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Gallery of Polish Masters - 4. In the eyes of friends or recesses of the soul

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4. In the eyes of friends or recesses of the soul

For a long time the portrait performed the function of photography, which means it served as a record and documented the realities of the era and the presence of an individual. Only artists associated with the Young Poland Modernism tended to capture the individual character of a portrayed person, their traits, preferences and the psychical condition of the model. They wished to preserve their own image, the image of anonymous models as well as their family members, friends and acquaintances. It is worth mentioning a few interesting examples of artist-model relationships.
Let us start with an exceptionally beautiful painting by Olga Boznańska – Portrait of Franciszek Siedlecki. It is a most outstanding representation of Post-Impressionism in Polish art and the favourite artist of Krzysztof Musiał (the owner of the collection). Boznańska created her own style, defined as Intimism – her paintings are personal and atmospheric, as if their main intention was to inspire the viewer to intimate contemplation. And that is the way we perceive the image of Franciszek Siedlecki – a graphic artist and a painter-Symbolist, a decadent dandy – a portrait produced from warm saturated colours. He was the artist’s friend from the time of her stay in Munich. A deep in thought somewhat absent-minded model holds a burning cigarette in his right hand, which emphasises his reserve and the air of mystery. Krzysztof Musiał tried to purchase this painting for a long time and today he thinks that it is one of the most valuable works in his collection of prewar art.
Portrait of Xawery Dunikowski, a well-known sculptor depicted by Leopold Gottlieb, conveys another kind of expressive mood and internal anxiety. The artists were friends from the time of their studies at the Cracow academy, both were fascinated by Stanisław Przybyszewski. They made a journey to Jerusalem together in 1906, where this disturbing image of Dunikowski was painted. A year earlier Dunikowski had shot dead the painter Wacław Pawliszak at Lijewski’s cafe in Warsaw after the latter had slapped him on the face in public. Pawliszak, Jan Matejko’s pupil, was a troublemaker commonly regarded as violent and mentally unstable. Before this incident, he had plagued the sculptor because of a past dispute of honour between them. That is arguably why the murder was recognised to be a crime of passion. After long legal proceedings Dunikowski was released on bail of two thousand roubles – which was the equivalent of the salaries of two school inspectors. Karol Stryjeński was an interesting figure too. The picture of him, Portrait by Józef Mehoffer shows him as a self-confident man, looking into the future with hope and courage. Karol Stryjeński was an architect, sculptor and community worker. In the interwar period he held many significant positions, for example the director of the Institute of Art Promotion in Warsaw. The creation of Karol Stryjeński that is best known and has served the needs of ski jumpers up to the present day is Wielka Krokiew in Zakopane. The portrait from the Gallery of Polish Masters had been created 2 years before Stryjeński married a famous painter Zofia, a stormy marriage in which the architect turned out to be a tyrant and despot…

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