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MIRBACH PALACE DISPLAYS TREASURES OF SLOVAKIA'S MODERN VISUAL ART

Top pick: Pioneers of their time

RETURNING to the tumultuous times between 1930 and 1950 is the newly opened exhibition in Bratislava's City Gallery. Entitled Dream and Reality, it presents masterpieces of eight Slovak artists of the time.
"I chose the name of the exhibition after a collection of poetry and art published in 1940, in which poems were accompanied by paintings of surrealist artists, among them [Ján] Mudroch and [Peter] Matejka, who are featured in this very exhibition," says Ľudmila Peterajová, the exhibition's curator.
The group of that period involved around 30 artists and was named Generation 1909, after the same birthyear of several of them. The eight chosen artists are Peterajová's personal selection, they were not an organised group but friends, with close personal and spiritual ties. Five of the painters studied at the atelier of professor Willy Nowak in Prague, and at around the same time, several of them made a study trip to Paris.


MAJERNÍK's fauvist Don Quixote.

RETURNING to the tumultuous times between 1930 and 1950 is the newly opened exhibition in Bratislava's City Gallery. Entitled Dream and Reality, it presents masterpieces of eight Slovak artists of the time.

"I chose the name of the exhibition after a collection of poetry and art published in 1940, in which poems were accompanied by paintings of surrealist artists, among them [Ján] Mudroch and [Peter] Matejka, who are featured in this very exhibition," says Ľudmila Peterajová, the exhibition's curator.

The group of that period involved around 30 artists and was named Generation 1909, after the same birthyear of several of them. The eight chosen artists are Peterajová's personal selection, they were not an organised group but friends, with close personal and spiritual ties. Five of the painters studied at the atelier of professor Willy Nowak in Prague, and at around the same time, several of them made a study trip to Paris.

The artists in the exhibition, seven men and one woman, were all inspired by French art, though each chose his or her particular style from the many different -isms of the era. Ester Šimerová-Martinčeková studied in the class of Fernand Léger and was heavily influenced by cubism; Cyprián Majerník and Eugen Nevan were followers of fauvism.

There is a strong reflection of the second world war in the works of Generation 1909, reflecting for example the Lidice massacre in the Czech Republic (where German soldiers killed all men, deported women to concentration camps, and burnt down the village as a revenge for the assassination on Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich in 1942), and the Spanish Civil War.

"[The artists] were all leftists, growing up and studying during the Great Depression. They were all children of poor families from the countryside, and they had a hard time making a living [during their studies] in Prague," says Peterajová.


PAINTINGS by Mudroch (top), Šimerová-Martinčeková (left), and Nevan (right).

"Because they were left wing, with anti-fascist ideas, it is not surprising that they welcomed socialism [after the war]. It seemed like the fulfilment of their lifelong struggle. They believed that the new regime would support modern art. Later came disappointments, and even though some of them became so-called national artists, others were persecuted, like [Jozef] Kostka who had to leave the Academy of Fine Arts [in 1972]."

Kostka is the only sculptor represented because, as Peterajová says, sculpture was lagging behind painting, as it was mostly engaged in creating official monuments. There were no subjective themes or personal statements depicted in sculpture. Kostka was the first one to match the spiritual creativity of the painters of his time.

A peculiar occurrence in the group is that two of the artists committed suicide and two died in tragic accidents. The only surviving artist from the group is Ester Šimerová-Martinčeková. She is 94 years old and lives in the northern town of Liptovský Mikuláš. Peterajová said Šimerová-Martinčeková was unfortunately unable to come to the opening for health reasons but has shown great interest in the exhibition and the works on display.

The Dream and Reality exhibition is open daily expect Mondays between 10:00 and 17:00 until June 8. The venue is the Mirbach palace (Mirbachov palác) at Františkánske námestie 11 in Bratislava. Admission is Sk40. For more information call 02/5443-1556.

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