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- Author Stanisław Wyspiański (1869—1907)
- Date of production 1902
- Dimensions height: 47.5 cm, width: 62.8 cm
- Author's designation 1902 |SW
- ID no. MNK-III-r.a-12549
- 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
Portraits of children occupy a special place in Wyspiański’s artistic oeuvre. Without the unnecessary sentimentalism, treated in a natural, affectionate manner with a great dose of sensitivity and realism, and captured in new and unexpected depictions, they refreshed the usual connotations related to this genre.more
Portraits of children occupy a special place in Wyspiański’s artistic oeuvre. Without the unnecessary sentimentalism, treated in a natural, affectionate manner with a great dose of sensitivity and realism, and captured in new and unexpected depictions, they refreshed the usual connotations related to this genre. The Study of a Child (Helenka with a Vase) on display is an excellent example of Wyspiański’s mastery.
A pensive young girl with long, dark blonde hair that falls around her face in a gentle wave is presented at the moment when she is resting her hands on the table top and, deep in thought, is drawing her finger on the ceramic vase with forget-me-nots. The lightness of the stroke outlining the smooth contour of small hands and the profile of the artist’s daughter and a soft spot of colour modelling the child’s face perfectly convey the elusiveness and unstudied character of the depiction. The general atmosphere of the depiction is harmoniously in tune with the muffled and subdued colour scheme based on the combination of the pink, sky-blue, carmine and glossy dark brown table top. The mood of sleepy engrossment of thought is counterpointed with the sweeping diagonal line of the table which introduces the dynamics and echoes of Gauguin’s stylistics and Japanese woodcut. Another accent that co-creates the depiction’s expression is the strong, rich colour and the oriental pattern of the girl’s shirt.
The artist’s children, Helena (1895–1971), Mieczysław (1899–1920) and Stanisław (1901–1967), were frequently depicted in Wyspiański’s portraits: deep in thought, sleepy, with hair tangled from dreaming. However, in this case the unseeing stare of Helenka and the lack of eye-contact with the viewer symbolically emphasise the inaccessibility of the child’s world, its direct and intuitive contact with the subconscious and the sacrum sphere. According to romantic beliefs, the child’s innocence, intuition and sensitivity allowed them to “reach deeper,” and thus better learn about the essence of things, which, in modernist views, turned the little ones into the intermediaries between the world of substance and transcendence. It is enough to remember that at that time Stanisław Przybyszewski was enraptured with the “wonderful mind of a child who sees the horror, mysteries and abyss in everything they see,” and these motifs appeared in the works of such artists like Jacek Malczewski, Wojciech Weiss, Olga Boznańska, Józef Mehoffer and Witold Wojtkiewicz.
The depiction of a plant in a vase may, in turn, remind one of the special contact of the portrayed with the forces of nature to which she still belongs, but with which she will soon lose direct contact in the act of growing up.
Elaborated by Kamila Podniesińska, PhD (The National Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved