Ernst Mayer, Castle Zaprice, watercolour, around 1880
Ernst Mayer was born in Himmelberg in today’s Austrian region of Carinthia on May 28, 1839, and died in Rijeka in Croatia on February 14, 1926. He studied at “Tehnikum” in Graz and in Vienna and at the cadet institute in Venice. He was a cadet of the first rank of the Austrian Navy. In 1863, as a temporary assistant, he was assigned to the Hydrographic Institute in Trieste. In 1867, he came to Rijeka for professor at the Military Maritime Academy, where he lectured on several subjects, such as descriptive and practical geometry. In addition to the field of expertise in which he wrote several books, he devoted most of his free time to painting, especially watercolour and drawing techniques. It is in this area, however, connected with Kamnik.
The Intermunicipal museum Kamnik bought Mayer’s sketchbook and 40 watercolours, which refer to Kamnik in the 80’s of the 19th century. He certainly came to Kamnik for an annual holiday in the Prašnikar’s Spa, which operated after 1876. At that time, it was a typical bourgeois form of holiday, the so-called “summer freshness” or Sommerfrische. The townspeople spent their summers in the fresh air, mostly in the countryside with a simple, bustling lifestyle. Holidays are supposed to be a contrary world to the working environment, and in this way, we can also explain the visit of Professor Ernst Mayer, who has replaced the marine climate with the fresh mountain. As it was customary, he rented an apartment in one of the villas near the Prašnikar’s Spa for a month or two and made a short break with walks around the city and the surrounding area with a sketch under his arm. He thus preserved the images of Kamnik in the 1880s, that is, the mass use of photography and the first postcards in the 1890s. He has repeatedly depicted the ruins of the Old Castle, the Chapel of Small Castle and the city below it, the Zaprice Castle, the wooden bridge and other sights in the vicinity of Kamnik.