The storm has passed over the flooded Cerknica Polje and the ragged clouds draw dramatic shadows on the forested hills. The view from Slivnica of the greatest natural wonder of the Notranjska region opens as though from a balcony. Details such as the road, the fields and the little village of Dolenje Jezero at the bottom right of the painting, together with the systematically presented mountain peaks, are typical procedures of the Biedermeier period, which Pernhart conscientiously employed, while here uniting the topography with the turbulent weather.
Lake Cerknica is the reflection of two, usually separate approaches in painting: panoramic views from summits like those that Pernhart sketched on his own hillwalking excursions, and observations of meteorological phenomena, including storms. The artist’s notebooks contain sketches of clouds which he drew from nature, occasionally adding the place, time and date. Pernhart, systematic both in character and in artistic expression, did not attempt to heighten such romantic scenes – like his painting Lago di Fusine in Stormy Weather, Lake Cerknica remains on the rational side of subliminality, in other words the wonder that the power of nature evokes in a human being. Lake Cerknica also reveals another popular nineteenth-century theme: the tension between nature and civilisation. The cultural landscape in the karst polje is conditioned by the intermittent nature of the lake, a phenomenon first studied in the seventeenth century by Johann Weikhard Valvasor, whose work on the subject earned him an invitation to join the Royal Society in London. In the nineteenth century, just as it is today, the clash between man and the environment was a consequence of industrial development. We find evidence of this hidden conflict in several of Pernhart’s works, including in images of industrial plants that transform their surroundings. A good example from the National Gallery collection is Panorama from Šmarna Gora, in which the views of the mountain peaks and little villages that still exists today almost cause us to overlook the areas of cleared woodland that cut into the green hills surrounding Ljubljana. Pernhart was familiar with all the principal tendencies of the Biedermeier/Romantic art, yet he used them with restraint, perhaps out of deference to the provincial environment in which he sold his works and as a reflection of his own craftsmanlike prudence.
The painting arrived in the National Gallery in 1933 as part of the transfer of several works from the National Museum, where it had originally arrived as part of a bequest from the noble Codelli family.