Marij Pregelj, Homer and the Muse of Poetry, 1951, ink wash on paper, 50 x 33.5 cm, Moderna galerija (573/1/R)

24 September 2013 - 5 January 2014

7 January - 18 May 2014

Moderna galerija, Cankarjeva 15

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Marij Pregelj's birth, Moderna galerija is staging an exhibition of his illustrations for the Iliad (1949-50), which will be followed, on 7 January 2014, by an exhibition of his illustrations for the Odyssey (1951), in the postwar modernism section of the permanent exhibition 20th Century. Continuities and Ruptures. All of the 50 illustrations will be displayed, 25 for the Iliad and 25 for the Odyssey. In both cases, the introductory illustrations portray Homer, while the remaining 24 illustrations follow the books of the epic poems.

The exhibition is staged in collaboration with, and with the support of, the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana, and forms part of the international symposium on classical philology "Classics & Class: Teaching Greek and Latin Behind the Iron Curtain", organized by the Department for Classical Philology at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana and the Artes liberales Faculty of the University in Warsaw. Jure Mikuž, PhD, is delivering a lecture "Marij Pregelj and his Fifty Illustrations of Homer (1949-51) as a Point of Departure of Modernism in Slovenian Painting" as part of the symposium on 27 September at 8 p.m. in the Moderna galerija auditorium.

More on the symposium program at www.classics.si

The exhibition display was designed by Marko Jenko, PhD, curator at the Moderna galerija. The exhibition will be accompanied by a rich pedagogical program.
Moderna galerija wishes to thank the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Ljubljana, especially David Movrin, PhD, at the Department for Classical Philology.


Marij Pregelj was born on August 8, 1913 in Kranj, the son of Slovenian writer Dr. Ivan Pregelj. He studied drawing and then painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb (1932-36). In 1937 he became a member of the Slovenian Fine Artists' Society (the Independents) and began to exhibit his work with the group. During World War II he was imprisoned in a German and then Italian POW camp. After the war he first taught painting at the School for Arts and Crafts in Ljubljana until 1948, when he was appointed Associate Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana, where he taught for the rest of his life. In 1960 he was elected President of the Yugoslav Fine Artists' Association; he served as President for four years. He went on study trips to Paris, London, and Italy. He died on 18 March 1967 in Ljubljana. He received several awards for his work, including the Prešeren Award twice; the Golden Plaque (or that Grand Prix) at the 2nd Triennial of Fine Arts in Belgrade; and a medal for his illustrations of Decameron in Certaldo, Italy. He was posthumously awarded the Jakopič Prize.

Extensive and varied, Pregelj's oeuvre is among the most notable modernist oeuvres in Slovenia and also the then Yugoslavia, and illustration is a significant chapter of it. He won the Levstik Prize for illustration three times: in 1949 for his illustrations to France Bevk's Otroška leta (Childhood Years), in 1957 for Jack London's White Fang, and in 1960 for Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea. In the early postwar period, he illustrated, in addition to the above-mentioned Decameron, Yury Krymov's Tanker Derbent (1949), the Serbian translation of Fran Levstik's Martin Krpan (1949), African Tales (1956), Fran Saleški Finžgar's novel Pod svobodnim soncem (Under the Sun of Freedom) (1958), and later in life the Serbian translation of William Faulkner's Knight's Gambit (1967). Pregelj's earliest attempts at illustration date back to the prewar years: he first tried his hand at it in 1933, with Ernst Eckstein's The Visit to the Cells. His first book illustrations date to 1944, for the novel On Holiday, written by his father Ivan Pregelj.

Pregelj's illustrations to the Iliad and the Odyssey represent a turning point both in the development of his illustration and his oeuvre at large, affecting his understanding of modernism in the postwar period. Clearly, the content of the epic poems resonated with the artist's inner world, with his "subject-matter and artistic" focus and other, more intimate preoccupations evident in his oeuvre throughout his life. The human figure in its telling poses, gestures, and countenances, reflects - in addition to various West European influences and references indicative of Pregelj's vast knowledge of art history - above all the artist's experience of World War II, the questions of human condition that came to the fore in the postwar period.

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