In 2012 the
National Gallery of Slovenia received a donation of thirty-seven pieces in
plaster and clay by sculptor Frančišek Smerdu (Postojna, 1908 − Ljubljana, 1964).
They were donated by the artist's daughter, Mojca Smerdu, likewise an
academically trained sculptor. As stipulated by the deed of gift, the National
Gallery will prepare in 2018, on the 110th anniversary of Frančišek Smerdu's
birth, an exhibition of the donated works and publish a scholarly catalogue of
them. Since they were received, the works have been in the process of restoration.
Smerdu finished his secondary school training in 1927 at the sculpture
department of the Craft School in Ljubljana under sculptor Alojzij Repič
(1866–1941). In the following year he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in
Zagreb which he finished in 1932. He subsequently also specialized in sculpture
with Ivan Meštrović who was his major influence in addition to his teacher of
stone sculpture, Frano Kršinić. In 1946 Smerdu became professor at the newly
established Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana where he worked until his death. He
was a member of the Independents, a group of Slovene artists founded in 1937,
who exhibited together and mainly promoted human figure in sculpture based on
traditional realism but enriched by modernist tendencies. After the war, Smerdu
also received public commissions (Monument
to Ivan Cankar on the hill of Rožnik, 1948; The Underground Resistance Fighter in Ljubljana, 1952, Monument to France Prešeren in Kranj,
1952), but the most important is his small-scale sculpture in baked clay,
bronze and stone.
creative urge most frequently found expression in poetic and refined female
figures. In 1957 he designed four female nudes for the embellishment of the
staircase leading to the Festival Hall in Ljubljana (Pionirski dom, Center za
kulturo mladih): Reclining Female Nude
with a Mask, Reclining Female Nude with Grapes, Reclining Female Nude with a
Flute and Reclining Female Nude with
a Wreath. These decorative allegorical nudes anticipate the change of body
proportions in Smerdu's work. The soft, rounded and full, smoothly modelled
elongated female bodies, with long necks, proportionally diminished heads, wide
hips, archaic facial characteristics indicated by a few features only, with
stylized long hair, slender ankles on long legs and often furnished with
attributes, such as flowers or a book, are aesthetically extremely sublime
works which delicately convey the sense of complete absorption of the figures
in their inner world.
plaster model for the figure of the Reclining
Female Nude with a Wreath, which is, like the rest of the group of four,
designed in the sense of Baroque reclining staircase figures, was restored in 2014 by Rebeka Vegelj, a student of restoration at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana, as the practical part of her diploma work. The
statue had suffered numerous abrasions and incisions,
the tops of several protruding volumes had been broken off. Within the scope of
interventions cleaning was done, and because of the displeasing impression the
broken off tip of the nose, parts on the chest and a finger of the right hand were
remodelled. The missing toes of both feet were fashioned with the help of
moulds made after the bronze statue in the Festival Hall.
presentation of the statue in the Gallery's exhibition room a pedestal was made
with the same inclination as that of the stone fence of the Festival Hall
our sincere thanks to the benefactor for her gift, which invaluably complements
the sculpture collection of the National Gallery of Slovenia.