This unsettling Symbolist work brings together elements of Franc Berneker’s sculptures with the shared motif of the “waves of life” or “unification in death”: The Drowned Couple, Victims, Solitude and Drama. The protagonists of each of these sculptures, created between 1903 and 1906, are seated in solitude or lying in misery, pain and death, melting into the pedestal in a Jugendstil rejection of standing, erect figures. Social issues, pessimism and a tragic worldview permeate Berneker’s works of this kind.
In 1904, Berneker, as the only Slovene sculptor in the Sava Club, exhibited his plaster sculptures Solitude and The Drowned Couple, created around 1903, the sculpture Deprivation, and two portraits at the Galerie Miethke in Vienna alongside works by Impressionist painters. The Viennese art critics predicted a productive future for Berneker.
The Drowned Couple plaster, which the sculptor envisioned as a maquette for a marble statue, was later cast in bronze. The laid bodies of the drowned man and woman are fused to each other and to the support, so that their form is truncated. In The Drowned Couple, Berneker reduced form to its essential qualities. The head of the male figure, bent backwards, is modelled in a similar way to those of the female figures in Berneker’s compositions Drama and Victims.