Great European of the Week: Ivana Kobilca

This week’s Great European is Slovenian painter, Ivana Koblica, who was born on December 20th 1861 in Ljubljana. Her path towards the Arts was emphasized by the importance given by her parents to education, and supported by their wealth, as her father was a rich tradesman. She attended the Urshuline High School, where her artistic talents were crafted by Ida Kunl, who taught Ivana how to draw. By Mario Zorro. 


The most decisive moment for Ivana’s artistic path was her journey to Vienna with her father in 1871. There, she visited the Academy of Arts and received inspiration to become an artist, after having seen the paintings displayed there. She returned toIvana Kobilca Vienna in 1879 and studied there until 1880, continuing her studies in Munich from 1880 to 1881. During that time she honed her skills by copying the works of more established painters. From 1882 to 1889 she enhanced her arts studies under the tutelage of Alois Erdelta, a period where she held her first exposition, with 34 of her works put on display.

Paris was her next destination in 1891, after a brief return to her home city, and she remained there for two years. There she was painting for a private school where she was awarded a medal for her works and became an Honorary Member of France’s National Society of Arts (Societe Nationale des Beaux Arts). In 1893 she returned to Ljubljana, visited Florence in 1894 and lived in Sarajevo from 1897 to 1905, where she made 3 frescoes for churches and contributed works to a magazine. During her time here, she was also a member of a painting club. Kobilca continued the international nature of her career as she made a brief return to Ljubljana, teaching drawing at the Seniors Girls School. Then in 1906 she moved to Berlin, where she lived until the outbreak of the First World War. She went back to Slovenia and died there on 4th December 1926.

Artistically speaking, her work is mainly realist, although she shifted towards impressionism later in her career4 T.  Kobilca’s works are largely oil paintings and pastels and she did very few drawings. Her greatest influence in the world of art is seen in the realm of figural painting, in particular her focus on portraits of life in urban and rural settings along with her floral still life paintings. The topics Kobilca painted consisted mainly of portraits, religious scenes, still lifes, and the day-to-day activities of normal people, either in rural or urban settings. Her paintings are characterized by brown colors with rosy elements, although later works demonstrated blues and pastels typical of the times and the influence of her time in Paris.  Kobilca’s choice of painting topics sparked some controversy due to the fact that she implemented styles that were not developed in her home country. Her most important paintings are: ‘Coffeemadam’ (1888), ‘The Zitherist’ (1891), ‘Women Ironers’ (1891), ‘a Dutch Girl’ (1889), ‘Portrait of Sister Fani’ (1889), and ‘Summer’ (1889). Her importance in Slovenia is of such a large scale that she was featured on one of the Slovenian national currency banknotes until the introduction of the Euro in 2007.

Image ‘Ivana Kobilca Portrait’ courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 

Image ‘Summer, 1889’ courtesy of WIkimedia Commons. 

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