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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Jozef Pankiewicz

Quay of the port of Saint-Tropez, 1909, Jozef Pankiewicz
Jozef Pankiewicz Self-portrait, 1909
The average lifespan for an artist today (depending upon his or her lifestyle) tends to be around eighty years. I've not pursued statistics on this matter (or even checked to see if there are any), but just as the average lifespan for all people has gradually lengthened in the past century, I'm guessing the same is true of artists. Mostly I'm simply making an educated estimation based upon the many varying lifespans I've encountered over the years in writing about artists. For artists born in the two or three centuries after the Renaissance the length of their lifespans had little effect upon their art. Styles and tastes changed rather slowly. However, by the 19th-century, especially its latter half, that was no longer the case. An artist born during this period might easily live until the 1950s. And during the period from the 1850s to the 1950s, the pace of change in styles, techniques, even working modes accelerated at what we might consider a "breakneck" pace. Where once major changes in styles took a generation or more, by the advent of the 20th-century, major art movements were coming and going in as little as ten or fifteen years. For instance, Abstract Expressionism blossomed with the New York School right after WW II but was passé by the early 1960s. French Impressionism had a similar lifespan. All of which made life quite difficult for artists such as the Polish painter, Jozef Pankiewicz. Pankiewicz was born in 1866.
Flower Market in Front of the Church of St. Magdalene in Paris, 1890, Jozef Pankiewicz
The Old Town Square in Warsaw by Night,
1892, Josef Pankiewicz
Allowing roughly twenty years for a young artist to grow to adulthood and gains some semblance of an art education, that would make the Lublin-born Pankiewicz coming of age as an artist around 1886. Actually it was about that time when Pankiewicz finished his early training in Warsaw and left for St. Petersburg, art scholarship in hand, to study at Russia's Imperial Academy of Art. He finished there and headed for Paris in 1889, which would have plopped him down there near the middle of the Impressionist era. However this is not to say Pankiewicz became an instant Impressionist. He had been trained in the largely Neo-classical academic mode in Russia. Say and think what you like about academicism, as Pankiewicz Simchat Tora (below) would indicate, it does not wear off easily.

Simchat Tora, Jozef Pankiewicz--
Russian Academicism

However, Pankiewicz had the good fortune to meet in Paris, Pierre Bonnard, an artist about his own age, but one who had been immersed in Impressionism some years before and was in the process of throwing off it's limitations in favor of the many cross-currents of Post-Impressionism. Pankiewicz may also have met the American expatriate painter, James McNeill Whistler, about the same time. At least he seems to have been influenced by Whistler's nocturne paintings, as seen in Pankiewicz's 1892 The Old Town Square in Warsaw by Night (above, right). Although Bonnard introduced Pankiewicz to Impressionism as can be seen in the Polish artist's Flower Market in Front of the Church of St. Magdalene in Paris (above) from 1890, both Bonnard and Pankiewicz were also being sucked into the new Post-Impressionist mainstream, Bonnard drifting in with the Nabis, Pankiewicz with the Fauvists.

Mrs. Oderfedlowa and Daughter,
1897, Josef Pankiewicz
Little Girl in a Red Dress,
1897, Jozef Pankiewicz
All this time Pankiewicz was starting to receive important portrait commissions as well (usually children and sometimes their mothers). Not surprisingly, he seems torn between the soft focus of Impressionism as seen in his Little Girl in a Red Dress (above, left) and the strict, Caravaggio-Baroque style he picked up in Russia (flavored by some Whistler influence) as exemplified by his Mrs. Oderfedlowa and Daughter (above, right), both painted the same year.
Still life with fruits and knife, 1909,Jozef Pankiewicz--Cezannesh?
Japonka, 1908,
Jozef Pankiewicz
I'm not sure if all these styles should be seen a conflicting torment or a broad, stylistic blessing. Pankiewicz's Fauvist tendencies can be seen in his Quay of the port of Saint-Tropez (top), from 1909 while it's not hard to discern a considerable degree of influence by way of Cezanne in Pankiewicz's Still life with fruits and knife (above), from 1909. Around the same time we see Pankiewicz's experimenting with a sort of Fauvist Orientalism in his Japonka (left). Later, around 1914, Pankiewicz seems to have swung back toward Impressionism as seen in his Landscape with Church and Cypress Trees (below).

Landscape with Church and Cypress Trees,
1914, Jozef Paniewicz
Rue Cardinale in Paris,
1925, Jozef Pankiewicz
It's not at all unusual for artists in the late years of their careers to return to their roots. The problem is Pankiewicz had so many roots from which to choose. As his Rynek Kleparski market in Krakow (below) from 1930, Pankiewicz seems to have sought out a kind of Academic Impressionism yet his Rue Cardinale in Paris (left), from 1925, would appear to embrace neither in its dominant drabness. Pankiewicz died in 1940, to be remembered either as a very versatile painter or one who was prone to vacillate.

Rynek Kleparski market in Krakow, 1930, Jozef Pankiewicz


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