Rihard Jakopič (1869–1943) is a giant figure of the Slovenian early Modernism. He managed to achieve his mythical status through his engagement in cultural politics, which led him to the construction of the first public exhibition space in the Slovenian province in 1909, to the introduction of the annual exhibition program, to the informal organization of Slovenian artists in the Sava Art Club after the inglorious dissolution of the Slovenian Artists' Society, to the establishment of international connections, he also controlled the formation of the art market, etc. Therefore he was caricatured as Zeus, God the Father and Moses or as the commander at the spearhead of the Slovenian Artists' phalanx, brandishing his brush and palette as sword and shield. After the First World War no cultural manifestation could pass without him. He was among the initiators of the National Gallery, patron saint of the "Spring of Novo mesto", thunderbolt in the struggle for the improvement of artists' social standing and was ascended to the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts upon its foundation in 1938.
National Gallery of Slovenia has acquired a few of his important paintings and about 1600 drawings during the past decade. Drawings were cut up from their original contexts and scrambled to obliterate their chronology. In order to understand Jakopič's work better, it is necessary to reconstruct those notebooks and sheets.
After four semesters at the art academy he distanced himself from institutional education. His drawings, tiny and humble as they are, served him as short-hand jottings of compositions, and only much later he exploited the medium for problem-solving in studying details. He never intended to show them in public, therefore we exhibit them in their original function – in connection with relevant paintings selected so that they make drawings speak as vividly as they can. It is not far from the truth to say that Jakopič actually started to draw in 1926 upon winning the commission by the City of Ljubljana to paint murals in the vault of the passage from the street into the atrium of a newly built apartment complex in Njegoševa street, popularly referred to as "Meksika". Hic Rhodus, hic salta! he had to take up drawing to develop monumental compositions for public space. The project fatally determined Jakopič's subsequent work. Besides The Stranger and flower still-lifes the rest of his subjects originated in the studies for Meksika which fetched hundreds of drawings. Jakopič lulled himself into believing that Meksika was the opportunity to realize his opus magnum, although the task was at odds with his earlier tenets. It was not a prospect for a happy ending, the murals deteriorated to obliteration and they survive in drawings only.
More than a century has passed since the sketch in Western art reached the status of artwork of special value; since the decision over finish was saved for the artist exclusively; since the resurrection of the romantic fragment as a privileged aesthetic form; since the introduction of torso as a legitimate aesthetic form, and non-finito as a quality on a par with that of a finished work. A century long is the admiration of children's drawings and practices in tribal art as well as the attribution of the highest aesthetic value to the initial sketches as the evidence of the most authentic artistic expression. In spite of these changes, exhibiting Jakopič's sketches on their own would do a disservice to the artist. These jottings from the deepest corner of Jakopič's chest cannot be granted the status beyond the creative processes they had initiated. These are sparks which ignited the artist's fire of vision. Only a few of them can stand as independent and full-fledged works of art but those testify to Jakopič's gift for which he claimed that he had never allowed it to be estranged from nature. However, in juxtapositions with paintings and in the neighbourhood of other works it is almost impossible to exhaust their multifaceted meanings, their dynamic relationship to other stages of execution and permutations of the basic form in different subjects.
18 November 2015–28 February 2016
National Gallery of Slovenia