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Among all the portraits created by Leon Wyczółkowski, his self-portraits occupy a special place. They not only reflect the artist’s appearance in different periods of his life, but also act as records of the painter’s changing personality and moods. They also document his artistic development. Wyczółkowski created several dozen images of himself using oil, tempera, pastel, and graphic techniques. His first works come from the 1890s. He kept creating until the end of his life...

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Among all the portraits created by Leon Wyczółkowski, his self-portraits occupy a special place. They not only reflect the artist’s appearance in different periods of his life, but also act as records of the painter’s changing personality and moods. They also document his artistic development. Wyczółkowski created several dozen images of himself using oil, tempera, pastel, and graphic techniques. His first works come from the 1890s. He kept creating until the end of his life (a selection of his works can be seen on the website run by the Leon Wyczółkowski District Museum in Bydgoszcz) (Muzeum Okręgowe im. Leona Wyczółkowskiego w Bydgoszczy). The early self-portraits are saturated with colours and sun, and their compositions enrich the then-fashionable motifs, inspired, for example, by Japanese art and expressing fascination with nature and the landscape of borderlands. With the passage of time, and especially after the First World War, Wyczółkowski’s self-portraits began to be increasingly subdued in terms of colour; they emanated calmness and seriousness. In a self-portrait from this period, which is one of the exhibits from the collection of the Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, the artist dispensed with all the props and presented himself in an elegant, eye-catching suit instead. The portrait was created in 1921, the year of Wyczółkowski’s jubilee. Back then, the painter celebrated the 50th anniversary of his artistic work. On this occasion, the Kraków Society of Friends of Fine Art organised an exhibition of his works, located in Feliks Manggha Jasieński’s collection at the Palace of Fine Arts in Kraków. Wyczółkowski’s works were also exhibited in autumn, at the Zachęta Gallery in Warsaw. The artist was also awarded the Fourth-Class Order of the Rebirth of Poland and admitted to the Chapter of the Order.
Self-portrait by Leon Wyczółkowski belongs to the painting gallery of the professors at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków. The artist was associated with the School of Fine Arts and later the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, both as a student and as a professor. Wyczółkowski started working at the Academy in 1895 at the invitation of Julian Fałat. The painter was initially employed as a provisional teacher, and, from 1900, worked as a full professor. He resigned from his post after fourteen years of work – in 1911– and justified his decision by citing old age and lack of time. The painter’s biographer, Maria Twarowska, suspects that the decision was also influenced by the relationships at the Academy: the excessive loyalty of its leadership towards Austria, its financial problems, poor working conditions for students and the lack of willingness for further reforms. Wyczółkowski, in spite of his resignation from the post, remained in contact with the students.

Bibliography:

  1. M. Twarowska, Leon Wyczółkowski, Warsaw 1962
  2. Leon Wyczółkowski 1852–1936: w 150. rocznicę urodzin artysty: National Museum in Cracow, November 16 2002 – 16 February2003, ed. Krystyna Kulig-Janarek, Wacława Milewska, Kraków 2002.
     

Elaborated by Urszula Kozakowska-Zaucha (National Museum in Kraków),

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

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Self-portraits and “selfie” fashion ... The puzzle of the self-portrait

Currently, there is a fashion for self-portraits, popularly called selfies. Anyone can take them — using not even a camera — just a telephone. There is a narcissistic craving in us to show and see our own images. Once, creating a self-portrait was a process. Self-portraiture created the possibility of immortalising one’s image, while fulfilling the function of a tool of self-knowledge and self-reflection.

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Currently, there is a fashion for self-portraits, popularly called selfies. Anyone can take them — using not even a camera — just a telephone. There is a narcissistic craving in us to show and see our own images. Once, creating a self-portrait was a process. Self-portraiture created the possibility of immortalising one’s image, while fulfilling the function of a tool of self-knowledge and self-reflection. This served to explore one’s “I”, to encode information about oneself or play some kind of game with convention … to hide behind an image (Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz). This took various forms. An example of a multiple self-portrait is the painting by Pola Dwurnik: Mercy!. Out of the crowd outlined in the background, twenty-four images of the artist emerge; she is in a different mood and mental state in each.
The earliest known self-portrait was probably created in Egypt, around 2650 BC (Ni-ankh-Ptah). Self-portraiture was a rare phenomenon in antiquity (the self-portrait of Phidias, on the shield of Athena Parthenos, in the Parthenon in Athens). The Middle Ages saw the creation of idealized self-portraits; the author often painted himself as an individual assisting in a religious scene. An independent self-portrait appeared in the Renaissance as a result of raising the artist’s prestige and increasing the role of human individuality. According to the humanism of the Renaissance, the artist had become someone special, which is why artists often painted themselves turned towards the viewer (e.g. Albrecht Dürer).
Many artists painted self-portraits almost all their lives, thus creating cycles of their likenesses, including, among others, Olga Boznańska and Stanisław Wyspiański. In the case of Olga Boznańska, self-portraits are not only a reflection of the passage of time, but also the changing personality of the artist. The self-portrait of Józef Mehoffer is a faithful record of mood and moment; it reflects the intimate nature of the situation. One can even have the impression that it has the form of a sketch. Julian Fałat chose an unusual form of self-portrait; by blending his effigy into the Kraków panorama, Jan Matejko painted his self-portrait on a painting base in the shape of a circle.
Artists reveal themselves in a variety of different ways. It is typical to be presented at work, in a studio, or with family or friends (Stanisław Wyspiański with his wife). It also happens that they present themselves as historical, biblical, or mythological figures (Maurycy Gottlieb). The true master of this manner of self-presentation was Jacek Malczewski, author of the greatest number of self-portraits in the history of Polish art. Looking at them, it is hard not to suspect him of narcissism, but maybe this is just a sophisticated game with the viewer, a kind of planned show?
More self-portraits by Jacek Malczewski can be found in the following photo gallery: http://mnk.pl/fotogalerie/autoportrety-jacka-malczewskiego.

 

Elaborated by Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

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“Self-portrait” by Leon Wyczółkowski

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