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Josip Pelikan (1885-1977), Slovenian photographer of Czech origin and legend of photography in the town of Celje

Josip Pelikan is one of the prominent figures in Slovenian photography. Excellent knowledge of photography and its laws ranked Pelikan among the best Yugoslav professional photographers of his time. For sixty-seven years, he masterfully captured Celje and its surrounding area into a lasting memory. He photographed city streets, spa towns and mountains, and was an active member of Sokol movement in Slovenia. He was not just an excellent portraitist, but also a documentary photographer of everyday life. His portraits impressed the public years ago and are still considered among the best in Slovenia.

Josip Pelikan was born in Tarvisio (Slovenian Trbiž, on the Slovenian-Austrian-Italian border) in 1885. His parents were Czech and had both dabbled in photography in their native Prague, which was considered at that time a highly developed city. They moved to Tarvisio because of the open position of a photographer. After his mother's death, in 1894, he moved with his father to the Slovenian town of Idrija. He learned from his father and later further expanded photographic knowledge in Vienna, Graz and Prague.

His first photographs were taken in Idrija where he registered as a photographer in 1906. A few years later, he also registered his photographic craft in the town of Brežice, hometown of his wife. Pelikan was lucky because he was able to pursue his profession during the First World War when he was mobilized. After the First World War, when the Primorska region was taken over by the Italians, he sold his studio in Idrija and planned to move to Brežice. On the way to Brežice, he accidentally found out about the sale of a photo studio in Celje, bought it and settled there. He worked in Celje until his death.

The glass photographic studio of J. Pelikan in Celje is nowadays a cultural monument of national importance since it is the only preserved example of such a photographic studio in Slovenia and one of the rare ones in Europe. In Celje, he significantly expanded and enriched his opus. Important personalities of cultural, social and political life visited his studio. His photographic achievements did not go unnoticed at photographic exhibitions around Yugoslavia where he participated. He spent the Second World War in Celje as a photographic chronicler of those difficult times of the Slovenian history. After the war, Pelikan largely devoted himself to portrait photography.

In Celje Pelikan expanded his opus by his shots of the Savinja Alps, as he was a hiking enthusiast. He also pursued architectural, industrial, tourist, urban, advertising and documentary photography. Pelikan also shared his skills and expertise with a new generation of photographers, talented men and women who continued his legacy. His faithful assistant was his wife Marijana and he also introduced his daughters Nada and Božena to photographic art. J. Pelikan left behind an invaluable treasure: a testimony of events, changes and growth of the town by Savinja River and its people. The town of Celje lost its chronicler in 1977.

Since 1997, his photo studio has been a part of the Celje Museum of Recent History (Muzej novejše zgodovine Celje). The museum's exposition presents a special collection containing historical photographic equipment, including travel cameras, mobile studio cameras, studio lenses and backdrops. Original photographs of various formats, negatives and photographic plates show mainly portrait, studio, industrial and mountain motifs. The collection of the Celje Museum of Recent History contains approximately 50,000 photographs and 10,000 negatives.

In 2011, the city of Celje paid tribute to Josip Pelikan and installed a statue of him in one of the most beautiful squares in the city, Trg Celjskih knezov. The statue is located in front of the town hall, designed by Czech architects Jan Vladimír Hráský and Jan Vejrych.



  • Museum material of the Celje Museum of Recent History (Muzej novejše zgodovine Celje)
  • Encyclopaedia of Slovenia, Mladinska knjiga, Ljubljana 1987-2002
  • Biographical lexicon of Celje. Online biographical lexicon, Central Library of Celje.