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Permanent Collection


Marko Pernhart

(Mieger bei Völkermarkt, 1824 − Klagenfurt, 1871)

The Špik Group
oil, canvas, 82 x 106,5 cm

NG S 300, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
Pernhart put his embellishments on this magnificent view of the mountains from modern-day Gozd Martuljek – he sharpened their peaks and presented each of them as separate faces in a group portrait. From left to right, we have Veliki Oltar, Velika Ponca, Mala Ponca, Špik, and Frdamane Police.

Alpine depictions became more common in the 19th century, as the magnificent infinity of nature was juxtaposed against the fleetingness of the human condition. Perhart’s scene also shows cabins and logs in front of them, hinting at the region’s economy, along with mills, water-powered sawmills, limestone, and clear-cut groves in the forest, as can be seen in other works from the Carinthian painter and his contemporaries, such as Anton Karinger. Peaks reinterpreted as triangular were also typical of Franz Steinfeld, the renowned Viennese landscape professor.

Although we could be tempted in such portrayals to seek hints at how intimate knowledge of nature goes hand in hand with its exploitation, the proximity of industrial infrastructure to natural resources was nonetheless extremely practical. Because of the chalk deposits, a cement raw mill was founded in Mojstrana at the end of the 19th century. The whole area around Jesenice was engaged in mining and refining, even back in the Middle Ages, and in modern times it was also home to an important railroad junction towards the regions north of the Alps. This juxtaposition of environment and industry continues today, as Jesenice and its steel factories border right on Triglav National Park, the largest protected territory in Slovenia.

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.