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His paintings were sold for lots of money, but Benka dreamed of career in music

Martin Benka became Slovakia’s national treasure for his artistic craft.

People attend the Martin Benka exhibition at the SOGA auction company in Bratislava on September 10, 2019People attend the Martin Benka exhibition at the SOGA auction company in Bratislava on September 10, 2019 (Source: TASR)

"I have always wanted to be a musician. I would do anything to be recognised in this field," painter Martin Benka recalls in his monography. Instead, he became one of Slovakia's most recognised painters.

Benka was born into a poor Catholic family in Kiripolec, western Slovakia, in 1888.

He learned about different styles of art in Vienna, where he worked as a housepainter. Benka visited art galleries, often in wintertime.

Once his brother Ján, who also worked in Vienna, told him about a professor's advert, which sought after two poor but talented students to study at his art school in Vienna for free. Benka gave it a go and succeeded.

He then moved to Prague, in 1910, to study at painter Alois Kalvoda’s academy. He remained in Prague until the outbreak of World War II.

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In Slovakia, he loved to paint provincial art: Landscapes, the lives of Slovak people, and folklore. Benka's art was constantly developing over the years.

"I wanted to talk about our nature, our people living in there, about our majestic country, about a man living in harmony with it, about a nice, proud man, not about the broken one, which I had been hearing of," Benka writes in the book.

He travelled a lot as well and fell in love with Amsterdam.

If you want to know why, listen to Spectacular Slovakia. You will also learn what the following Benka paintings: After the Harvest, Above the Depth of a Valley, and The Slovak Family, have in common.

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