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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Tadeusz Ajdukiewicz

Where there's money, there's art.
Portrait of Archduke
Charles Stephen of Austria
One of the tightest relationships in the world, both now and then, is that of money and art. In an area where economic times are bad, when there is little in the way of individual (or institutional) money to spare (what we call "disposable income") there is to be found little or no art. By the same token, as with virtually all highly skilled professions, money attracts artists. That was especially the case up into the early 20th-century when art served a much more functional purpose than it does now that pho-tography has advanced to such a degree. The rich and powerful were in charge of writing history, but to do so effectively, they needed the illustrative skills of artists able to depict real-istically what their clients demanded. Portraits were the most lucrative trade due to their sheer numbers. They made important people seem more important (above, left). Those who were especially adept in this field became history painters. And for the landscape painter, the money resided with those working to shape the nature of military history (below). Tadeusz Ajdukiewicz was adept in all three of these pursuits.

A scene from the January uprising of 1863,
painted 1874, Tadeusz Ajdukiewicz
Tadeusz Ajdukiewicz, Self-portrait
Tadeusz Ajdukiewicz was a Polish realist painter from around 1900, best known for his battle-scenes, portraits, landscapes, and paintings of horses. Ajdukiewicz was born in Wieliczka (the south central) Pol-and in 1852.  He was schooled in the fine arts in Kraków, which was then part of the Austrian sector of a Partitioned Poland. Later, he travel-led to Vienna and Munich where he furthered his studies. In 1877, Aj-dukiewicz moved on to Paris with side trips to the Near East with the Polish Count Władysław Branicki. It was while in Paris that Ajdukiewicz painted his most famous portrait, that of the beautiful Helena Modrze-jewska. Later Ajdukiewicz lived in Vienna, where he worked on com-missions for the aristocracy. During a trip to London, he painted a portrait of the Prince of Wales, Prince Albert Edward, son of Queen Victoria, who was later to become King Edward VII of England. An artist doesn't assemble a list of clients much more prestigious than that.

Helena Modrzejewska (and her big, ugly Doberman),
1880, Tadeusz Ajdukiewicz.
Ajdukiewicz was what we might call today a "jet set" artist. That is to say, he used his talents to ingratiate himself to the rich and famous, becoming a long-term guest of the various national aristocracies so prevalent before the "Great War" (WW I) upended the old world order in favor of various flavors of democracy. Besides Vienna and London, Ajdukiewicz travelled to Constantinople in 1884, where he was a guest of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. From there Ajdukiewicz moved on to apply his skills in Sofia, Saint Petersburg, and Bucharest. The artist was especially well-known for his numerous paintings of battle scenes and equestrian portraits of nobility (below). At one point, while in Bucharest, he was commissioned by the Romanian Ministry of War, to produce an album devoted to imperial army uniforms.

Rider in a Red Tuxedo, Tadeusz Ajdukiewicz
From a purely artistic point of view, some of Ajdukiewicz's best works were painted during this trip to the Middle East as seen in his Prayer in the Desert (below), from 1887, and his earlier, An Arab in the Desert (bottom), dating from 1885. With the onslaught of WW I, Tadeusz Ajdukiewicz joined the 1st Brigade of the Polish Legions in 1914. He died in battle near Kraków on January 9, 1916.

Prayer in the Desert,  1887, Tadeusz Ajdukiewicz
An Arab in the Desert, 1885,
Tadeusz Ajdukiewicz


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