The Slovenia Times

Contemporary History Museum spotlights anti-fascist paintings

The Slovenian Museum of Contemporary History.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA
File photo

Paintings created by the Slovenian painter, graphic artist, illustrator, and sculptor Tone Kralj (1900-1975) during the Second World War are on display at the National Museum of Contemporary History in what is the museum's largest temporary exhibition this year.

Kralj is regarded as a dedicated painter who had a profound impact on the art world. While he maintained a low profile politically, he produced highly acclaimed works such as Circus Nazi, Rapallo and The Fleeing Mother, as well as numerous paintings in the churches of the coastal region which are considered a symbol of defiance against fascism.

What Kralj often did in church paintings was to subtly or not so subtly insert anti-fascist references, for example depicting Benito Mussolini as sowing evil, or giving Judas clothes in the colours of the Italian flag.

"The more the Slovenian language, culture and thought were banned, the more critical Kralj's works were of contemporary events. Even at the time of their creation, these works were an encouragement to the Slovene population and defined a concept of resistance in painting.

"Today they are considered a telling document of the times, an example of the artist's daring, independent creative path, and an example of the power or influence that art can have in society," the museum says.

Bread and Circuses, The Paintings of Tone Kralj 1941-1945 is centred around the painting Shooting Hostages, 13 October 1942. This work is part of a double-sided painting, as the reverse of the canvas includes another motif painted by Tone Kralj, but partially covered with by a layer of paint.

Conservation and restoration work on the painting has revealed an interesting work entitled Panem Et Circenses (Bread and Games), a work of complex content and composition, which deals with the simultaneous political situation and the position of individuals within it, the museum added.

The exhibition, which is accompanied by the painter's s own comments on the pieces, will be on display until 10 December 2023.


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