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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Leon Wyczółkowski

Plowing fields in Galicia, 1892, Leon Wyczolkowski
You know you've "made it" as an artist when they name an art museum as a tribute to your life's work. Of course, you may have to wait until you die, first, but its the thought that counts. It's helpful if your spouse sees fit to forego the proceeds from selling your work at a premium following your death, and instead donates a sizable portion of your oeuvre to such a museum. Moreover a posthumous exhibition is further ennobled by the addition of pertinent memorabilia as well--your easel, brushes, leftover tubes of paint, unfinished works, and perhaps a reconstruction of your studio. All that is precisely what Franciszka Wyczółkowska did following the death of her husband, Leon, in 1936. The District Museum in Bydgoszcz is now called The Leon Wyczolkowski District Museum. Bydgoszcz is in north-central Poland, by the way. (Will someone please tell me why Poles are so allergic to vowels?)

Wyczolkowski definitely wanted to be remembered.
This is only a small number of his many self-portraits.
The Sower, 1896,
Leon Wyczolkowski
Wyczółkowski was born in Huta Miastowska near Garwolin (east-central Poland). Born in 1852, following the Polish equivalent of high school, Wyczolkowski originally wanted to be a history painter emphasizing documentary realism and details. But after his trip to Paris he changed his mind. He turned his focus toward French Impressionism, painting dramatic landscapes such as his, Plowing fields in Galicia (top), from 1892. And, like all talented young male artists, he tried his hand at nudes as well (very few still exist). He also painted pastoral scenes in an impasto manner with impressionist lighting effects. For a short time Wyczolkowski also dabbled in Symbolism. Then around 1900 he darkened his palette. His work from then on is characterized by a richness of form and complex technical endeavors. A friendship with Feliks Manggha Jasieński caused him to expand his interests to include oriental scenes as well. Perhaps for financial reasons, Wyczółkowski mastered the art of painting flower arrangements and still lifes. In essence, during his lifetime Wyczolkowski came to portray almost the entire world of Kraków.

The Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, Leon Wyczolkowski

I once saw (scene at the piano),
1884, Leon Wyczolkowski.
During the years 1879-1880, Wyczolkowski lived in Lvov before returning to Warsaw, where he conducted classes in a private school of painting. For the next ten years, the artist moved to the Ukraine. Then, in 1895, Wyczolkowski was appoint-ed a professor of painting at the Kraków School of Fine Arts. In Kraków, he lived until 1929. Around 1921, Leon Wyczół-kowski donated the Wielkopolska Museum of Poznań a large number of works numbering more than 175 pieces. In return, for the donating collection, Wyczółkowski was given fin-ancial compensation from the Ministry of the former Prussian District. He used the money to buy a manor house in Gościeradz near Bydgoszcz. During the final two years of his life, Wyczolkowski was the head of the Department of Graphic Art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw.

Merry Pacholeta, 1891, Leon Wyczolkowski
Wyczółkowski blends three important periods of Polish art into his work. For over half a century of constant experimentation he has been perceived as a versatile artist, both in his methods of interpreting his content and in the selection of techniques. He was a master of several media In addition to oil painting. He also was adept at the use of pastels, watercolor, tempera, and of course, drawing. His activities brought to Polish art the elements of tradition, continuity, and stability. A proponent of historical paintings and a participant during the Symbolist breakthrough period, he became a staunch advocate of that style.

Sarcophagi.1852, Leon Wyczolkowski
Always something of a workaholic, Leon Wyczolkowski died after a serious illness in late December of 1936 in Warsaw.

The Head of Christ, 1892, Leon Wyczolkowski


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