SCULPTOR LOJZE DOLINAR
Lojze Dolinar was born on 19 April 1893 in Ljubljana. He is regarded as one of the leading representatives of Realism, Art Nouveau, Expressionism, New Objectivity and Social Realism in the 20th century sculpture in Slovenia.1 His teachers in the sculpture class of Arts and Crafts School in Ljubljana were Celestin Mis, Alojzij Repich and Ivan Zajec. Dolinar wanted to continue his studies at the academy in Vienna, München or Prague, but due to poor financial situation he could only attend the first year of general sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna (1911/1912), where his teacher was the sculptor Josef Müllner (Millner). Dolinar broadened his horizon in Vienna in many ways. He got to know the sculpture of the Czech Jan Shturs, Austrian Anton Hanak, Croatian Ivan Meshtrovich and others. He tried to continue his studies in München in 1911 and 1912/1913.
Slovenian public received Dolinar’s monumental sculpture of the »peasant king« Matija Gubec in 1913 with great fondness. Dolinar came up with the idea for this sculpture while reading the epic poem by Anton Ashkerc called Stara pravda (Slovene Peasant Revolt). He also established himself in the fields of portrait and small-scale sculpture. After a brief residence in USA in 1920, Dolinar began working intensively on architectural sculpture, inspired by the antique, neoclassicism and art deco. Between the two world wars, he was one of the busiest sculptors in Ljubljana, creating among others the tombstone of Janez Evangelist Krek (1918/1919), statues for the Chamber of Labour (1927/1928), the statue of St George on the building of the Pension Insurance Institute (1926), the monument to King Peter I (1931), the female figure on the Nebotichnik building in Ljubljana (1932), herms of composers in front of the Glasbena matica society (1932) and the monument to King Alexander I (1940). After he received several commissions for architectural sculptures in 1932, he moved to Belgrade, where he created the pediment on the building of the Ministry of Transport (1929-1931), Mother with a Child in front of the Belgrade Children’s Hospital (1931) and the figure group for Iguman’s Palace at Terazije square (1938). One of the most challenging sculpture tasks of Lojze Dolinar was the Monument to the Fallen Student Soldiers in Skopje, which was unveiled in 1935 and is considered as one of the largest sculptures made by Slovenian sculptors between the two world wars. The top of the sculpture featured the personification of the Motherland (or perhaps the Goddess of Victory), raising the sword above her head, accompanied by a young student with a gun in his hand. By placing the figure of the grieving Serbian Mother (Mother of the Fallen Soldiers) at the extended rear of the sculpture pedestal, Dolinar balanced the dynamics of both figures. After Yugoslavia was attacked in 1941, this monument was destroyed by the Bulgarians, and both Dolinar’s monarchic monuments in Ljubljana were removed by the Italians.
In her monograph on Dolinar, Dr Shpelca Chopich wrote that Dolinar »craved sculpture at the end of the war«.2 His technical knowledge gave him a great advantage over the younger sculptors, and he soon proved to be the best choice for new sculpture commissions, also of the most demanding kind. He easily adapted to the political and sculptural programme of the era that suited him perfectly as he fashioned full sculptural human figures in a distinct monumental form all his life. The new era demanded new heroes: heroic fighters, revolutionaries and labourers that had to be presented as realistically as possible, at least in the beginning. Following the traditions of Rodin, Bourdelle and Meshtrovich, Dolinar sculptured titanic human figures with tight muscles and heroic gestures. After World War II, Dolinar remained one of the most sought after monument sculptors, creating among others the Monument to the Victims of the Carnage in Jajinci near Belgrade (1946), the statue Fright (1947), which was erected in Ribnica in 1961, two monumental reliefs depicting the national liberation struggle of the Yugoslav nations (Headquarters of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia/Museum of the Revolution in Belgrade, 1948-1949), the Monument to Fraternity and Unity in Gjakova, 1951, 4 December Monument for the monument complex at the ruined hospital in Prijepolje (1953). Dolinar started drafting his largest post-war monument on his own initiative. It was only later that he received the commission for the Monument to the Victims of the Carnage in Jajinci near Belgrade. Completed in 1950, this monument was criticised as presenting the »Slovenian catholic baroque«. The giant monument, which consists of 15 human figures in supernatural size and vaguely resembles Rodin’s Burghers of Calais, was thus only set up in 1959 in the park in front of the railway station in Kraljevo, where it acquired a new name The Monument of Resistance and Victory.
Dolinar’s studio sculpture became as varied as it was in his early years. In small-scale sculptures made of fired clay, bronze or stone, he would often design stylized human figures which were thinned, bell shaped or mantle shaped. His most common motives include the sitting, standing or dancing figures or figural groups, nudes, and mother with a child. His well reflected and balanced solutions are similar to those of his large monumental realizations. He was also interested in the issue of equilibrium and the problem of the hollowed figure, so he allowed the space to penetrate into the heart of sculpture.
He was appointed an Associate Professor of Sculpture at the Belgrade Academy of Fine Arts in 1946 and gained full professorship in 1949. He retired in 1959. In that same year, he received a commission for the Revolution Monument in Kranj. Dolinar designed the sculptures in 1960 and casted them in bronze in the winter 1960/1961 and spring 1961. The monument was unveiled on 30 June 1961. Dolinar made the statues for the Revolution Monument in his Belgrade studio and while doing it, he already decided to move to Kranj. In 1962, the Municipality of Kranj agreed to build a new exhibition pavilion for his sculptures, for which Dolinar would contribute the money from the sale of his Belgrade studio.3
Later, the two parties agreed to modify the contract a bit. In 1966, Dolinar Art Gallery was set up in the ground floor and the first floor of the Town Hall (including a selection of 37 sculptures and prints by Lojze Dolinar), while a smaller studio and an adjacent apartment was built for Dolinar at Rotarjeva ulica 4 in Kranj. In this studio Dolinar created his last works, including the bust of an athlete for the new sport park in Kranj (1964), the bust of the poet France Presheren in Presheren Grove (1968) and the relief on Bezhek Villa (1970). Dolinar became a corresponding member of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1953 and its full member in 1970. He died on 9 September 1970 in Ichichi near Opatija.
Dolinar loved to draw. He discovered his passion for drawing and clay modelling as early as in the third grade of primary school. It is little known that Dolinar drew some caricatures for the daily newspaper Dan, which was published in Ljubljana in 1912-1914. However, Dolinar’s drawing oeuvre is not preserved entirely. In 1944, the Germans occupied Dolinar’s house in Belgrade and destroyed nearly all drafts for sculptures and other art material.
During World War II, Dolinar got involved in printmaking. He also painted occasionally. The retrospective exhibition at his 65th anniversary, which was hosted by the Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana in 1958, included a series of his prints employing lithography or his own unique technique (etched in plaster). He used plaster plates etched by sculpture chisels as printmaking matrices. His prints featured figurative motifs, which partly resembled his sculpture solutions. In his printmaking series entitled Sea, the Sculptor, he was drawn by the rocks of the northern Adriatic coast, which are carved by the waves into numerous abstract forms. Dolinar presented his prints and drawings also at an independent exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana in 1968.4 He won the Presheren Award for this exhibition.
The vastness of Dolinar’s oeuvre is extraordinary. The catalogue of Dolinar’s retrospective exhibition (Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana, 1996)5 lists as many as 505 works of sculpture, while many a work from his Belgrade period was not even included there. He achieved wide recognition in the fields of portrait, small-scale, monumental, funerary and architectural sculpture. Having accepted some of the major sculpture commissions, he authored the greatest number of public and architectural sculptures in Ljubljana. Dolinar’s sculpture is marked by his search of the perfect monumental sculpture form, his mastering of the metier and sculptural materials, dematerialisation of the body mass and processing of the surface which is fully sculptural or richly varied.
1 Biographical data from: Fran Shijanec, Sodobna slovenska likovna umetnost, Maribor 1968, pp. 292–302; Shpelca Chopich, Lojze Dolinar, Ljubljana, 1985; Lojze Dolinar (1893–1970) / Retrospektivna razstava, Ljubljana 1996 (Museum of Modern Art Ljubljana).
Translated by Katarina Ropret
The figure of the peasant rebel Matija Gubec was nearly 3 metres tall.
Moses, 1927, plaster
Timpanon of the former Ministry of Transport in Belgrade (part), 1929-1931
Monument to the Fallen Student Soldiers in Skopje, 1935
Monument to Fraternity and Unity in Gjakova, 1951
Worker strike, Revolution Monument in Kranj, 1959-1961, plaster