Olga Boznańska’s (1865-1940) education began with private lessons in drawing, then she attended the Women’s Courses of Baraniecki in Krakow. As a woman, she could not be a student at the Academy. An important stage of her education was her stay in Munich and visits to European museums, where she was delighted with Velázquez, Monet and Whistler. Her goal was Paris, and that is where she settled and opened a studio after her first successes at exhibitions throughout Europe. She painted landscapes, still lifes, interior scenes and moody portraits, for which she became famous.
Description of the painting:
The titular “Edzio” is Edward Bernard Raczyński at the age of thirteen, the future diplomat and President of the Republic of Poland in Exile. He looks boldly, with bright eyes, a slightly raised nose and full lips that blush. The gesture of his crossed arms adds to the expression of nonchalance and self-confidence of the model. Perhaps this was a defensive gesture against the penetrating eye of the artist looking not only for the appearance but also the character of the portrayed.
The bright, shiny eyes look at us boldly, decisively and without embarrassment. Under the raised nose, the full lips blush. The proud face is decorated with protruding ears. The upright figure with crossed arms seems to give the model even more determination, self-confidence, and even nonchalance. Perhaps only the slight blush on the cheeks, the pink ears and the hidden hands testify to the skilfully hidden embarrassment that accompanied many of Boznańska’s young models.
However, the thirteen-year-old Edward Bernard, who probably posed in the presence of his father, or perhaps an older brother or mother, was not allowed to show impatience or embarrassment. He stands proudly, neatly combed, impeccably dressed, with a starched collar and straight back. Boznańska, as she was used to, surely made him pose for many hours, during which she watched the young man carefully. She was more interested in painting the soul and character of the models than their superficiality, which often, as in this case, is blurred by the matte haze obtained by painting with a dry brush on an unprimed cardboard.
Although a diligent student of the Third Imperial and Royal High School in Krakow, an aristocrat, he was certainly dreaming of bold plans for the future, he could not know what we know today. Edward Bernard lived for one hundred and two years. He managed to get married three times in this time. His last wedding took place when he was almost one hundred years old. The young boy in the painting could not also know that he would live through two world wars and spend most of his life away from his native country. From 1919 he worked in the service of independent Poland, the most important of which he took up in London in 1934-45 as the ambassador of the Republic of Poland. In history, he is best remembered as the President of the Republic of Poland in Exile. In 1991, he founded the Raczyński Foundation at the National Museum in Poznań, which transferred the rights to the palace-park complex in Rogalin, with the Gallery of Paintings and the former manor. One of the exhibitions in the Rogalin palace, located in its north wing, presents his London office. He was buried in the family church-mausoleum, named after St. Marcelina in Rogalin.