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Permanent Collection


Mihael Stroj

(Ljubno, Radovljica, 1803 – Ljubljana, 1871)

Man with Red Tie
1840, oil, canvas, 56,5 x 49 cm
signed and dated lower left: Stroy. pinx: / 840.

NG S 1292, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
This portrait of a man in dark attire is set against a neutral background on which the sharp shadow of the sitter falls, creating the picture space through the use of contrasting light. The oval face with large eyes and trusting expression indicates an open and friendly personality. The plunging collar of the sitter’s white shirt and his loosely knotted red scarf or tie emphasise the somewhat bohemian nature of a member of the wealthy middle classes. The decorative pin in his shirt is set with a precious stone that matches the colour of his eyes. This detail, along with all the others, indicates the degree of thought that has gone into the overall appearance that the sitter has chosen to present to the world. Even his hair – the unruly curls swept back over his crown as though he has just this moment brushed them from his forehead with his hand – indicate how relaxed he feels in the artist’s presence. It is therefore no surprise that Stroj’s Man with Red Tie is considered one of his more original portraits – because of the psychological treatment of the sitter’s face and the carefully developed personal style.

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.