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Permanent Collection


Janez Šubic

(Poljane nad Škofjo Loko, 1850 – Kaiserlautern, 1889)

Carniola, Sketch for the Ceiling of the Grand Staircase of the National Museum of Slovenia
(1885), oil, canvas, 23,5 x 34,4 cm
signed lower centre: J Subic

NG S 425, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
In 1885, Janez and Jurij Šubic took over a commission upon the passing of painter Janez Wolf. The Provincial Committee had called upon him to paint the ceiling inside the Rudolfinum Provincial Museum (today the National Museum of Slovenia and the Natural History Museum of Slovenia). They took on the commission enthusiastically, enamored as they were of the idea of serving their country as the most honorable and laudable undertaking an artist could muster. They divided up the work among themselves, with Janez painting the ceiling above the central staircase with the allegory of Carniola as the protectress of science and the arts, and with Jurij illustrating the columned foyer with 4 personifications of the museum’s mission – science, arts, history, and archaeology – and 4 portraits of famous Slovenians in ovals: Žiga Herberstein, Janez Vajkard Valvasor, Žiga Zois, and Valentin Vodnik, surrounding the central figure of Carniola (NG S 443 and NG S 444). 
We still have the sketch behind the central personification of Carniola, crowned and holding a shield, and surrounded by 2 sitting female figures: the personification of art on the left, with a child, with whom she is holding up a model of the museum in their hands, and the personification of science on the right, with a globe, which was ultimately replaced by a book in the finished painting. Janez Šubic produced this sketch in the German town of Kaiserslautern, where in 1885 he was teaching as a professor at the local Artistic and Vocational School, going on to finish the monumental painting a year later in 1886. The painting was produced on canvas and incorporated into an architectural frame on the museum’s ceiling. When it was created, it was the largest decorative painting with a secular theme in the country.

From Romanticism to Realism
The first traces of realism can be observed in the late landscapes by Anton Karinger. In the late 1860s, encouraged by examples from Munich, he gradually discovered the value of a random landscape view. Possibly from direct observation in situ his pictures of forest sections were made then, oil sketches on a small-scale, rendered in free, painterly brushwork, which can also be traced in his select mountainscapes. 

With his highly moral and artistic attitude Janez Wolf paved the way for realist tendencies. He was a teacher to the Šubic brothers, Janez and Jurij, and Anton Ažbe. Wolf elevated the status of the artist from the previous level of a craftsman to the level of an artist with a higher mission. He stimulated his pupils to take up studies at art academies and facilitated their enrolments through his personal connections. Wolf’s religious works demonstrate inclination to the art of the Nazarenes, which replaced the older rural Baroque tradition. Wolf’s monumental manner of presenting the human figure by way of emphasizing volume was carried on in the sphere of religious painting by Janez Šubic. While Janez Šubic made use of traditional models of above all Venetian painting, realism in Jurij Šubic’s religious subjects is manifest in pedantic historical and topographical definition of costumes, e.g. in his painting Sts Cosmas and Damien. During his years in Paris, Jurij Šubic worked with the Czech artists Vojteˇch Hynais and Václav Brožík, the Hungarian Mihály Munkácsy and the Croat Vlaho Bukovac, who later took a teaching post at the Prague academy. 

Ivan Franke’s travel to the Far East gave rise to a more original style of vedute painting, with an obvious intention of rendering light in a different way.
Weak and unambitious local demand and the absence of academic centres meant that most Realist and academically trained artists spent a great deal of their creative lives in major art centres, first in Venice, Rome and Vienna, then also in Munich and Paris. 

Slovenian painters of the Realist period can be divided into two generations. In the works by the older generation, which includes Janez Šubic and Jurij Šubic, detachment can be observed from the contents and formal language of traditional religious themes and tendencies towards a more exact observation of reality and ever more obvious dealing with painting issues. Realistic approach is evident in Janez’s treatment of the sitters in the portraits of his family members and in Jurij’s down¬to-earth portraits of his contemporaries. Both brothers also tackled the question of psychological characterization in their portraits. The landscape studies in oil which Janez spontaneously sketched in the vicinity of Rome are our earliest plein-air vedute. Jurij’s professional paths led him to Athens and Paris, then to Normandy. While there, he painted minute genre scenes, rendered as plain-air pieces, and he devised the motif which he subsequently elaborated into the picture Before the Hunt which was successfully exhibited at the Salon in Paris. Jointly with his brother Janez he received a prestigious commission to paint frescoes in the Provincial (now National) Museum in Ljubljana. 

Jožef Petkovšek, too, relied on French realists and traditions of salon painting in his realist plein-air picture Washerwomen by the Ljubljanica. In his Landscape by a River he already dealt with a purely artistic issue of light and reflections, which brought him close to the Impressionist search. In contrast, his interiors are marked with dark, cool metallic colouring with sharp beams of light, which imbues the genre-like protagonists with anxious, frozen expression. 

Ferdo Vesel was inclined to experiment extensively with figure, colour, and technique, which brought him close to the Impressionist search.