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Permanent Collection

From 1918 onwards

Matej Sternen

(Verd, 1870 – Ljubljana, 1949)

Reclining Female Nude
(before 1930), oil, canvas, 53 x 61 cm

NG S 1833, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana

Following the lukewarm reception of his large paintings in 1927, Sternen once again began to devote himself intensively to the nude. At exhibitions in Jakopič’s Art Pavilion and in Prague in 1927 he showed the pre-war paintings CorsetResting Nude (called Semi-Nude in Prague!) and The Mask, while those from the interwar period are thought to have included Study (from the National Gallery), Nude and Semi-Nude.

Under pressure to repay outstanding home loans, with his wife Roza Klein Sternen seriously considering letting their house and moving the family into a rented flat, Sternen cast around for inspiration for a new painting that would, above all, be saleable. In this period he took a series of photographs of nudes using two different models posed in front of Dalmatian altarpieces, paintings and even his own unfinished painting At the Mirror (1927). These can be reliably dated to 1926 or 1927. Two different photographs of a nude in black stockings also date from this time. These are interesting in that, in both of them, Sternen breaks the nude compositionally in a zig-zag line along the cardinal axis towards the eye point. Sternen had been drawn to perspective shortening since his early student days. His first notebook contains several semi-nudes in such positions. He was able to explore the question more seriously with the help of the models at Ažbe’s school. The innovative mid-1920s nudes of Gojmir Anton Kos probably prompted him to turn his attention back to this genre.

Sternen’s Reclining Female Nude in black stockings represents a step in this direction. The shortening of the legs from the knees downwards is a continuation of the stylistic formula employed in At the Mirror (1926). The painting is executed with short strokes of a drained brush in an automatic rhythm of paint applications. The black of the stockings is both subordinate to and enhanced by the complementary contrast of red and green. One would not object if someone were to describe the painting as unfinished. Art historian Tomaž Brejc pointed out how mainstream and modern the photograph seems in comparison to the painting. Of the latter he wrote: “In Sternen’s painting, however, regressive painterliness weakens in intensity and inhabits a stylistically undefined space between the Impressionistic tradition and the refined New Objectivity of the 1920s.” After this work, Sternen would begin mass-producing small-format paintings, usually on plywood, that could more easily be converted into money.

The Third Renaissance in Slovenia
The twentieth century was the third period in history that elevated Ljubljana to an active art centre on the Slovenian ethnic territory. This era is marked by artistic trends that originated in the world art centres, while only rarely symptoms of local tradition and continuity can be traced. Although the Expressionists are usually ranked as belonging to the historical avant-garde, it is necessary to distinguish within their group between continuity and radicalism. The long shadow of Art Nouveau – particularly in the expressionist oeuvres of the brothers Kralj, France and Tone, and some other representatives of this generation who studied in Prague – extends via the expressive pre-WW1 paintings by Fran Tratnik all the way from its hard core with Gustav Klimt and the Wiener Werkstätte of the turn of the century. The artists’ updated formal methods frequently carry on the patterns of allegorical interpretation. Not even Stane Kregar is completely free from it in his Surrealist manner which he adopted in Prague. The dominant line is paralleled by a more promising colour intimism of the older generation with the relationship between the Flowers, Fruit and Jug by Alexey Jawlensky and The Sava by Jakopič. 

Colour realism of the 1930s prevailed in the generation or two that came from the Zagreb academy (France Mihelič, Maksim Sedej, early Zoran Mušič, and Gabriel Stupica), and their counterpart Gojmir Anton Kos is an outstanding representative of pure painting which likewise drew on the orthodox premises of Courbet’s and Manet’s realism. Among the sculptors, Frančišek Smerdu belongs to this generation. These representatives, who with authority and teaching zeal settled in the core of the newly established Ljubljana academy, helped to spread modernist trends in the second half of the century, which were all to the end of the 1970s still influenced by the authority of Paris as the principal art centre. Younger artists, such as Marij Pregelj among painters and Jakob Savinšek, Drago Tršar and Stojan Batič among sculptors, belong to this eminent company. Representatives of Italian painting of the 1930s, such as Gino Severini, Giorgio Morandi and Filippo de Pisis, demonstrate that Slovenian art in this century surpassed the limits of regional ambitions as well as achievements.
OwnerBirth - death
Anonymous -
Stojan Batič (Trbovlje, 1925 − Ljubljana, 2015)
Mirsad Begić (*Glamoč, 1953)
Gvidon Birolla (Trieste, 1881 − Ljubljana, 1963)
Renato Birolli (Verona, 1907 – Milan, 1959)
Massimo Campigli (Berlin, 1895 – Saint-Tropez, 1971)
Filippo De Pisis (Ferrara, 1896 – Milan, 1956)
Lojze Dolinar (Ljubljana, 1893 − Ičići, Opatija, 1970)
France Gorše (Zamostec, Sodražica, 1897 − Golnik, 1986)
Rihard Jakopič (Ljubljana, 1869–1943)
Matija Jama (Ljubljana, 1872–1947)
Zdenko Kalin (Solkan, Gorizia, 1911 − Ljubljana, 1990)
Fran Klemenčič (Ljubljana, 1880−1961)
Ivana Kobilca (Ljubljana, 1861–1926)
Gojmir Anton Kos (Gorizia, 1896 − Ljubljana, 1970)
Tone Kralj (Zagorica, Dobrepolje, 1900 − Ljubljana, 1975)
France Kralj (Zagorica, Dobrepolje, 1895 – Ljubljana, 1960)
Stane Kregar (Zapuže, 1905 − Ljubljana, 1973)
Peter Loboda (Domžale, 1894 − Ljubljana, 1952)
Filip Andreievich Maliavine (Orenburg, 1869 – Nice, 1940)
France Mihelič (Virmaše, Škofja Loka, 1907 − Ljubljana, 1998)
Giorgio Morandi (Bologna, 1890–1964)
Zoran Mušič (Bukovica near Gorizia, 1909 – Venice, 2005)
Ivan Napotnik (Zavodnje, Šoštanj, 1888 − Šoštanj, 1960)
Cipriano Efisio Oppo (Rome, 1891–1962)
Veno Pilon (Ajdovščina, 1896−1970)
Marij Pregelj (Kranj, 1913 − Ljubljana, 1967)
Alojzij Repič (Vrhpolje, 1866 – Ljubljana, 1941)
Janko Samsa (Žirje, Sežana)
Jakob Savinšek (Kamnik, 1922 − Kirchheim, 1961)
Maksim Sedej (Dobračeva, Žiri, 1909 − Ljubljana, 1974)
Gino Severini (Cortona, 1883 – Paris, 1966)
Frančišek Smerdu (Postojna, 1908 − Ljubljana, 1964)
Matej Sternen (Verd, 1870 – Ljubljana, 1949)
Gabrijel Stupica (Dražgoše, 1913 – Ljubljana, 1990)
Saša Šantel (Gorizia, 1883 − Ljubljana, 1945)
Fran Tratnik (Potok, Nazarje, 1881 − Ljubljana, 1957)
Drago Tršar (*Planina, Rakek, 1927 – Ljubljana, 2023)
Ivan Vavpotič (Kamnik, 1877 – Ljubljana, 1943)
Alexej von Jawlensky (Torzhok, 1864 – Wiesbaden, 1941)