his native village until 1929, when the Fascist pressures pushed him out of Italy. At first, he worked at Sveti Lenart in Slovenian Styria as an art teacher, and after 1937 he lived in Celje. In 1941, he and his compatriots were expelled to Zaječar (Serbia). After the war, Sirk returned to his native Križ in 1945 and died two years later in Celje, where he is buried.

A minor exhibition accompanied the publication of the monograph in Trieste, and they together re-evaluated the painter and his work. Albert Sirk was often ignored in major overviews of 20th-century art in Slovenia, therefore of particular significance are various recollections and art criticism which currently reported on his life and output.  He was a highly productive painter who produced around seven hundred works, with about one half known today. Marine motifs were central to his oeuvre and ranged from pure seascapes to genre scenes of fishermen and coastal views. Due to this, art historians regard him as the only genuine Slovenian marine painter. His works are mostly in private hands, with the National Gallery of Slovenia, Maribor Art Gallery, Sergej Masera Maritime Museum of Piran, Koper Regional Museum and Goriška Regional Museum owning some of the pieces. Hence the present exhibition is an excellent opportunity to provide profound insight into his oeuvre, since it covers all periods of his relatively short artistic career. Sirk was a very popular painter during his lifetime, a fact underlined by the reviews of his exhibitions. After his death, however, he was somewhat forgotten; his latest retrospective was mounted in 1972 in the Coastal Galleries of Piran.

It is difficult to stylistically define the works by Sirk, on which issue all scholars on his oeuvre agree. Art criticism of his time and more recent overviews of 20th-century art in Slovenian Littoral define him either as an impressionist, or post-impressionist respectively, or as a representative of colour realism. The truth is that Sirk developed an idiosyncratic style, with stylistic shifting or merging. It is not reasonable to look for models or influences in his oeuvre, because he relied on his own experience of the sea and the life by it and on it, and of the places, nature and people he portrayed. Nevertheless, the stages of Sirk’s artistic development coincide with the three periods of his life: Trieste period (until 1929), Sveti Lenart (1929–1937) and Celje (1937–1941). We certainly must not overlook the Zaječar exile (1941–1945) and the last two years of his life, when the painter was torn between his native Križ, Portorož and Celje, which, however, in terms of style relate to his time in Celje. All these stages have a common denominator: the sea. Its undulating waves will also spread to the present exhibition.

The exhibition in the National Gallery of Slovenia features seventy-one works of art (oil paintings and works on paper), with part of the exhibition dedicated to Sirk’s large archive, photographs, exhibition catalogues, and the newspapers in which the artist published his illustrations. The Central Regional Library of Celje keeps an extensive personal archive of Albert Sirk. The exhibition is a homage to the artist who, with his image of a harbour worker and his good-natured character, shaped the art life in Styria.

Author of the exhibition
Alina Carli

Mateja Breščak

Graphic design
Ranko Novak

Conservation-restoration of exhibits
Tina Buh, Andrej Hirci, Miha Pirnat Jr, Simona Škorja

The project was supported by
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia

The artworks were loaned by
ACH, d. d.
Distriest d.o.o
Goriška Regional Museum 
KB1909 Società per azioni 
National Gallery of Slovenia
Koper Regional Museum
Sergej Masera Maritime Museum of Piran
Primož Premzl Art Cabinet, Maribor
Maribor Art Gallery
Institute for Culture Slovenska Bistrica
Credito Cooperativo del Carso
Unione dei Circoli Culturali Sloveni, Trieste
private owners

Documentation and archival photographs
Central Regional Library, Celje

Official wine at exhibition openings
Radgonske gorice d.d.

Cvetličarna Galerija Marjan Lovšin

12 April – 21 May 2017
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana