Gostisa AHAS 7angl


France Mihelič –painting and photoghraphy

Since photography was invented in the 19th century, its relationship towards painting has been ambiguous. On the one hand, it has been understood as its rival, and on the other, painters welcomed it as a means to capture quickly changing, interesting scenes.

Several Slovene painters have relied on photography in their painting process, one of them being France Mihelič (1907–1998). His early photographs were just documents of picturesque scenes of daily life in the Serbian town of Kruševac (the place of his first job as a drawing teacher) to be employed in his realistic genre pieces. Later on, while living in Ptuj, his interest turned more towards landscapes and he made photos of various locations before he took to painting them. He again made a number of photographs for his subsequent large-scale compositions, employing photography to help him with figural groups. This time the photos are not just plain documents, but they are well conceived studies of selected human types, varied body postures or animated groups, and details of individual scenes, some of them taken several times from different angles. The most persuasive figures from his photos were translated literally into Mihelič's imaginative, ballad-tuned paintings, but in general he combined details from different photos, focusing on characteristic clothing, folklore elements, original expressions, etc.

Mihelič's latest photographs date from around the Second World War (shortly before it and some two years after it), when he took pictures of the Ljubljana Marshes (Ljubljansko Barje) and some other Slovene landscapes. Later on, when his painting moved more and more towards the fantastic, he gave up the use of photography in his creative process.

With its abundance of visual sensations, photography greatly helped Mihelič to enrich the repertoire of his motifs and subject-matter, all of which – no matter how deeply they might reach into the phantasmagorical world in his late works – are composed of realistic details, akin to photographic representation.