Wyczółkowski, Leon Autoportret


Leon Wyczółkowski (1852-1936)
often visited Ukraine since the 1880s. He visited Kazimierz Podhorski in Berezne, his brother Michał and his sons – Władysław and Stefan*. Later he remembered, “I left in the night and in the morning I couldn’t get enough. I couldn’t remain indifferent to the beauty of nature. The most beautiful country. […] Groves of beehives […] with dozens of hives […] the river flowing, delightful spring, a mass of reeds with wicker, fishermen turning, flowering trees, sky like noon, purple, ultramarine, and on this background a flowery. Colorful people, bukszpany, ribbons, wonderful pictures like from a fairy tale. No wonder that afterwards I couldn’t convince myself to anything else. ”**.

Description of the painting:
The artist often returned to Ukrainian themes and motifs. The painting discussed today is an example of a self-portrait in the open air. This is a cropped fragment of an earlier composition entitled “Self-Portrait on Horseback” / “Greeting of the Steppes”***. In 1903, the work presented in the Rogalinsk Gallery was awarded the Probus Barczewski Prize.

On the foreground, on the left side of the picture field, the artist asymmetrically placed his image shown to the height of the chest. The model’s gaze is directed to his right. The contour of the bald head has been accurately given. The face, with clearly marked cheekbones, is adorned with mustaches and a neatly trimmed beard. Slightly open lips reveal whitish teeth lines, accentuating the fatigue of the figure from the effort put into the just-completed gallop. Wyczół is dressed in a dark black shirt and a red cloak thrown over his shoulders, known from his previous images. On the right side of the presentation, the outline of the horse’s back and mane was drawn. In the background, the Ukrainian steppes appear. The line of the horizon, reinforced with contrasting colors of the sky and the ground, is cut through by a swirled white smoke, perhaps a dying fire, a trace of the night spent in hastily constructed huts, among the sandy dunes.

The Ukrainian motifs in Leon Wyczółkowski’s works are associated with his fascination with luminism, enhanced by Impressionist experiences from his stay in Paris. Captured against the backdrop of the vast steppe expanses, the sunrise allows for light phenomena to be observed on the texture of the costume of the portrayed and his face. The painter marks them with blue, colorful spots. The pastel technique used gives the work visual lightness and intensive coloring.