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Exhibitions and Projects
Revelations: 1 Sept. – 5 Oct. 2022

Revelations: Jurij Šubic

The Gardener and the Impression of Romantic Life in Realism

The new gardener’s boy had long hair kept in place by a piece of cloth tied around his head with a little bow. He was walking along the path with his watering can filled to the brim and his other arm stretched out to balance the load. Slowly, carefully, he watered the nasturtiums as if pouring out coffee and milk, until the earth at the foot of each plant dissolved into a soft black patch; when it was large and moist enough he lifted the watering can and passed on to the next plant. 
(Italo Calvino: Adam, One Afternoon from The Tales)

Jurij Šubic (1855-1890) spent the autumn of 1882 in Normandy as a guest of painter Gabriel Desrivières’ family. He painted a number of landscapes, genre pieces and portraits there, among them a small-size canvas, The Gardener, in which the above-mentioned topics are combined.

“Under the influence of direct contact with nature, Šubic realized that the flatulent history compositions, such as were produced in Parisian studios and with which he was overworked at the time, were in fact a sham, whereas true art can only be an expression of a direct artistic touch with natural authenticity.” (Stane Mikuž)

Being aware of this, “Jurij Šubic was the first to introduce sunlight into our [Slovenian] art and conducted our painting to the degree which meant a starting point for a new art generation.” (France Stele)

The small-size oil displays a charming, romantic scene in which a boy gardener prunes rose bushes. He stands on a path that ends with a wall, thus suggesting a feeling of a closed, safe space, even though the setting takes place outdoors. Above the figure and around him, lush late-spring greenery stretches; in the background a patch of the sky gleams. Quick brush strokes reveal the painter’s wish to present the event as carefully and exactly as possible, an event that is fleeting in its lifetime yet eternal in its content. It tells us that reality can also be experienced in an ethereal and romantic way. In the sphere of art we distinguish between romanticism and realism, which means between two artistic streams that are completely dissimilar from each other. Romanticism looks at the past and celebrates emotions, whereas realism puts an end to it and focuses on the present, trying to surpass the emotional charge of the romantic view. Everyday life can be gray and gloomy or bright and serene. When such a moment is painted, it seems that realism and romanticism have met – as in the case of the young gardener, who has captured a nostalgic impression in a moment of the painter’s daily life, his real world.

Sara Müller

Presented: 1 September 2022, 6 p.m.

1 September – 5 October 2022
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana