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Exhibitions and Projects
Revelations: 5 Oct. – 8 Nov. 2023

Revelations: New Findings about the Life and Work of Ida Künl

Ida Leopoldina Emilia Künl was born on October 2, 1853, at Stari trg street in Ljubljana to Maria Seydl and the academically trained painter Pavel Künl. Having completed the four-year elementary education at the Ursuline school in Ljubljana, she further attended the so-called repetition class. She was in a drawing class, and according to school report her results in drawing were excellent as a rule, for her name is included in the list of extra praised girls. Also her father, Pavel, was giving young Ida drawing and painting instruction, and she continued her art schooling with painter Henrika Langus, a former neighbour in Stari trg street.

She soon began teaching herself. Also young Ivana Kobilca was among her students whom Ida trained to draw. With her earnings and supported by funds from the Carniolan Provincial Assembly between 1873 and 1880, Ida travelled abroad for several times. She first visited Vienna in 1873, during the following two years she was staying in Munich, after which she annually paid visits to the imperial capital. While in Vienna, she would go the Belvedere to copy Old Masters in the gallery there, and she studied with Professor Jan Nowopacký, a painter of Czech ancestry, who had studied landscape painting at the Vienna Academy concurrently with Ida’s father. In 1878, Ida Künl studied portrait painting in the studio of M. Aigner and was also trained by painter and printmaker Conrad Grefe. She established contact with the Czech painter and printmaker Ludwig Michalek, but it has not been ascertained whether she was his student too. Ida Künl concluded her study travels with an exhibition in her hometown. Newspapers reported about her paintings which she presented to the public in the shop windows of Ljubljana stores.

In April 1881, Ida Künl's mother died. The following year Ida married in Vienna, which resulted in her leaving Ljubljana for good. She married the academically trained sculptor Johann Unterkalmsteiner who was South Tyrolean by descent. He studied sculpture at the Munich Academy but moved to Vienna in 1873. Ida and Johann had five children: Hans (1882−1914), Oskar (1883−1884), Edmund (1884−1892), Maria (1886−?) and Martha (1888−1959).

After her husband died in January 1897, Ida maintained the family by means of a small shop with painting materials. She also engaged in art, making paintings for mass sale and home use.Ida Unterkalmsteiner was left alone with daughter Martha and son Hans, of whom Ida’s brother Oskar was given custody. The uncle financially supported Hans until he was nineteen and encouraged his artistic creativity, so that the young man soon asserted himself as a printmaker, designer, draughtsman and painter. In 1914, he was appointed Professor at the Arts and Crafts School in Bolzano, but the beginning of his new career was thwarted by the outbreak of World War One. He died on the Eastern Front in Galicia.

Nothing more is known about the further life of Ida Unterkalmsteiner and her family. The painter died on March 15, 1926, aged seventy-two. She was buried in the family grave in thecentral cemetery in Vienna.

According to Slovene newspapers of the time, Ida painted a lot before her marriage and moving to Vienna; she mainly executed portraits, altarpieces and other religious subject matter, she copied works of Old Masters and was also interested in history painting.

Ida Künl, married Unterkalmsteiner or Kalmsteiner – like her husband and her son, she used the shortened version of the surname as her artistic name –, was in terms of technique a fairly capable painter, but her works lack progress in the quest for artistic solutions and new approaches. Despite this, newspapers wrote favourably about her, and reported benevolently on her works, inviting art lovers to buy her pictures.

Nataša Ciber

Presented: Thursday, 5 October 2023, 6 p. m.

5 October – 8 November 2023
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana