Klemenc AHAS 10angl


A mid-19th century album of watercolours by Ferdinand Jungblut

Among the books that the Seminary Library of Ljubljana inherited from the Collegium Marianum (Marijanišče), the Catholic boys' orphanage and boarding-school disbanded after World War II, was a hardbound volume of watercolours, mainly town views and landscapes, by Ferdinand Jungblut. None of the works are signed, but the artist's name is inscribed on the title page, together with his rank in the army: Ferdinand / Jungblut / Canonier / der / 15ten Comp. An artist of this name can be found in no art dictionary, but a few of his works have already been published in Slovenia before, stating only his surname and the letter F. for his first name, so F. Jungblut: two watercolours depicting the town of Celje, and two presenting views of the the so-called "southern railway". Proceeding from the new piece of information, it was possible to continue the search. The academician Emilijan Cevc obtained some basic data from the Kriegsarchiv in Vienna and from the archives of the Akademie der Bildenden Künste there which show that Jungblut was born in 1810 (or 1811) in Vienna, he attended the academy for several years, enlisted in the army in 1831 and completed his service in 1845. All the rest remains blank.

The album under discussion contains 59 leaves of drawing paper and it is of an upright format (25 x 19 cm), although all the depictions, except two, are horizontal, so it appears that the binding is not original (some scenes were also trimmed to fit the volume's size). The watercolours and drawings were executed between 1840 and 1853 and all of them are dated not only with the year but also with the day and month, but they are not bound in a strictly chronological order. However, if we make a proper arrangement in our mind, they form three major groups, two of them related to the places of the painter's military service.

The earliest group (11 leaves) dates from 1840 and contains motifs from the environs of Vienna to the south of the city (Schwechat, Mannswörth, Simmering, Mödling, and Ebersdorf or Kaiser-Ebersdorf in particular, where his regiment was most probably quartered). These are mainly washed drawings in brown and they depict just a few architectural views, while for the main part they are landcapes showing the marshy land with groups of trees, shrubs, reeds, etc.

While painting the second group of motifs (25 leaves) in 1841 and 1842, this time executed in watercolours and a few of them in pencil, Jungblut with his regiment must have been staying around Linz as the presented subjects prove. There are two attractive vedutas among them which happily combine the view of the town and the landcape, and a few present individual buildings (e.g. the chapels at St. Margarethen near Linz, the castles of Wildberg, Steyregg, Hagen). Very interesting from a documentary viewpoint seem to be the depictions of a number of die Türme from the Lagerfestung Linz, now mainly ruined. In general, pure landscapes prevail again, portraying the undulating hills along the Danube around the Oberösterreich's capital, with idylic scenes of woods and meadows.

The youngest group of drawings and watercolours date from between 1844 and 1853 (23 leaves) and they show various places in the present-day Slovenia. According to the surviving works, Jungblut must have been coming to Slovenia almost every year after he had left the army, apparently to spend the summer months here and to paint attractive scenery. Most of the motifs show the town of Celje and its rural environs, the towns of Maribor and Ljubljana are presented in two views each, and three views are from around the picturesque place of Vitanje.

If we judge merely from the surviving album (and the other four watercolours), Jungblut belongs to the painters of the highly popular 19th-century genre, i.e. vedutas, which were generally meant to give an accurate topographical account of the place. However, it is not clear whether any of his works of this kind were translated into the graphic medium to be published in sets (suites). Such seems to be his starting point, but he continued by giving preference to pure landscape, which also dominates in his depictions of interesting architecural views. The painter clearly adhered to the school of realistic portaiture of the nature (practically no residues of romantic attitude can be traced), since he carefully paid attention to any detail, executing them with a tiny brush, which gives to his works a high degree of documentary objectivity. On the other hand, he was inclined to conceal (behind trees, bushes, protruding rocks) those parts that could make the identification easier (although a general information about the location is given in the captions below each scene), thus moving away from strictly topographical concern. He also avoided the convention of including staffage figures in vedutas or landscapes. Rather, he strove to render the atmosphere of the scene which bathes in sunshine in the majority of cases, with the interplay of light and shade minutely observed. A justifiable conclusion may be that in Jungblut's works artistic interest already prevails over documentary aspects.

For a more accurate presentation of Ferdinand Jungblut further study will be necessary which should result in new information about his life and, hopefully, in the discovery of a decent number of his works to render possible a competent judgement.