Permanent exposition

The Turn of the Century – The Origin of Modern Fine Art in Slovakia

There were many great artists involved in shaping fine art in Slovakia at the turn of the 20th century. Although genres such as portrait, landscape and still life retained their priority status, they underwent significant change due to artists’ new vision of the world and their new understanding of art and its mission. Prominent figures of that period played a key role in the shaping of fine art. Ladislav Mednyánszky, one of the foremost landscape artists of his era, not only brought in Barbizon and, at a later stage, an Impressionist understanding of the landscape in its local setting, but also brought this type of landscape to a level of absolute mastery by embracing lyrical realism. On the one hand, he was fascinated by the grandness and power of natural forces, on the other hand, he felt deep compassion for suffering, which led him to create exceptionally rich, expressive figures that were more or less unique in Slovak fine art. Dominik Skutezky put in a great deal of effort to portray scenes from the everyday life of townspeople in a naturalistic manner. In 1887, his fundamental theme was revealed to him near Banská Bystrica: work in copper smelters, which inspired him to capture subjects not depicted until then with an epic and expressive power not found before, thus introducing a new subject in genre art in the wider region around us. Peter Július Kern is our foremost representative of Symbolist painting. The pre-war work of Anton Jaszusch, on the contrary, introduced the latest post-impressionism trends in fine art. Thanks to these artists and their work, the phenomenon of Slovak modern fine art was able to develop in later periods.

 

Modern Art in Slovakia

Slovak fine art in the interwar period was shaping in circumstances of permanent change, which had a tremendous impact on the life of each individual. World events of unprecedented intensity, social catastrophes, the break-up of states, two world wars, revolutions, all these events brought considerable change into people's lives and affected both the fates and works of artists. The crucial question facing art in that period was the controversy between traditional and modern art, which was not always expressed in theory but was latently or explicitly present in artists’ works. This controversy broke out at a number of levels. On some occasions, the controversy centred on the overall attitude of revulsion or submission, on others, the controversy only concerned fine art or a single element of art (for example thematic, formal or expressive elements). Art became independent and the world of art authentic. This reached its apogee in the works of Ľudovít Fulla and Mikuláš Galanda, who articulated the principal change in the understanding of art and the mission of an artist not only in their actual works but also in their artistic manifesto entitled Private Letters of Fulla and Galanda. Art was deliberately standing out as an autonomous phenomenon for the first time in the modern history of Slovakia. However, this state of independence of the mind and freedom of the soul and art lasted only for a short time in our circumstances. In 1948, a whole period of art development in Slovakia came to an end; a period which had formed the basis for Slovak modern fine art and fostered values which prevailed in the artistic work process and which were acknowledged by artists for the next fifty years.

 

Mikuláš Galanda Group

The activities of Mikuláš Galanda Group from 1957 to its last appearance in Berlin in 1969 played a significant role in the formation of Slovak fine art. This late modern art, the representatives of which deliberately promoted the tradition of interwar modern art, retained all its characteristic features, including the organized appearance with an artistic manifesto on the one hand and individual creative programmes on the other hand. The most important characteristic feature of their activities as a group was their shared concept of the process, subject, theme and contents of their works, a shared attitude towards the art and political events. Yet, the nature of artists´ works was shaped by their individual life experience, mentality, skills and personal dispositions, which also guaranteed the uniqueness of their artistic works and credo. In 1972, the members of Mikuláš Galanda Group faced fierce criticism in the For Socialist Art volume and dismissal from the Association of Visual Artists, which implied at that time that they were banned from exhibiting. They returned to the art scene separately. It was not until 1989 that the artists received an ultimate accolade from society and scholars.

 

Personalities and Phenomena

The collection of contemporary art since the second half of the 20th century presents works of prominent artists who were crucial in determining the nature of artistic development in Slovakia; these artists either played an important role in the formation of art or helped to shape its overall image. The second half of the 20th century introduced a plurality of artistic trends and put emphasis on the individual creative act. Different artistic approaches towards painting and sculpture became legitimate and unique, irrespective of the fact that the times (socialist realism) were against them. Yet, the presented artists had the courage to follow their own path and remain loyal to their beliefs. The permanent exhibition presents the foremost artists from this period contained in collections of the Nedbalka Gallery. Individual works come from the studios of artists across several generations. There are differences between individual artists in terms of their ideology, techniques and styles, yet they all share creativity, artistic quality and uniqueness. Some stick to more traditional techniques, others constantly experiment and try new techniques. However, they share a distinctive, original art-making process and valuable individuality.