Discover the Ljubljana National Gallery and its Paintings

If you find yourself visiting Ljubljana, among the places you’ll see is the National Gallery. The Ljubljana National Gallery is Slovenia’s top destination for historical art. It contains much of Slovenia’s history, especially from its early days.

The National Gallery or Narodna Galerija holds the country’s biggest collection of fine art from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. It houses many exhibitions from the country’s foremost painters, together with many temporary exhibits.

Are you staying in Ljubljana for a while? Why not visit the National Gallery? Here’s everything you need to know about Ljubljana’s foremost museum.

History of the National Gallery

The National Gallery is the foremost central national institution for older art in Slovenia. It houses some of the largest collections of art, coming from all corners of Slovenia. Many of these fine pieces of art come from the High Middle Ages to the 20th century.

The founding of the society started late into Slovenia’s history. The National Gallery Society started in 1918, much of it being formality at that point. The movement to establish an “acropolis” for Slovenian start started late into the 19th century.

The first movement towards the establishment of a national gallery started with Peter von Radics, an aristocratic polymath, and correspondent. He worked with the then-mayor of Ljubljana, Dr. Ivan Hribar, and worked hand-in-hand with the Society of Christian Art (Društvo za krščansko umetnost).

In 1907, they compiled a sizable collection of older Slovenian art. The push through the decades continued by the people’s desire to establish a central art institution for Slovenia. 

The people ultimately slaked this thirst for artistic endeavors in 1925. During that year, Slovenians acquired the National Hall (Narodni dom). Acquiring a home for the art itself is only the first step.

Building The Art Collection

Of similar importance was growing the collection for public consumption. The regular, annual acquisition of works of art was a crucial project for the people involved.

Everything started with the legacy that came from the Strahl Will of 1929. When Karl Ritter von Strahl died that year, he bequeathed the National Gallery with an expansive amount of works. Known as an avid collector, the gallery received works by both domestic and European painters, which in 1930 was first exhibited to the public. 

By 1927, there were commissioned casts that came from the Louvre in Paris. These came to Ljubljana and underwent installation, which created the “Slovenian Louvre.” Another influx of funds as per the donation of Dr. Fran Windischer created a superb contribution too. 

Windischer was the President of the National Gallery Society and among its biggest patrons in its lifetime. It contributed to the art collection, which was unbelievable in both scale and value. The Windischer Fund still acts as the cornerstone of the gallery’s collection today.

The Art Obsession of Slovenia

Art in Ljubljana became a focus of energy among many of its educated. Much of the movement started in the last decades of the 19th century. During the time, a new generation of academically educated sculptors invigorated the artistic scene in Slovenia.

Many of these educated Slovenes set a new criteria for the quality of sculptural creation in the country. The art and sculptures of the 19th century in Slovenia were determined by the Baroque and craft carving tradition’s slow demise. 

Alojz Gangl (1859 – 1935) became one of the pioneers of the new art form. The academic realism became established, introducing new design principles to Slovenes. Much of this philosophy was apparent with numerous public monuments and portrait and genre sculpture.

Historical Artistic Choices Among Ljubljana’s Creatives

Soon enough, realistic orientation came together with the sculptural design. Much of the art form had naturalism, Rodin, and Art Nouveau as its inspiration. Many of the sculptures of the first decades of the 20th century were observable from many directions and styles. 

Much of Slovenian art was a testament to the revitalization of Slovenian sculpture and paintings. Among the most influential art in Slovenia at the time was Alojz’s first national public monument to the poet Valentin Vodnik (1887–1889). 

The portraits of Fran Šuklje (1886) and Josip Stritar (1894) are some of the best examples of realistic portrait art. The Baroque principles used were influential to the artists of the time.

Alojzij Repič is the most prominent representative of academic realism and is represented in the collection with a portrait of Jurij Šubic (1908), one of the many depictions of Slovenian artists created by this sculptor.

Among the sculptors of this period, one of the most important is certainly Ivan Zajec (Ljubljana 1869–1952), who, after studying at the Vienna Academy, continued his activity in Vienna, where his most famous work, the monument to France Prešeren, was created.

Ivan Zajc’s sculptures are expansive in the collection of the National Gallery. Even then, only a selection from his extremely extensive artwork is on display in the permanent collection.

What Does The National Gallery’s Collection Look Like?

The National Gallery’s collection has both permanent and temporary exhibitions. Much of these collections of paintings and sculptures contrast each other.

The permanent collection represents the core of the activities of the National Gallery. Most of the gallery space is intended for the installation of selected works from the collection within the National Gallery.

Even then, the museum understands that the possibilities of acquiring important works of art are diminishing every day. The permanent collection is growing slower than ever, considering the limited number and history of the collection.

Among the most important addition to the permanent installation after 1945 is only the inclusion of Grohar’s most important paintings, the others are much less noticeable. 

Much of the permanent collection arranges similarly, with curators handling the historical and stylistic divisions of the gallery. When you visit the gallery, you’ll see the Middle Ages and early modern sculpture, the Baroque, paintings of the nineteenth century and the beginning of this century.

Once you visit the gallery, you’ll notice the process of careful arrangement done by the gallery itself. The arrangement of the individual pieces always made a compromise. It was always a toss-up between chronology and the aesthetic arrangement of the space. 

The gallery likes to dedicate more space to individual subjects. They do this to allow a special experience in their unique appearance. The National Gallery also likes to create theming, adding a neighborhood of related works. 

At the same time, the airy layout allows a little more freedom in the occasional rearrangement.

What To Expect From The Gallery

What should you expect in the National Gallery? Much of the art in there change according to the theming that the curators try to create. Among their proudest collection is the comprehensive exhibition on Zoran Mušič.

Much of the collection came as a generous gift from the family of the artist’s brother, Ljuban. In its collections, the Gallery also holds Mušič’s works from different walks of life, either as a purchase, gift, or loan. The idea is to show off the various techniques that Mušič used throughout his long career.

Much of the National Gallery revolves around themes for a specific period. Their collections combine into different themes, many of which run anywhere from a month to around a year.

Among the projects of all-Slovenian character, the large exhibition Gothic in Slovenia stands out, which was organized by the National Gallery. The exhibition theoretically covered all artistic genres and the entire Slovenian ethnic territory.

Visitor Tips For The Ljubljana National Gallery

The gallery likes to cycle its exhibitions, depending on the theme they’re looking for. Before you visit, it’s best to look at their website and see if there’s a collection you’d want to see.

Visiting the National Gallery is a treat, as it usually has something for everyone. The gallery usually opens at 10 AM and runs until 6 PM or 8 PM, depending on the season. During the holidays, the gallery tends to close to let its staff enjoy the festivities.

The National Gallery is very kid-friendly and houses an area called the Gal’s Room. Children and family events are available here year-round, together with activities from their Gal’s Club.

The Gal’s Club is a workshop that serves as a creative outlet for many of its members. It allows social connections between children and their peers who have a similar passion for art.

Many of the members of the club have several benefits, including sessions led by museum educators. These include general knowledge of the art, academic painting, dance education, and gallery docents.

Like any museum in Ljubljana, the National Gallery also houses a cafe where visitors can rest. The library is quite extensive, together with a gift shop and reading corner.


The Ljubljana National Gallery is among the finest achievements of Slovenia when it comes to art. The museum hopes to open people’s minds to various interests in art. It is there for people’s eyes to feast on and create a better appreciation of Slovenia’s art history.

If you’re going on a Slovenia tour, the National Gallery is a must-see. A museum tour of every art locale in Ljubljana is a pilgrimage to everyone creative.

There’s more to Ljubljana than art too. You can also visit various locations in and around Ljubljana, from the famous works of Plecnik to the traditional markets of Trznica

Why not give the National Gallery a visit today? A nice, slow afternoon after going around the Old Town can be a relaxing slow down for you. Feast your eyes with the history and the beautiful art form that built the foundations of today’s Ljubljana.

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