Click on photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Juliusz Kossak

The Battle of Ostroleka, 1873, Juliusz Kossak
Juliusz Kossak, 1899,
Leon Wyczilkowski
I've never written about a Polish artist before, and I must confess I know next to nothing about Polish art so I've no idea if Juliusz Kossak is a great Polish artist or merely a very good one. But any artist who becomes the progenitor of four generations of painters and poets can't be insignificant. If you like horses and enjoy 19th century battle scenes involving the cavalry, you'll love the Kossaks. I've painted a few horses in my lifetime (portraits) and I'll confirm, it's awfully easy to paint bad horses. Any equine lover can easily spot anatomical errors while the effort to render the illusion of a shiny coat doesn't come easily. Couple that with huge canvases depicting a whole cavalry unit, both men and horses under combat stress, actively fighting another whole cavalry unit in the helter-skelter melee of battle, and you have a compositional and technical nightmare. Add to that the human figure dressed in flamboyant cavalry uniforms and the artist had better be...not just good...but great.
Faithful Companion, 1871, Juliusz Kossak
Juliusz Kossak loved painting battle scenes, it didn't matter which war, or even whether there were horse involved (though usually there were). Moreover, he also like painting the moments before and after a battle as seen in his touching Faithful Companion from 1871. His battles ranged from those of the Crusades to contemporary scenes of the Crimean conflict and the Franco-Prussian war of the early 1870s. He was born in 1824 and died in 1899 so he lived near and during some of the bloodiest conflicts of the 19th Century. Surprisingly, considering their unforgiving qualities, Kossak preferred watercolors over oils--difficult scenes with a difficult medium. He also liked painting massed armies, often parading, a delicate proposition considering the limitations as to size that painting on paper presents.
Wojciech Kossak Self-portrait
with a Horse.
Beyond his own painting career, Kossak taught his son, Wojciech (1856-1942), to paint as well, though the son's work follows that of his father insofar as military content is concern, the younger Kossak preferred oils and a looser, more impressionistic style. Moreover, the son also taught his son, Jerzy Kossak (1886-1955) to paint while the girls in the family, Zofia, Maria, Magdalena, and Gloria (from three different generations) became accomplished writers and poets. In more recent years, descendants of the painting Kossaks have conducted summer painting and poetry workshops at the family estate, Kossakowka near Krakow, Poland.
Miracle 15 August 1920, 1930, Jerzy Kossak. The younger generations painted WW I.
 Note: For a little fun with a Kossak painting, click here. Tip: Don't click and drag, just click to pick up, and click again to release.

No comments:

Post a Comment