The Bratislava City Gallery houses the collection containing over 34,000 works. Since its establishment in 1959, when it was separated from the Bratislava City Museum, the Gallery has enriched its collection through donated and purchased acquisitions on a regular basis. The visitors can see crucial works from the collection in permanent exhibitions. In 2008 the Gallery opened three exhibitions at the Palffy Palace, mapping the development of fine art from the nineteenth century up to the present day. In a slightly modified way it is also presented in the exhibition “One and a half century. Painting and sculpture from the period of 1800 – 1950 in the Bratislava City Gallery´s collections”. Our aim is to provide a comprehensive overview of crucial styles and subjects in the art of the period under the focus through the works of art by Central European visual artists, many of whom considerably influenced the local art scene.
The earliest collection items are represented by portraits, be it official portraits in the manner of classicism or portraits commissioned by burghers during the Biedermeier period. Among the most captivating ones are the portraits of little children, which were especially popular with the public. Local art production is represented by several views of Bratislava that still maintained a status of the coronation town in the first half of the nineteenth century. But the current trends in visual culture were set by a nearby Vienna; the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna was attended by many artists whose works can be seen in the present exhibition. The first art selling exhibition in Bratislava was held only in 1883 to support the erection of a monument in the honour of Johann N. Hummel. Two years later, Bratislava Art Association was established. In the area of painting and sculpture, the last third of the century is characterised by a plurality of styles; in portraiture, for instance, the tendencies of realism and elements of naturalism prevailed. The gap between exponents of academic art and proponents of unofficial art movements was getting wider.
Slovak fine art in the first half of the twentieth century was formed in the conditions of permanent changes affecting life of each individual including the artists. World events of unprecedented intensity, social catastrophes, the break-up of states, two world wars, revolutions, all these events had a tremendous impact on people´s life. And it was in this turbulent period that the autonomous and authentic art emerged that laid the foundations for Slovak modern art.