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Exhibitions and Projects
Exhibition | 16 Jun. – 18 Sep. 2022

Elda Piščanec

(1897−1967)

In 1938 the countries of the Little Entente organised a travelling exhibition of works by female painters which visited all the capital cities of the members of the alliance. The exhibition reached Ljubljana in the spring. Social conditions were changing rapidly in these troubled times and the vast majority of the artists whose works were included in the exhibition have been forgotten by history – if not entirely, at least in part. Among them was the academy-trained painter Elda Piščanec (1897–1967). Born in Trieste, she moved to Ljubljana as a little girl when her father was posted there for work. She studied painting with Rihard Jakopič, Peter Žmitek, Ivan Tabaković and France Gorše. From 1925 to 1929, she studied painting and printmaking at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, where her teachers were Felice Carena and Celestino Celestini. Their influence can be felt in her work. After Florence, she studied religious painting in Paris at the private schools of the painters Maurice Denis, Georges Desvallières and André Lhote. On completing her studies, she returned to Slovenia. For the most part she lived between Ljubljana and Vinegrad (Majpigl) near Dobrna, in an old manor house which her father had bought, where she also died in solitude.

Elda Piščanec devoted herself to realism, which she developed in several directions. She mainly painted landscapes, still lifes, nudes, portraits and religious subjects; she worked in oils, watercolours, drawing, printmaking, mural painting and, to a lesser extent, clay modelling and crafts. She longed for the lofty aspiration that the arts represented to her, and to this end she wanted to free herself from all the shackles that bound her and would bind her to the material world and the responsibilities that attachment brings along. Thanks to the preserved diaries and documentation, we get a sense of her ruminations, but her personality was complex and marked by the cultural atmosphere of the time, which she experienced in her own way. With her work, she enriched the treasury of Slovenian artists of the fairer sex, who had to work hard to carve a space for themselves in the predominantly male art world.

The exhibition presents 99 of her paintings, drawings and prints, stretching from her earliest works to her late period. The painter's self-portraits are also on display, all sombre in order to show the less rosy side of life, in which thoughts on the most difficult, incomprehensible and unsolvable issues intertwine. In the still lifes with different objects, the painter immersed herself in thinking about transience, which often occupied her mind and occasionally led her to a melancholic view of the world. She expressed herself in a completely different visual language in works with religious theme. The voluptuous nudes of the academy models dry up into ascetic figures of the wise and foolish virgins of the Bible and into terse gospel parables and scenes. We present these with graphic prints, a projection of her monumental sacral works that have been preserved in rural churches and a brief presentation on the relief of the Stations of the Cross. It also includes a short film about her life made by RTV Slovenia and a presentation of her illustrations for the story Tonca iz lonca, originally published in serial form in the magazine Vrtec.

Author of the exhibition
Sara Müller

Project leader
Alenka Simončič

Conservation-restoration works for the exhibition
Tina Buh, Andreja Ravnikar, Narodna galerija;
Barbara Dragan, Emina Frljak Gašparović, Barbka Gosar Hirci, Sanela Hodžić, Restoration Centre, The Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia

Exhibition and graphic design
Ranko Novak

The works of art were loaned by
National Gallery of Slovenia
UGM Maribor Art Gallery
Private owners

The project was supported by

16 June – 18 September 2022
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana