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Exhibitions and Projects
Revelations | 3 Feb. – 2 Mar. 2022

Revelations: Ivana Kobilca

A Witness to European Secessions

As an artist, Ivana Kobilca felt most comfortable abroad, even if she was working for domestic clients. Her contacts with the Slovenian art scene are sparse, especially when compared to her relationships with foreign artists. The feeling was mutual - Kobilca was reluctant to exhibit in the Jakopič pavilion and in the 1913 group caricature of the Slovenian artistic community by Hinko Smrekar, Kobilca is not included (the tall giant on the left is Pavel Gustinčič).

Kobilca associated more with foreign artists who were involved in the four major secessionist art movements in Munich, Paris, Vienna and Berlin. The core of her European group were fellow students who, like her, attended the Munich Academy for Women, led by Alois Erdtelt: Rosa Pfäffinger, Maria Slavona and Käthe Kollwitz. When Fritz von Uhde, co-founder of the Munich Secession (founded 1892), advised Kobilca to try exhibiting in Paris, she connected with the tireless titan of French art at the time, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, who encouraged Kobilca, like many other artists, who gathered around him, to send her works to the Salon of the French Secession (founded 1890). In Paris, Kobilca lived with Pfäffinger, Slavona and Willy Gretor, a manipulative art patron, who was connected to several avant-garde artists. During her life in Sarajevo, she met Maximilian Liebenwein, the future vice-president of the Vienna Secession (founded in 1897), who, like her, was a regular contributor to the illustrated Bosnian magazine Nada (published 1895–1903). In Berlin, she kept in touch with Käthe Kollwitz (who also raised the son of Rosa Pfäffinger), a member of the Berlin Secession (founded 1898), and lived only a short walk away from its exhibition centre.

Kobilca reached her creative peak in Paris at the age of thirty-two and then stuck to realism, which she softened with modern derivatives only in composition and pentimenti. With the exception of Sarajevo, Kobilca commissions abroad were less ambitious and she found it difficult to tolerate rejection and criticism. She herself reported how hard it was for foreign masters to establish themselves in metropolitan centres, nor did she stay anywhere long enough to really settle in. Interesting is the juxtaposition with Käthe Kollwitz and Maria Slavona: both found success quite late, on home soil (in Berlin) and with institutional support; Kollwitz's mentor was Max Liebermann, president of the Berlin Secession, and Maria Slavona, also a member of the Berlin association, married Otto Ackermann, a Swiss art dealer. Slavona focused on Impressionism and exhibited at the Miethke Salon in Vienna and the Salon of Paul Cassirer in Berlin when she was in her forties, and Käthe Kollwitz reached the peak of her expressionist career after the fifties. Kobilca also got a new impetus at this turning point in her life, but her development was interrupted by the First World War and the painter returned from Berlin to Ljubljana, where she was awaited by (post)war shortages, undemanding clients and domestic artistic clique.

Ivana Kobilca in secesije

Michel Mohor

Presented: 3 February 2022, 6 pm.

3 February – 2 March 2022
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana