On March 1, 1991, painter Bara Remec said goodbye forever in distant Argentina, in Bariloche, which landscape reminds of the mountainous Slovenian land. Some three months later, after more than fifty years, her works were exhibited again in her native Ljubljana.
She was always creative: she sketched and designed, carved from wood, collected stones during visiting mountains and sewed national costumes for her dolls. She was committed to art from her early childhood until the end of her rich creative life.
Bara Remec was born on January 12, 1910, in an intellectual in culturally powerful family of the renowned Ljubljana director, politician and businessman Bogumil Remec.
Bogumil Remec was a mathematician, and also an enthusiastic botanist, so he took his children to nature and encouraged them to hillwalking, climbing and skiing.
Mother Marija, born Debevec, wrote articles on cooking and housekeeping; she published them in periodicals, especially in supplements for women. She published three cookbooks, including a very popular and even nowadays up-to-date Varčna kuharica (Thrifty Cook) published during the war year of 1915.
Bara was most interested in painting and drawing images. She said that she liked going to school only because of drawing. Due to her success at the Lichtenthurn Institute, her teachers were often tolerant in assessing her knowledge of other subjects.
She also attended the Probuda private painting school. Her teachers were Saša Šantel and Mirko Šubic, she also had classes with Henrika Šantel.
During those years, Bara was happy because she could draw ten hours a day, and she was not interested in the craft.
Blossoming tree (1930/1945) by Bara RemecNational and University Library of Slovenia
In 1934, she graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, directed by Ivan Meštrovič. The dominant art direction of the time was impressionism, and the role models were Picasso, Jakopič and Maleš.
She was also taught by Vladimir Becić, an impressionist of the French school, who recognized Bara as an excellent artist. She followed his advice not to get married so that she would devote herself to art and develop as a painter.
Girls playing mouth organs (1933) by Bara RemecNational and University Library of Slovenia
After graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts, she was teaching drawing for two years at a Zagreb high school. She proved that she was able to make a living on her own.
Illustration from the Dom in svet magazine, 1941 yearbook 53, num. 2 (1941) by Bara RemecNational and University Library of Slovenia
When she got a job as a drawing teacher at the Ursuline Gymnasium, she returned to Ljubljana from the Croatian capital. She lived with her parents. She often went to the mountains with her family, and travelled to Italy and Prague with her father. For some time, she also studied painting in Florence.
Her paintings were exhibited in Zagreb on a presentation of the Academy students. Just before the beginning of the Second World War, she exhibited with Tine Gorjup in Ljubljana, the Lada art club of the Slovenian fine artists, and with Jela Trnkoczy.
As part of an exhibition of female artists of the Little Entente, she exhibited in 1938 with Czech and Romanian women in Prague, Zagreb and Bucharest where the artists were received by the sponsor of the exhibition, a princess from the Cantacuzene family, who paid a special attention to Bara.
Illustration published in the Dom in svet magazine, 1939, yearbook 51, num. 8 (1939) by Bara RemecNational and University Library of Slovenia
Already before and during the Second World War as well, Bara Remec established herself as a book illustrator. Her illustrations decorate the Dom in svet magazine, and the Slovenčev koledar, too.
The National and University Library keeps three Bara's pen drawings, which were published in the Slovenčev koledar for 1941.
Mary with child in her arms siting under a palm tree is one of the most beautiful Slovenian images of the Virgin Mary. She is drawn with minimal lines, and her gentle and elegant beauty is further enhanced by grace of a mother.
She successfully worked together with her brother-in-law Dr Tine Debeljak: Bara usually illustrated publications he edited and translated, and she also participated in the editions of his poetry. The publications were published in Ljubljana before and during the Second World War, and in Buenos Aires.
In 1943, a collection of poems Kitica Mickiewiczevih was published. The poems were translated by Tine Debeljak, who also wrote an introduction to the collection. Bara Remec contributed the drawings and engraved them by hand. The Library keeps six individual graphic sheets (clichés) and four pen drawings.
Bara Remec developed a recognizable artistic language in her illustrations and works on canvas.
Her attenuation of the visible is also reflected in her book illustrations which she placed in parallel with the world of poetry.
The line on the graphics of illustrations of the work Kitice Mickiewiczevih preserves the lyricism of a pen drawing. The dry-needle technique works more sophisticatedly and elegantly than a version would work in linocut or woodcut. With this work, the dry needle technique remained unique of her creations.
Tine Debeljak dedicated the book entitled Poljub (Kiss) that was published in 1951, to his wife and Bara's sister Vera Remec. The cover of the book, which is kept in NUK, is wrapped in grey velvet with engraved title Poljub.
She always took a sketchbook with her wherever she went. Already in the first month of her staying in Lienz, she exhibited some of her refugee motifs, later she exhibited in Rome with a group of refugee artists.
CeramicsNational and University Library of Slovenia
In 1948, Bara arrived in Buenos Aires. She found a job of a decorator in a ceramic factory.
Indian woman with a child by Bara RemecNational and University Library of Slovenia
She said that she soon became independent and began to live on her own. She traversed Argentina from north to south, painting all the time. When she first visited Bariloche, she was overwhelmed by the new, wild and colourful landscape. She also had her own small studio there.
She was one of the founders of the Slovenian Bariloche Mountaineering Association. She continued to cultivate passion for mountaineering she had brought with her from her homeland.
Bariloche by Bara RemecNational and University Library of Slovenia
One of the main motifs of her artistic creation was the diverse Argentine landscape and its original inhabitants - the Indians.
Tilcara by Bara RemecNational and University Library of Slovenia
She was one of the founders of the SKA (The Slovenian Cultural Action) School of Art in Buenos Aires. Her student Jure Vombergar wrote about her:
[…] everything she earned by selling paintings, she would spend for travelling to places where Indians lived, and lived a simple life there. […] She donated everything if there was anything left to her.
Such was Bara Remec, an independent yet sociable person, very connected with her family, and at the same time, a godmother to many Indian children in the north and south of Argentina, where she lived and painted.
She died peacefully, while sleeping, in Bariloche. Her grave, surrounded by stones she collected on her trips, lies beneath the mountains, among which is the one bearing her name - Pico Bara.
The featured documents are from the collections of The National and University Library and private collections.
Authors: Helena Janežič and Urša Kocjan
Exhibition: Mia Sivec
Translation: Janja Korošec
National and University Library of Slovenia, 2021