During the time of various global responses to the pandemic, each individual reacts to the external changes in her or his own way, while we all try to calmly go through the current insecure phase of our lives. We looking for new challenges, gain new knowledge and skills, or we undergo an audit, refreshing external and internal spaces and look for hidden sources of strength. Whatever our pattern is, it always turns out to be good to be fully aware of the present moment. Observing works of art can be a suitable way to slow down our daily rhythm, relax our mind and to develop greater concentration. In the National Gallery of Slovenia, we were inspired by respected European and American galleries that have for decades facilitated mindfulness programmes and encouraged their visitors to use works of art to sharpen their focus and in this way enrich their experience of perceiving art.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a way to train our ability to concentrate on the present moment. We can see it as a purposeful, judgement-free slowing down. Mindfulness enables us to connect with ourselves and the world around us and to fully experience what is happening. Mindfulness is made of directing our focus to either breathing, physical feelings in the body or one of the senses. Through mindfulness we strengthen our inner observer and eventually become aware of our thought processes.
Mindfulness in the Gallery
Mindfulness in the Gallery can be practiced by giving ourselves time to neutrally observe a work of art. Gallery mindfulness can be an incredibly useful tool to calm and soothe our (over)active mind.
While the Gallery is temporarily closed
Each week, we will post a work of art and advice on mindfulness on the Gallery website and social media accounts. We invite you to take five to ten minutes each day to slow down and observe a work of art from the Permanent Collection.
Some advice for mindfulness
Relax. Find a comfortable spot and allow yourself to relax while observing the picture. Calm and concentrate your mind on the painting. Be aware of your breathing. Breathe in a relaxed and usual rhythm and observe your breathing in and out. Loosen your body. While observing the picture, pay attention to sensations in the body. Are any parts of it tense? Focus on your back, shoulders, neck, jaws, eyes. Loosen and relax your body. Allow. Allow your thoughts to come and leave freely. When your mind starts to wander, gently redirect it back to the painting. Accept. Accept your surroundings and all the sounds or noises around you. Allow them to be part of your experience while observing the painting.
At the same time, try to direct your mind to the following questions. How are you feeling while observing the painting? What draws your attention in the picture? The artist’s brushstrokes, composition, light, shadow, colours, shapes, figures/objects, motif? What mood and atmosphere do you see in the painting? Why do you thing the artist made this picture?
Focus on the Essential
Massimo Campigli, Woman Raising Her Veil (video)
Massimo Campigli (Berlin, 1895 – Saint-Tropez, 1971)
Woman Raising Her
oil, canvas, 63 x 41 cm
A body of a young woman is emerging from a white
surface; the girl is lying and resting on her right elbow, while using her
other arm to remove a veil from her face, looking directly at us. The image in
neutral, skin-white colour pallet is free of all details, except of a shining
pearl necklace, which adorns the woman’s neck. The delicate fabric that wraps
her body could pass for a dress of a bride and with its fair tones accentuates
the timeless innocence, simplicity and sincerity.
Campigli looked for inspiration in the motifs of
Egyptian, Greek and Etruscan art, which he merged with the Cubist style. These
sources result in a tectonic composition, two-dimensionality and the figures
inspired by Antiquity, together with colour and brushstrokes that are more
typical of fresco painting, a technique Campigli used for some of his
monumental commissions. Hence, this painting also consciously alludes to a
fragmented archaeological find from the Antiquity, with layers peeled and
intricacies lost, preserving within only - the essence.
Find Peace and Encouragement Within
Marko Pernhart Bled, (video)
Marko Pernhart (Srednje Medgorje pri Velikovcu, 1824 −
oil, canvas, 52.5 x 79 cm
Peace and quiet true,
reflecting deepest blue. One of the most popular places in Slovenia -
Lake Bled with an island and a castle atop a steep rock face - is presented in
supremely attractive vista: behind the mighty peaks of Vajnež, Stol, Vrtača and
Begunjščica, white clouds hurry across the sky, while boats quietly move on the
peaceful lake, whose calm surface reflects the surroundings. The entire scene
is imbued with tranquillity of a warm, sunny day.
By depicting a sweet, unproblematic, and at the same
time topographically consistent and realistically rendered landscape, Pernhart
stayed close to the taste of a contemporary burgher; in the era of awakening
national consciousness and enthusiasm of the nature’s beauty and magnificence,
such tourist landscapes often decorated middle-class drawing rooms.
The Carinthian painter of Slovenian descend was also a
dedicated mountaineer and traveller. With a sketching book on him, he was
inspired by his journeys and alpine undertakings and made a number of landscape
paintings that form the core of his outstanding body of work, which is made of
more than one thousand pictures.
Let you be led by mercy
Franc Kavčič/Caucig, Semiramis Fed by the Doves (video)
Franc Kavčič/Caucig (Gorizia, 1755 – Vienna, 1828)
Fed by Doves,
canvas, 103 x 164 cm
Kavčič depicted a story by Diodorus Siculus, who writes about the mythical
origins of Babylonian Queen Semiramis and at the same time delivers a story
full of hope that intertwines man with nature.
shores of a lake near Syrian Ascalon there was a sacred place of Goddess Derketo,
who had the body of a human and the tail of a fish. She fell out of favour with
Aphrodite, who took revenge by making Derketo enamoured with the handsome
priest of her temple. They became parents to a baby girl, but the goddess was
ashamed. She killed the priest and exposed the child to the elements and threw
herself into a lake, turning into a fish. Near the place where the goddess left
her daughter, doves were nesting and took care of the abandoned girl. They used
their wings to keep her warm, brought her milk in their beaks and later on
stole pieces of cheese from herdsmen. The herdsmen followed the birds and found
the most beautiful child, took her with them and gave her to the chief of royal
herds, who was childless. He named the girl Semiramis, which is Syriac for
Trust the Good in the World
Mihael Stroj, God’s Care (video)
Mihael Stroj (Ljubno, Radovljica, 1803 – Ljubljana, 1871)
God’s Care, 1842
oil, canvas 30 x 41.3 cm
The painter depicted an effortlessly levitating angel
with a basket, who is feeding animals in a valley covered by a thick snow
blanket. In the foreground, birds and rabbits are gathering, while at the
outskirts of a spruce forest on the right see a deer approaching carefully. In
the background, the view opens to the snow-covered roofs of village houses. The
scene is painted with great care; thus, we can recognize most birds fed by the
angel. Magpies descend towards the ground, while a golden oriole, a kingfisher
and a goldfinch are pecking at grain together with a raven, a bullfinch, great
tits, and a jay. The flock includes two grey partridges or maybe quails, while
a small swallow sits on the rim of the basket. By depicting the rotting tree
trunks in the foreground, the painter defined the picture space and left a
small patch of snow to sign his name on it.
The motif and style of the picture are typical of
Nazarene painting that strived to revive simplicity, modesty and spirituality
of a true Christian art. In this spirit, the calming message of the painting
quietly advises the viewers to open our hearts to our fellow man and all other
creatures that share this world with us.
Broaden you horizon by taking a distant look
Matija Jama, View of Ljubljana Moor (video)
Jama (Ljubljana, 1872–1947)
Ljubljana Moor, 1925
canvas, 44 x 54.5 cm
In the painting, the view opens from Castle Hill and runs
across the roofs of the city's houses along the Gruber Canal into the broad
plain of the Ljubljana Moor, up to the slopes of distant Krim, which stands
tall above the landscape. The transparent autumn light imbues the landscape
cadre of small format, proving that the work was made directly outdoors. The
Impressionists explored sunlight, the unstability of optical phenomena and the
changing of the athmosphere conditions typical of different parts of day and
the year, which meant that painting in nature in front of the motif was a basic
precondition for the making of an Impressionist painting. Going even further,
as Jama once said himself »... if we want to show a naturalistic winter, we
have to be freezing ourselves, if we want that the emotion of the cold to pass
on the viewer ...«
Matija Jama was the most travelled among the Slovenian
Impressionists, travelling or biking in search of suitable motifs. His work and
beliefs remained true to the Impressionist principles: » ... Only one rule is
always in force: use the most simple means to get to something as grand and
elemental as seen in nature ...«
Indulge in the blaze of Jakopič’s colours
Rihard Jakopič, Bathers (video)
Rihard Jakopič (Ljubljana, 1869-1943)Bathers
Oil, canvas, 105.5 x 74.5 cm
Rihard Jakopič, considered one of the pioneers of Slovenian Impressionism, introduced several new motifs to domestic art, the bathers being among them. He probably painted them even before 1900 and often repeated the motif. In his account, he designed the figures from memory, with the help of photographs and academic studies from his Munich years. Jakopič was not interested only in light penetrating the treetops and lighting up the bodies, but also in the warmth and energy of the sun that is radiating through the vegetation and invigorates the bodies. Through the whole series of Jakopič’s Bathers, we can feel the primal power of nature and the living dynamic of the bodies. All of this is expressed in the picture through the intensified colour contrasts (warm colours of the sun and the bodies versus cool colours of the vegetation and water) and commanding brushstrokes.
Let Metzinger's St Augustine move you from the mind into the heart
Valentin Metzinger, St Augustine (video)
(Saint-Avold, 1699 – Ljubljana, 1759)
St Augustine, (c. 1741)
Oil, canvas, 102 x 102 cm
»Inasmuch as love grows in
you, in so much beauty grows; for love is itself the beauty of the soul.«
»Patience is the companion
In the picture, we see St
Augustine (354−430), mystic, theologian, philosopher, great orator and writer.
He was the greatest Doctor of the Church, bishop and teacher, who nevertheless
believed in the supreme power of the heart – love; to this day, his thoughts
are an inexhaustible treasure chest of wisdom. His most well-known works are De
Civitate Dei (The City of God) and Confessiones (Confessions).
St Augustine is depicted
in the moment God was present and his writing was interrupted by profound inner
excitement, which the painter depicted as the saint's flaming heart in his
right hand. The Father's silent mouth and eyes pointed above are the only two
other external signs of the intense inward experience.
The painting comes from
the chapel of the Črni potok castle, which Valentin Metzinger, an immigrant
Baroque painter, decorated with four tondos of the Fathers of the Church, in
addition to two ovals depicting St John Nepomucene and The Holy Family.
Embrace a new day with Aurora by Giovanni Andrea Carlone
Giovanni Andrea Carlone, Aurora, Dawn (video)
Giovanni Andrea Carlone (Genoa, 1639–1697),
Aurora, Dawn, (c. 1678)
oil, canvas, 129 x 97.5 cm
Flaxen-haired, slightly exposed
young woman, seen springing up and towards us, is most likely an allegory of
Aurora or Dawn. Her image is breaking away from the darkness of the night and she
seems to radiate light as she soars above the earth, scattering flowers from
her lap across it. Aurora's face is youthful and dewy, with an adorable look.
She is accompanied by a putto with a torch – Phosphorus or the Morning Star is
helping her chase away the darkness and bring forth the light. In the right
corner below, a golden light is already spilling across the horizon of a dusky
landscape, announcing the return of the Sun.
In the picture, we are captivated by a masterful play of
light and shadow and the harmony of colourful highlights with invigorating red flowers.
Carlone worked in several Italian art centres and was influenced by different
Baroque masters. In the picture, he emphasized the gracefulness and serenity on
both faces, and at the same time animated the scene with cropped figures,
dynamic diagonal composition and empathic gestures.
In sweet expectation of a child
Matej Sternen, Tončka Gaber (video)
Matej Sternen (Verd, 1870
– Ljubljana, 1949)
Tončka Gaber, 1909
oil, canvas, 130 x 100 cm
The elegant lady, sitting
in a comfortable armchair, nearly blends with the burgher interior background.
The figure and the space are harmonious in the colours of warm shades of a
yellow-golden-brown palette. Although the painting emphasizes the tangible
nature of objects and the figure, we see how realistic details are vanishing,
leaving on the canvass only a colour essence of a familiar atmosphere and inner
longings of the young woman.
Painter Matej Sternen,
among the four Slovenian Impressionists most dedicated to figure painting,
greatly emphasized the drawing, but still believed that it was colour that gave
life to the painting. The woman in the picture is Tončka Gaber, the wife of the
artist’s close and life-long friend Ante Gaber. According to family lore,
Tončka was pregnant while the picture was in the making and since the portrait
took longer than expected, a housemaid posed in Tončka’s clothes, since Tončka
could not bear sitting still for the painter for hours on end.
Portrait of Tončka Gaber
was the painters’ wedding-gift to the couple. Apparently, there were requests
to sell the picture to Vienna, but Ante Gaber was emotionally attached to the
painting and did not want to part with it, which is also a sign of the respect
towards Sternen and their friendship.
Allow Yourself to Feel
Anton Karinger, Mountain Lake (Lago di Fusine) (video)
Anton Karinger (Ljubljana, 1829–1870)
Mountain Lake (Lago di Fusine), 1864
On a lake high in the mountains, the wind is moving from one side to the other, in some places revealing and in others obscuring the view of the nearby peaks. Near the shore, the surface of the lake slightly undulates, while in the quite corner on the left a wooden boat rocks on the water. From the rocks in the centre of the picture birds are descending and circling above the lake. The tension before the storm is accentuated by the sharp contrast between the highlighted and the shadowy parts of the landscape. The atmosphere of electrified air mirrors the mood and emotions of man; the painter’s wonder before an overwhelming grand scene is re-lived by the viewers.
Immediate source material for the oil painting was a watercolour scene of the lake from the same view, only that the work on paper is lighter, with a rainbow across the sky. Both versions depict one of the lakes below Mangart in the immediate vicinity of the tripoint of Italy, Austria and Slovenia.
Anton Karinger dedicated himself to painting only in the last decade of his life, after he retired from the military. He is considered one of the Romantic landscape painters and also had a great sense for the inner world of his contemporaries and was recognized as an excellent portraitist.
Delve into the golden moments of parenthood with Bergant's St Joseph
Fortunat Bergant, St Joseph (video)
Fortunat Bergant (Mekinje near Kamnik, 1721 – Ljubljana, 1769): St Joseph, 1763
oil, canvas, 78 x 63 cm
Highlighted body of small Jesus in a dramatic pose stands out from the dark background, with its kind look directed at us. The naked Child covered with white drapery is pointing his little hand to a blooming lilly, the atribute of St Joseph and a symbol of purity. Also notable is his left sole, turned towards the viewer. To the left of it we see the child's and the parent's hands touching, giving the picture its central emotional emphasis. The direct connection of phyical shelter is enhanced by the love and grace seen in the face of the curly-haired stepfather. While we cannot see Joseph's eyes, we can feel complete parental devoion and love in his smile. This is the purity that allowed Joseph to take care of the Divine child.
Fortunat Bergant was among the most crucial artists of Baroque in Slovenian lands. This year we commemorate the 300th anniversary of Bergant's birth, so the Gallery is dedicating a monographic exhibition to him.
In the Shelter of the Shepherd's pronounced gratefulness to life
Ivan Grohar, The Shepherd (video)
Ivan Grohar (1867 – 1911), The Shepherd
oil, canvas, 73.5 x 85.5 cm
Musem of Modern Art, Ljubljana
The painting is regarded as Grohar's last painting and is supposedly
unfinished. This gives the picture an additional symbolic meaning besides the
traditional motif of the Good Shepherd, reminding us of the finality of our
time on Earth and reaching into the sphere of spirituality.
The figure of the attentive shepherd is anchored in the centre and highlighted
from behind by an unseen source above. Sheep are flocking around him and as a
concentrated mass at the same time grow into the unity of the creation between
earth and sky. The painter rendered visible the elementary power of nature,
felt in select colour transitions and dynamic moves of the palette knife, which
hint at the presence and eternity of the essential. Grohar's picture easily
pulls us in a sort of meditation, where tangible, yet changeable outer
materiality transitions into a focused inner vision.
Ivan Grohar was one of the four Slovenian Impressionists. His works are
characterized by symbolism, with the Shepherd being the most obvious example,
refined colours and skilful palette knife technique.
Lean on your Inherent Power
Master of Mače, St Christopher (video)
Master of Mače: St Christopher, Church of St Nicholas, Mače, Preddvor,
1467, copy 1961 (Izidor Molè)
tempera, canvas, 258 x 158 cm
The beautifully lively and colourful picture shows St Christopher, a
popular saint. According to legends, his true name was Reprobus, he grew into a
giant and was searching for the most powerful ruler in the world to enter his
service. A hermit commanded him to use his strong body to carry people across
the nearby river and one day he helped a small child across the water. When
they were in the middle of the river, the burden grew heavier and heavier, and
on the other side the child revealed himself as Christ and christened Reprobus
Christopher (Christoforos), which is Greek for Christ-carrier. St Christopher
became a patron protecting against sudden death. People grew to believe that it
suffices to look at the saint's image early in the morning to avoid dying
suddenly that day. During the Middle Ages, this belief led to his monumental
likeness being painted on the outer walls of churches. In our painting, the
giant's face turns to the viewer and we see the moment the child's weigh
becomes unbearable, making Christopher lean on his walking stick, which is actually
an uprooted tree.
The piece is a copy of the medieval fresco from the succursal church of
St Nicholas at Mače near Preddvor and presents one of the most frequent motifs
of Gothic painting in Slovenia.
Bravely walk into the unknown
Zoran Mušič, Little Horses(Cavallini) (video)
(Bukovica near Gorizia, 1909 – Venice, 2005)
lithography, paper, P. 362 x 503 mm, L. 560 x 754 mm
little horses hoof in a small group across an unidentifiable landscape with
grace and seemingly carefree, their rhythm lively and uniform. Bowing in the
distance behind them is a hill in basic form, whose yellow colour radiates like
a setting sun. The outline of the bow repeats
itself in the parasols hoovering above the silhouettes of the riders.
whose later multitudinous iterations became one of Mušič’s most recognizable
motifs, reminded the painter of his childhood and youth, where his mind often
returned to in the first decades after the end of the Second World War.
Memories of lines of costermongers travelling across a desolate and sun-burnt
Karst landscape crisscrossed with drywalls offered a safe haven after the
indescribable experience of the concentration camp and also first steps towards
a renewed humanity on its way to an unknown, yet better future.
Let the roses of Marija Auersperg Attems lead you to find the beauty in yourself
Marija Auersperg Attems, Roses (video)
Auersperg Attems (Graz, 1816–1880)
39.5 x 31.5 cm
table before us proudly stands an exquisite bouquet of old sorts of roses in
different colours and tones, which were an integral part of contemporary
garden. One of the flowers is lying in front of the vase and on it, we notice a
beetle of metal green colour - a rose chafer, whose diet also includes rose
blossoms. The small intruder unintentionally marred and desecrated the untouchable
beauty of flowers, his presence being a quiet and natural reminder that outer
beauty - like life itself - is momentary and fading; one can only search for eternity
in the beauty of the soul.
still lifes of Marija Auersperg Attems showcase veristic floral sorts, vivid
colours and the painter’s considerable drawing skills. These motifs, like the
works by other home-trained women painters, were a popular addition to
contemporary burgher or noble home.
Coordination: Živa Rogelj
Text: Kristina Preininger, Nataša Braunsberger
Video: Luka Hribar, Sabina Rotter
From November 2020 onwards
National Gallery of Slovenia