Sunday, January 4, 2015

Jacek Malczewski

Vicious circle
oil on canvas
174 × 240 cm
The National Museum, Poznan, Poland

The vicious circle - an allegory of the role of the artist. Left, illuminated portion of the image symbolizes the sensual intoxication, right, dark -  shows the fears and anxieties of the creator. The artist presents himself as a boy sitting on top of the ladder. The image can be interpreted as a question about the role of the artist.

Jacek Malczewski (1854-1929) was a painter and illustrator, initiator and main representative of Symbolism in Polish painting at the turn of the 19th century, stimulating the rebirth of the Romantic tradition. He is one of the greatest and most acclaimed artists in the history of Polish art. His work combined Symbolism with themes of Polish patriotism and martyrdom. He espoused the realism of, among others, Gustave Courbet and the Barbizon school. He is regarded as father of Polish Symbolism.

He was born in Radom, part of Congress Poland controlled by the Russian Empire. During his childhood and early teen years he was greatly influenced by his father, a Polish patriot and social activist who introduced him to the world of Romantic literature inspired by the November Uprising. His father instilled into his son the ideas of patriotism and national messianism expressed most fully in Polish literature of the Romantic period. Similarly, the strong sense of being Polish, sensitivity to the beauty of his country's landscape and a knowledge of national folk art were established during his stay at the residence of his uncle, where he was tutored by a future writer and publicist.

Over the course of some 30 years between 1885 and 1916, he regularly visited Paris, Munich and Vienna. He made several trips to Italy, Greece and Turkey. He also took part in the archaeological expedition. He drew his inspiration from a wide variety of sources often exotic or even biblical, but inadvertently, translated them back into Polish folklore, tradition and motives in his own painting. In 1897?1900 and 1912?1921 he served as Professor of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. He was elected Rector of the Academy in 1912. His art has been compared to that of French Gustave Moreau, Swiss Arnold Bocklin, and even Spanish Salvador Dali. His paintings received high honours at the international exhibits. He lost his vision towards the end of his life and died in Krakow.