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Exhibitions and Projects
7. March–3. April 2019

Revelations, March 2019

Boris Kalin, Zorka Košenina

Boris Kalin (Solkan, 24 June 1905 – Ljubljana, 22 May 1975) was an important representative of realistic monument sculpture after the Second World War. He is actually one of the most prominent sculptors to have carried out great post-war state commissions, thanks to his perfect mastery of sculpting technique and the idealized realism of his style. His voluminous, soft and rounded figures were executed in the tradition of realistic academism under the influence of classical masters.

After finishing the Applied Arts School in Ljubljana, where sculpture was taught by Alojzij Repič, he continued his education in Zagreb, completing the study at the academy in Ivan Meštrović’s master class. Apart from Boris Kalin, also Frančišek Smerdu and France Gorše were among the Slovenian students who adopted the suggestive character of the Meštrović school. The art academy in Zagreb, where the majority of the third generation of Slovenian sculptors studied, paid a lot of attention particularly to the working of stone. Boris Kalin also worked in bronze, mainly male figures, but he was primarily the master of stone, thoughtfully subordinating the structure and colour of the piece he was handling to the subject matter. He acquired precious experience of working marble in the stonecutter Kunovar’s workshop in Ljubljana, but in the first place he learned from his professor in Zagreb, Frano Kršinić. After the Second World War he was appointed professor of sculpture at the art academy in Ljubljana, founded in 1945, and remained there until his retirement in 1970. Together with Frančišek Smerdu, Karel Putrih and his younger brother Zdenko Kalin, he earned the leading place for the first Slovenian school of sculpture, and because of the clients’ demands for monument sculpture he merged his own stylistic idiom with the aesthetics of Socialist Realism. The sculptors who later became the first professors at the academy in Ljubljana joined the art group Neodvisni(The Independents), founded in 1937, whose expression in sculpture displayed plastically simplified forms, leaving out the details, realistic body masses with correct proportions, and adoption of contemporary French innovations. In terms of style, they directed their students to realistic sculpture, because stylistic tradition was acknowledged in the striving for a new, revolutionary content. In addition, Boris Kalin particularly taught his students the skill of handling the material. Apart from others, the following ones were also among his students: Jakob Savinšek, Stojan Batič, Ivan Štrekelj, Tone Lapajne, Janez Lenassi, Drago Tršar and Milan Vojsk, whose works are also kept in the holdings of the National Gallery of Slovenia.

From 1953 onwards, Boris Kalin was full member of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences, and Arts, and as many as three times he received the Prešeren Prize for his sculptural achievements.

In 2017, the National Gallery received a donation of the marble sepulchral portrait of Zorka Košenina with a child in her arms from the cemetery at Vič in Ljubljana, as well as a plaster draft of the head. The sculptor received the commission from Slavko Košenina, Zorka's widower. Presumably the portrait was done after a photograph. Zorka Košenina, née Rakoš (5 Jan. 1909−7 May 1943), died at the age of thirty-four, shortly after giving birth to a son, Slavko Košenina the Younger (17 March 1943−19 Jan. 2003).

The two donated works share grace, transparent fragility, spiritualization, timelessness, and inner concentration. The classically depicted mother holds her little child in her right arm, and the baby got hold of her forefinger with its right hand, while in its left hand it holds a flower. The two figures, interconnected by a rhythmically spread linear draping, resemble Christian depictions of Mary with Christ Child. The sepulchral sculpture, executed in the second half of 1943 (i.e. during the war), is characterized by a realistic expression which Kalin later included in his public monuments, dedicated to the memory of war heroes.

We warmly thank the donors for the invaluable complement to the sculpture collection of the National Gallery of Slovenia.

Mateja Breščak

Translated by
Alenka Klemenc

7. March–3. April 2019
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana