Jakopič prepared a tour de force for the opening exhibition in his art pavilion in 1909. St. Mark's Gospel I.8 looks like an altar composition and is his largest easel painting. Expert opinion on the time of conception and execution of the subsequently lost canvas favours the time before 1909, when Jakopič allegedly courted the Church for commissions and made use of certain academic nudes and figure studies from his Munich period. The painter claimed that the composition from St. Mark's Gospel had been conceived around 1898, and the evidence of his drawings supports his claim. Although they have been cut out from notebooks and larger sheets, we can reassemble them to a certain extent by comparing the paper. Studies for the composition can be linked to motifs and interests of his earlier time. But the question of Jakopič's religious painting is pertinent. While in 1898 he might have seriously contemplated religious subjects, it becomes later increasingly difficult to believe that. He deliberately reinterpreted religious subjects and made them ineffective for catethetic purposes. He appropriated religious subject matter to address the viewer in a very subjective and emotionally charged way based on a rather symbolic function of light. In all of his genres he took advantage of the counter-light that spans extremes from the realistic landscape taken against the sun to depictions of artificial light that emanates from a hidden source within the picture space. The latter is keen to the symbolic expression.
Drawings from the Rihard Jakopič bequest, acquired by the National Gallery of Slovenia in 2012.
The photograph of the first exhibition in Jakopič Pavilion is from the National and University Library, Map and Pictoral Collection, Fran Vesel Bequest.
5 June–2 September 2014
National Gallery of Slovenia