Alojz (Vjekoslav/Vekoslav) Gangl (1859–1935) is the initiator of the reformation of sculpture on Slovenian soil and the nestor of the first generation of Slovenian early modern sculpture-making. With his creative oeuvre, he represents a turning point in the history of Slovenian sculpture-making, thus forging the foundations to a new way in sculpture in Slovenia. During his seventy-six years of life he created numerous portraits and studies as well as genre figures, and wrote his name into the Slovenian history of sculpture predominantly as the author of the first Slovenian public monument, as well as other memorial, architectural, sepulchral and sacral sculpture.
Born in Metlika, he gained his first knowledge of the carving trade in the sculpture workshops of Metlika, and then Šentrupert. After attending evening classes at the craft school in Graz in 1884, Gangl set off for Vienna already in the following year. He studied there at the Academy of Fine Arts under the mentorship of Edmund Hellmer, supported by the Carniolan Provincial Estates committee and delegate Fran Šuklje, completing his specialist studies in sculpture in 1888 with Caspar von Zumbusch.
By this time Gangl had already become an acknowledged sculptor and recipient of the commission for the first Slovenian public monument to Valentin Vodnik (1887–1889), which was erected in front of the former girls’ secondary modern school in Ljubljana. The piece produced in the Academic Realist style with Neo-Classical and Neo-Baroque sculptural elements was an important milestone in the development of Slovenian sculpture, since it paved the way to accentuating national values by depicting prominent personalities in Slovenian cultural life. In 1889, only a year before his study trip across Italy and visit to France, Gangl produced the marble relief The Resurrection of Christ in the lunette of the main doorway of the cathedral in Đakovo. In 1893 he produced the wood relief of The Nativity for the Church of Sacré-Coeur in Pressbaum near Vienna. The sculptor then, before producing the monument to Baron Weichard Valvasor (1894–1903) in front of the then Provincial Museum, dedicated himself during 1890–1892 to the sculptural ornamentation of the Provincial Theatre in Ljubljana. In the Neo-Baroque style, following the model of sculptural ornamentation on the façade of the Paris Opera which features Dance by Jean-Baptist Carpeaux, he enriched the façade of today’s Opera house with the figural composition of the Genius of the Theatre with Opera and Drama and the sculptures Comedy and Tragedy.
Alojz Gangl entered history also as an educator since he taught sculpture from 1894 until his early retirement in 1905 at the newly established Department for Figural Sculpture of the School of Applied Arts in Ljubljana. During this period numerous portraits were produced, for example of poet Josip Cimperman (1893), Josip Stritar (1894), France Prešeren (1895), Ernestina Jelovšek (1894) and others, as well as the Tombstone for Marija Murnik at Radovljica cemetery (1896) and relief of Madonna in stellis (1894).
After his retirement, Gangl continued in the teaching profession during 1907–1910 at the crafts school in Split but, after three years in Vienna (1914–1917), moved to Prague permanently with his wife, who was of Czech origin. The clay studies and draft models, small sculptures of children’s heads, dancers, realistic images of his mother, aunt, wife, son, as well as some portraits were produced in Prague. A year before his death he conceived the monumental expressive work Christ the Lonesome Traveller and intended it for the cemetery of his native Metlika, to where his posthumous remains were also taken. In 1936 a posthumous exhibition was prepared in Prague, which included twenty-three of his pieces among the exhibited works.
In his early works Gangl followed the academic tradition of the 19th century, that is to say academic realism with statically tranquil and elegant Neo-Baroque and Neo-Renaissance elements. In his portraiture he tended to idealize portraits in a grand manner, emphasizing the social status of the sitters, clad in contemporary costume. In sepulchral sculpture he relied on Classicist sepulchral art of the 19th century and observed the taste of his clients and the time. In the course of time, private clients became fewer and fewer, and the sculptor devoted his attention to experimenting with materials and forms, as well as portraying his family and friends. He abandoned realistic depiction and began to model his statues in a more pictorial and animated manner, the outlines of which he had already anticipated at the end of the 19th century.
After Gangl’s death, the artist’s bequest was divided between Bela Krajina Museum in Metlika, the City Museum of Ljubljana and the National Gallery of Slovenia. His works are also kept in the National Museum of Slovenia, Gorenjska Regional Museum, Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Archdiocese of Ljubljana, Patrik Šimon Collection in Prague, as well as private collections.
National Gallery of Slovenia
Bela Krajina Museum, Metlika
Author of the exhibition and project leader
Authors of the conservation-restoration part of the exhibition
Miladi Makuc Semion, Martina Vuga
Conservation and restoration
Tina Buh, Martina Vuga (National Gallery of Slovenia); Katarina Toman Kracina (MGML – City Museum of Ljubljana); Irma Langus (National Museum of Slovenia); Jože Drešar (IPCH Restoration Centre)
The works of art for the exhibition were loaned by
National Gallery of Slovenia; Bela Krajina Museum; National Museum of Slovenia; Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana – City Museum of Ljubljana; Archdiocese of Ljubljana; Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia – Restoration Centre; private owners
Documentation and archive photography
Archives of the Republic of Slovenia; Bela Krajina Museum; Špelca Čopič (personal archive); Patrik Šimon Collection, Prague; Ljubljana Historical Archive
The exhibition was supported by
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia
Municipality of Metlika
8 June 2009–3 January 2010
Bela Krajina Museum
2 February 2010–16 May 2010
National Gallery of Slovenia