Economist and publicist
The time that marked the life and professional path of lawyer Dr Fran Windischer was – considering historical events – incredibly dynamic. The study years spent during the time of the Imperial-Royal Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, the First World War, and then the new momentum, the revival of the economy with the shaping of the Slovene bourgeoisie that actually begins ab ovo: to validate one’s national identity within the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, through an awakening that creates starting points for progress in all directions, and in which culture, in the widest meaning of the term, is an important if not decisive factor.
Various institutional functions, ambitions to entirely take over all initiatives particularly in the activity of two avenues of business – craft and commerce – were united within the patriotic authority of Dr Fran Windischer in the best possible manner. This is confirmed by his many published addresses, articles and comments in the daily newspapers and expert journals of the nineteen-thirties.
Dr Windischer actually built the Slovene commercial vision predominantly on the solidarity of craft, trade and industry – as if predestined for the “mental” guide of the Slovene economy (as was written in the introduction on the occasion of Windischer’s fiftieth birthday in Trgovski list on 22 February 1927).
President of the National Gallery and patron
“We could say that the Slovenes had no greater patron of the arts than the late Dr Fran Windischer.” (From the obituary by Karl Dobida, Ljudska pravica, 2 April 1955.)
Dr Windischer was President of the National Gallery Society (1929–1946) as well as President of the Art History Society in Ljubljana (1937–1948). Thus he combined his management skills with his interest and love for the history of the visual arts; he particularly dedicated his attention to collecting and purchasing, and in most cases, donating paintings, sculptures and prints to the National Gallery; he was especially interested in the life and professional path of contemporary Slovene visual artists, whose works found their way into the emerging collection of the National Gallery with his financial help, and after the Second World War also into the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. He was one of the main instigators for the petition (12 October 1938) on the founding of the Academy of Sciences and Arts and the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana. He was extremely supportive of the institution which was a predecessor to the Slovene Academy of Sciences and Arts, the Scientific Society for the Liberal Arts (e.g. Breznik-Ramovš’s issue of Slovenski pravopis (Slovene Orthography) in 1935), whose honorary member he became on 19 April 1936. Several societies further attested their respect for his work and all his activities in connection to contemporary visual art and its artists by electing Dr Fran Windischer as an honorary member – Slovenski lik art society (29 December 1940), Neodvisni Art Club (The Independents) (on the occasion of its foundation on 27 August 1938), and the Fine Artists Society (February 1936).
He is famous for his statements on having to provide Slovene art with a breadth and exhibition opportunities outside the local arena. The especially rich correspondence with artists (Zoran Mušič, Zdenko Kalin, Gabrijel Stupica, France Mihelič, Anton Sigulin, Matej Sternen, Ivan Vavpotič, Hinko Smrekar, Maksim Gaspari, Tone and France Kralj, Peter Loboda, FranTratnik, Matija Jama, Nikolaj Pirnat, Maksim Sedej, Miha Maleš, Božidar Jakac) that has been preserved in Windischer’s personal archive and the many, what appears at first glance, modest postcard regards, bear witness to the grateful memory and respect towards Windischer’s kind and socially sensitive persona. In such a way for instance, he offered substantial support to Cankarjeva družba in as early as 1930, which had been established in 1929 by the labour organisations following socialist directions.
Already the introductory event at the National Gallery under Windischer’s presidency represented a significant acquisition and a great addition to the gallery’s permanent collection: the bequest of Karl von Strahl (1850–1929) from Stara Loka manor. The National Gallery’s second great acquisition was the purchase of eighty-five original drawings by the Vienna painter and Dean of the Academy of Fine Arts, who was of Slovene descent, Franc Kavčič (Franz Caucig, Gorizia, 1762–Vienna, 1828), for the sum of 4250 shillings in February 1935, and the loan to the gallery of the painting by the same artist, Phocion, his Wife and a Rich Lady of Ionia from the collection of the same Vienna academy (this painting was donated to the academy by Duke Johann Lichtenstein), initially for three months and then for an indefinite period of time.
The historical exhibition of the painter brothers Janez and Jurij Šubic was opened on 7 November 1937 in the National Gallery and the Jakopič Pavilion. The numerous critiques and newspaper responses, as well as Windischer’s speech which was reprinted by the Umetnost art magazine represented a special sense of accomplishment for this great exhibition exploit put on by the National Gallery.
In practical ways, since 1934, and particularly in 1936, the members of the gallery committee had been warning of the urgent need to build a new art gallery in Ljubljana. And so, on 26 September 1936 the steering committee held a meeting in the home of the minister of the time, Dr Izidor Cankar, where the presentation of architect Edvard Ravnikar’s draft took place, followed by another meeting on 5 October. Due to Cankar’s absence, the meeting was chaired by Windischer. The construction of the Museum of Modern Art commenced in October 1939, and due to wartime conditions continued in July 1946, finalising in 1947.
Windischer displayed a special concern towards the Slovene Institute at the Faculty of Arts headed by Dr France Kidrič, by providing the funds for awarding the best study assignments; the awards were named after Primož Trubar.
Among the scientists with whom Windischer maintained close bolds of friendship and a rich correspondence were Rajko Nahtigal, as well as Fran Ramovš and France Kidrič. He commissioned sculptor Boris Kalin to execute the portraits for his two friends, which now stand in front of the National and University Library, whereas for Kidrič he also had a portrait painted by Božidar Jakac.
A friendship lasting over the years also developed between Windischer and painter Jakopič. Apart from the direct purchases of his works, Windischer was successful in securing free rent for Jakopič through the city and the province (banovina). On the occasion of the master’s sixtieth birthday, Windischer wrote a heartfelt article for Trgovski list (6 April 1929) and organised a big funeral when he died, with expenses covered by the city council; through the Academy of the Sciences and Arts, Windischer organised the settlement of his widow’s debts.