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Exhibitions and Projects
Revelations | 9 Nov. 2023 – 6 Dec. 2023

Revelations: Fran Klemenčič, Portrait of Dr Franc Derganc and Portrait of Heda Derganc

In 2021, the National Gallery received a gift of two oil paintings, portraits of the couple Franc and Heda Derganc, by the painter Fran Klemenčič (1880–1961). For the husband’s portrait, the painter made use of a photograph taken in 1912, and it is likely that the female portrait was created in the same way, but no template could be found. Both are painted in a realistic manner, but with a more relaxed touch, typical of Klemenčič's later works. He painted larger and much more ambitious portraits of the couple in 1910, the year of their marriage. He exhibited these splendid, salon-style paintings in 1911 at the Jakopič Pavilion, in a memorial exhibition marking the death of the painter Ivan Grohar.

Dr. Franc Derganc (Semič, 26 February 1877– Ljubljana, 30 June 1939) was a physician-surgeon and organiser of surgical projects in Ljubljana. Starting in Vienna, he received professional training from the most important European clinics, in order to implement his knowledge and innovations in the surgical department of the Ljubljana hospital. He started there in 1906 and became head of the department in 1920. Dr. Derganc was a thoughtful, broad-minded and involved man who fully conformed to the Hippocratic Oath and always put the patients and the profession first. He published medical writings and popular articles in various journals and newspapers, and helped found Zdravniški vestnik (Journal of Medicine), which he also edited in its first year of publication.

As a poet, he walked alongside Slovenian modernism, he was friends with the writer Janez Trdina and the national awakener Janez Evangelist Krek, and he consistently and persistently defended his views in the cultural and political magazine Jug (The South), which he founded together with the historian, ethnologist and politician dr. Niko Zupanič and the writer Ivan Lah. He also established himself as a philosophical writer, following the example of the ancient Babylonian priests, who blended medicine, science and philosophy. He formulated the idea of the Slovenian Acropolis, which was essentially a cultural programme, and called it The Academy. A society of Slovenian writers and artists. Later, the cultural workers realised these ideas in the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts and the National Gallery of Slovenia.

He met his future wife Heda Tauber (Ljubljana, 17 February 1889–20 October 1974) at the Hotel Štrukelj (today's City Hotel, formerly the Turist) in Ljubljana, when he came to treat a sick guest and she assisted him, holding a candle. Soon after their marriage, she and Franc started building a private sanatorium on Komenskega Street, which they named Emona, after the Roman outpost beneath contemporary Ljubljana (ancient remains were found on the site). The building was also home for the pair and their seven children. The official title of the sanatorium was as a hospital for internal and surgical procedures and a maternity ward. It was technically well equipped, with its own X-ray machine, single and double patient rooms and operating theatres. The sanatorium was run by Heda Derganc, since dr. Derganc entered military service in 1914; World War I broke out shortly after the opening of the hospital. Dr. Derganc was enlisted until the end of the war.

The couple was interested in and supportive of both literature and the fine arts. Ivan Cankar, Oton Župančič, Fran Saleški Finžgar, Izidor Cankar, Fran Tratnik, Hinko Smrekar and Rihard Jakopič, among others, were regular guests at their home.

In 1939, dr. Derganc died. Heda Derganc and her sons continued to run the Emona Sanatorium during the difficult years of World War II. In fact, the sanatorium cooperated with the Resistance Movement and Derganc sons, all doctors, were among the first to join the organisation.

The portraits were gifted by prof. dr. Tomaž Tomaževič, a grandson of the Derganc couple. I would like to thank Rok Tomaževič for his help in preparing this article and for providing access to his family archive.

Alenka Simončič

Presented: Thursday, 9 November 2023, 6 p.m.

9 November – 6 December 2023
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana