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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Stanisław Wyspiański

Landscape from the Ore Mountains, 1905, Stanislaw Wyspianski

Jozio Feldman, 1905, Stanislaw Wyspianski
The other day I commented as to the fact that there has traditionally been a dichotomy of subject matter relative the artists' genders. I also mentioned that this was not so much the case now as then (then being a century or so ago. One hundred years ago, and long before that, women have tended to paint women (usually with their clothes on, unlike their male count-erparts). They also preferred domestic scenes, still-lifes, florals, and the occasional landscape (with flowers, of course). The Polish painter, Stanislaw Wyspianski, lived about a hundred years ago, but in seeing his work, minus his large, flowing signature at the bottom, one would never guess most of his paintings were done by a man. In fact, so dominant are his scenes of nursing mothers, sleeping children, and children's portraits that one could very easily dub him the "Mary Cassatt of Poland." His palette tends to be somewhat richer than hers and his compositions less varied, but apart from that, the comparison is quite apt.

For some reason, Polish artists tend to do a lot of self-portraits.
Stanislaw Wyspianski was the son of an alcoholic sculptor who had to give the boy up to his sister-in-law to raise after his wife died of Tuberculosis in 1876. His son was seven. His aunt, Joanna Stankiewiczowa, and her husband were of the Polish intellectual class in Krakow (then ruled by Austria). In living with his aunt, the young boy became acquainted with the painter, Jan Matejko, who was a frequent visitor and was the first to recognized young Stanislaw's budding talent, providing him his first art instruction. In 1887 Wyspianski enrolled in the Philosophy Department at the Jagiellonian University and the School of Fine Arts in Kraków. While studying at the University, he attended lectures in art, history, and literature. Matejko, who happened to be the dean of the School of Fine Arts invited Wyspianski to join in the creation of a polychrome inside the Mariacki Church. Upon graduating, Wyspianski was fortunate to be able to travel, visiting Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Prague and France. In France he studied at the private Académie Colarossi. Since the school fee was very high, Wyspianski applied for a grant. During his stay in France he got acquainted with Paul Gauguin. Together they visited art museums, where Wyspianski was especially attracted to the paintings of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes.

Barges on the Seine, 1894, Stanislaw Wyspianski

Two Towers of St. Mary’s Church in
Kraków, 1905, Stanislaw Wyspianski
It was in Paris that he first became attracted to drama. He attended theatre performances based on Shakespeare's and other classical era plays. Two of Wyspiański's later dramas, Daniel and Meleagra and Return of Odysseus were based on these early influences. From that point on, he began to concentrate on writing plays as much as painting. August, 1894, Wyspianski returned to Kraków, where he got involved in the modernist movement in painting and in designing stained glass windows using geometric, flowery, heraldic motifs. At the same time, as a painter, interior designer, and poet he worked with the Town Theatre in Kraków designing furniture and scenery as well as staging various dramas. A few years later, the theatre premiere on 2 July, 1901, of Wyspiański's drama, Wars-zawianka (Varsovian Anthem) brought him instantaneous acclaim. The premiere marked his debut as a playwright of national import-ance.

Planty Park at Dawn, 1894, Stanislaw Wyspianski
Study of a Woman, 1902, Stanislaw Wyspianski
In 1900, Wyspianski married Teo-dora Pytko, who was to be the mother of his four children. In November the same year he par-ticipated in the wedding of a friend in a nearby village. The wedding party was an inspiration for his highly ac-claimed play Wesele (The Wed-ding), a deeply critical and sarcastic expose of 19th-century Polish soci-ety. Wesele transformed Wyspianski from a moderately successful visual and verbal artist of the Young Poland movement into a visionary dramatist whose significance in Poland is often comparable to Ireland's W.B. Yeats, Eugene O'Neill in America, and Bel-gium's Maurice Maeterlinck.

Sleepy Stas (above-top), 1904, Sleeping Mietek With A Cable Knot
(above-bottom), 1904, Stanislaw Wyspianski.

Wyspianski became a professor at Krakow's Academy of Fine Arts in 1906. In his final years Wyspiański's health deteriorated. As a result, he underwent several medical treatments then settled into a small cottage in the village of Węgrzce. Stanislaw Wyspianski died of syphilis, which was incurable at the time. As a painter, Wyspiański's output was somewhat eclectic. Besides his dramas and poetry, there are views of Krakow, portraits, a dozen or more self-portraits, designs for stained glass windows, paintings, illustrations, graphic art, plans of furniture and interiors, and for the development of Wawel. Wyspianski loved to draw his children in everyday situations such as sleeping or feeding, such as Sleeping Staś (above-top), and a pastel drawing, Sleeping Mietek (above-bottom), both from1904, The Motherhood (below), from 1905.

Motherhood, 1905, Stanislaw Wyspianski


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