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Permanent Collection


Pavel Künl

(Mladá Boleslav, 1817 – Ljubljana, 1871)

Ljubljana - The Šentpeter Suburbs
1847, oil, canvas, 28 x 34 cm
signed and dated right side: P. Künl 1847

NG S 2420, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
The area surrounding Ljubljana’s St Peter’s Parish Church is now completely urbanized, but the church kept its facade with its double bell tower (later reworked by Ivan Vurnik), and, similarly, the large facade of the Ljubljana Sugar Factory also survived. The factory reached the height of its production in the 1840s, and the building survives today as an exhibition space for modern art. The background features Kamnik-Savinja Alps, a nearly Arcadian scene in which a flock of lovely sheep in the foreground frames the main theme of gathering hay.

The work sits between Künl’s filigreed cityscapes (cf. Ljubljana, Ribji Trg Square, NG S 2024) and sketches produced in situ (cf. Harvest in Mestni Log, NG S 1153). All of these natural, landscape scenes can be contrasted against Künl’s capricious fantasy works. This comfort of expression in several genres was extremely typical of artists in the first three quarters of the 19th century.

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.