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- Author Stanisław Wyspiański (1869–1907)
- Date of production 1904
- Dimensions height: 47.7 cm, width: 62.2 cm
- Author's designation SW 1904
- ID no. MNK-III-r.a.-10895
- Branch The Feliks Jasieński Szołaysky House
- Acquired date donated by Feliks Jasieński in 1920
- Object copyright The National Museum in Kraków
- Digital images copyright public domain
- Digitalisation The National Museum in Kraków
Wyspiański left twelve self-portraits. Every one of them is a fascinating record of the physical change and current emotional state of the artist according to his often-repeated belief stating that “man (...) changes irretrievably; they are changed by their experiences and thoughts. A portrait is a reflection of a moment, an artistic reflection seizing things in their very essence.”more
Wyspiański left twelve self-portraits. Every one of them is a fascinating record of the physical change and current emotional state of the artist according to his often-repeated belief stating that “man (...) changes irretrievably; they are changed by their experiences and thoughts. A portrait is a reflection of a moment, an artistic reflection seizing things in their very essence.”
The presented work was completed in 1904. Against a neutral background, in a close frame, two young people appear: a robust woman in a colourful Kraków outfit and a small figure of the artist with an oval face, a high forehead and a small red beard wearing a peasant doublet nonchalantly thrown onto his narrow shoulders. The flat colourful patches marked with a clear contour form a uniform and a tasteful painting composition whose decorativeness is intensified by the rich colouring built of harmonious reds, violet and orange completed with the abstract ornament of the embroidered dress.
Manifesting the insight he was famous for, the author captured the psychological aspects of his marriage. The common features of Teofila and her life-giving robustness stand in contrast with the subtle, lean body of Wyspiański stamped with a terminal illness. Fragile and delicate as he was, it is he who stands with his side to the viewer and seems to be protecting his wife from the interference of the outside world. The painting’s dominance intentionally lies in the hard, questioning sight of the both of them, and the slightly provocative way in which they look at the viewer. The painting was created four years after their wedding when the union of a well-known artist and his aunt’s servant of peasant origin still bore the signs of a moral scandal and was the subject of unrefined jokes in Kraków circles. The fascination with Teofila’s vitality is combined here with Wyspiański’s specific longing for simplicity and aversion to the bourgeois prejudices. “It is all a «social» comedy,” he commented ironically in his letter to Stanisław Lacek, “that my wife is not from the city, from the so-called intelligentsia (...).” On the pages of Wesele [The Wedding] he delivered this punch line: “Weź pan sobie żonę z prosta: duza scęścia, małe kosta.” [“Mister, take a simple wife: lots of happiness, small costs.”] The ostentatiously highlighted Kraków outfit of Teofila, with the triple string of beads, proves not only the artist’s interests in folklore but his authentic faith in the hidden forces of this social class which, as the healthiest part of the population, was to be the footing of our native traditions and the hope for national rebirth. In this view, the sacramental union of Wyspiański and Teofila may also be interpreted as the symbolic return of the disease-ridden artist, who is aware of his imminent death, to the sources of life and pure nature untainted by civilisation.
Elaborated by Kamila Podniesińska, PhD (The National Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved