Sunday, January 11, 2015

Wladyslaw Podkowinski

Frenzy of Exultations (Ecstasy)
oil on canvas
310 x 275 cm
National Museum, Krakow, Poland

Wladyslaw Podkowinski (1866-1895), born in Warsaw, was a master painter and illustrator who was one of the first Impressionists and Symbolists in Polish art at the turn of the 19th century. He was associated with the Young Poland movement during Partitions. He began his artistic education in 1882 as a student of the Warsaw drawing school. He continued his artistic training at the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg in 1885-1886. He perfected his skills as a painter in Paris, where he lived in 1889.

He abandoned the conventions of realistic painting in favour of impressionist techniques that enabled him to capture fleeting visual impressions on canvas. After his return to Poland in 1890, he settled down in Warsaw. He consistently developed his Impressionist technique of painting, there. By applying tiny brushstrokes and founding the composition of the painting on the contrast between warm and cold tones, he managed to bring out glimmering patches of light and shade laying on leaves, flowers, and grass.

In 1891 he painted a Portrait of Wincentyna Karska which is considered to be the first portrait in the history of Polish art created in outdoors. In his landscapes from 1894 he applied spontaneous impasto technique and intensified the colours, as well as started to randomly place the main themes of the painting within its frame. In 1892 he introduced themes to his paintings that were typical of European Symbolism. They referred to literature and focused on the motifs of love and death. From then, his artistic interests developed two ways - the bright and luminous landscapes served as a counterpoint to murky, dense and expressive paintings that anticipated the emergence of early Expressionism.

His best known painting, Frenzy of Exultations, first exhibited in 1894, with its daring depiction of the well known iconographic motif of a naked woman on a horse, was surrounded by an atmosphere of scandal and public outcry, which escalated further after his attempt to destroy his own canvas.  However, in some circles of critics and artists the painting has been considered as a manifesto of new art and a sign of rebellion challenging established aesthetical canons. Driven by instinctive erotic forces, the woman on a demonic steed embodied destructive power.