Matej Sternen

Matej Sternen: Seated Woman in a Pink Dress

Matej Sternen (1870-1940) first went to the town secondary school at Krsko and had contacts with the provincial ateliers. In the years 1886-1889 he studied at the technical school in Graz and then in Vienna, first at the art school, then four years at the Akademy. In Graz he has already discussed Impressionism with his colleagues, in Vienna he saw the first original French impressionists. In 1897 he went to Munich to Azbè and remained his faithful collaborator until Azbè’s death in 1905. Like Jakopic he spent the sommers at home, painting in the open air, he collaborated with the church painters, he mastered the technique of fresco; in winter he would go back to Munich. In Munich he came into close contact with Jakopic and Jama, and this led at the beginning of the 20th century to the closer collaboration with Jakopic, Jama and Grohar.

Matej Sternen: Woman with a corset

Slovene Impressionism developing from dhese origins at the turn of the century reached its clomx in the middle of the first decade. Its four principal representatives had by then adopted the impressionist method of painting with the pure colours of the spectrum, juxtaposed on the canvas so that from the appropriate distance they would merge in the beholder’s eye into a scintillating apparition of colour reproducing the atmospheric texture, imbued with light. As their instrument the painters used the spatula and very often they literally "build up" their pictures. Not only did they campaign for an adequate technique, for a kind of art for art’s sake but they consciously tried to reveal the lyrical charm of the Slovene landscape and to express in colour its characteristic mood. The aim was not to advance any theory of art but to master, in the struggle with the optical phenomena of nature, the accepted method of painting, consenquently their own statements about their aims tell us no more than that they wanted to "paint light"; all later statements made by Jakopic, Jama and Sternen refer to the situation after the mastery of technique and the post-impressionist evolution of the three painters. Besides the problem of light they all stress that they want to "express life"; Their doctrine goes no furher.

From Slovene Impressionism by France Stelè

Translation: Elza Jereb and Alasdair Mackinnon
Published by CoLibri, Ljubljana 1994