1. Home
  2. Slovakia
  3. Blog
  4. A painter whose work now enriches the Christmas

A painter whose work now enriches the Christmas

In Slovakia, Christmas is also linked to specially issued postage stamps. This year, the Slovenská Pošta postal service will issue a special stamp depicting one of the many Christological motifs in the work of Peter Michal Bohúň - The Queen of Heaven.
The 1850s motif depicts the Virgin Mary holding the Baby Jesus in her arms. She is wearing her traditional clothes, the red dress and typical blue cloak. Beneath her is a snake and she is surrounded by three angels. Part of the entire picture that includes Mary and Jesus, was turned into a special Christmas stamp.

This year we commemorate the 200th anniversary of his birthday. Peter Michal Bohúň was an important painter and lithographer of the Ľudovít Štúr generation (a Slovak political, cultural and revivalist activist) around 1850.​​​​​​

Born in a north Slovakia village, he was blessed with talent, which he used to paint many important works of art related to the Slovak national question. Although he started studying law in the first years of the 1840s, it was around this time that Bohúň chose painting as a hobby and painted his first works. To learn more he moved to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. After finishing the studies he returned to Slovakia to become one of the founders of Slovak fine arts.

In Bohúň's works, realistic portraits - with a focus on details and harmonising colors - of the intelligentsia, burghers and nobility, as well as important figures of the Ľudovít Štúr generation, stand out. One of the most famous is a portrait of poet and politician Ján Francisci, wearing a Slovak volunteer uniform during the Slovak Uprising of 1848/49.

Bohúň himself attended many important educational and political events hosted by the national activists of his time, and even participated in the uprising.

Occasionally, he also did landscape painting, based on the natural motifs of his home region of Orava.

He also accepted commissions from religious notables. Christological motifs are another recurring theme in Bohúň's work, for example in altarpieces in many villages and towns throughout Slovakia.

The the peak of Bohúň's work is considered the 1848 tempera sketches, which depict people in folk costumes from all over Slovakia.

However, the unfortunate results of the Slovak Uprising and the Hungarian Revolution forced him to change his painting style to a more realistic one.

In 1854, he moved to Liptovský Svätý Mikuláš with his wife and two children. He spent the next eleven years of his life as a teacher at a school for girls. Bohúň's family had a hard time despite receiving work commissions and later opening a photo studio. This was compounded by his suffering from tuberculosis and ever strengthening magyarization.

After an 11-year stint, the family moved again, this time to the village of Lipnik (now Bielsko – Biała) in Galicia, a historical region in southeastern Poland and western Ukraine. Unfortunately, Bohúň died of pneumonia in 1879.

Paintings that depict events are very important to the national and social movements. Peter Michal Bohúň created several that became a valuable part of Slovak history.