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Permanent Collection


Mihael Stroj

(Ljubno, Radovljica, 1803 – Ljubljana, 1871)

Janez Košir
1860, oil, canvas, 95 x 76 cm
signed and dated lower left: Stroy. pinx / 860

NG S 2279, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
Janez Košir was a carpenter and city councillor who was in charge of the carpentry work during the reconstruction of the church in Trnovo and was also involved in repairs to the wooden bridges over the Ljubljanica. In 1849 he was awarded a special diploma in recognition of his services. 
Stroj depicted a proud, confident man in his sixties. Košir posed for the painter wearing his Franz Joseph decoration. The somewhat clichéd composition is enriched by a realistically captured face with prominent wrinkles and a hand that is barely recognisable as Stroj’s, in that it deviates from his established type. The different parts of the face are sensitively modelled, with soft transitions in the shading of the complexion. 
The portrait is dated 1860 and is, along with the portrait of Jožefa Košir, one of Stroj’s last portraits. In this work the artist is on the threshold of academic realism while maintaining an idealised presentation of the sitter’s social status, which ties the portrait to tradition. Stroj never fully abandoned idealisation.

Biedermeier and Romanticism
Heavily censored public life between the Congress of Vienna and the Spring of Nations in 1848, weakened Church patronage, and the ascending middle class marked the era when life focused on the privacy of the family circle, individual dignity and the sense of belonging; this is expressed in the Central European art as the style of Biedermeier which coexisted with a Romantic view of nature. 

Portraiture was the genre of painting that saw its heyday in this era. Matevž Langus, Jožef Tominc, Mihael Stroj and Anton Karinger established themselves as individually formed portraitists who demonstrated their self-confidence as artists also through their self-portraits. The painters initially relied on formal characteristics of Neoclassicism. Stroj’s late portraits and particularly those by Karinger abandoned the Biedermeier manner and adopted a more realistic approach. 

Interest in landscape first appeared as the background of portraits; towards the mid-century first autonomous city vedute emerged. The Biedermaier landscape is idyllic, descriptive, and furnished with staffage figures. Painters were attracted by tourist destinations and locations that were related to homeland identity: Mt. Triglav, Lake Bohinj, Bled. Anton Karinger and Marko Pernhart established themselves as explicit landscapists. The latter became famous for his multi-part panoramas from mountain peaks. 

Still lifes became an attractive decoration of a middle-class home, and they also found favour with amateur women painters, one of whom was Countess Maria Auersperg Attems.