Joseph Czajkowski (1872-1947) was a painter and architect. He belonged to the so-called “monastic school”. He studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, later at the Académie Julian in Paris, at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow and the Vienna Academy of Arts and Crafts. He was a lecturer in painting and interior architecture. He was at the forefront of artists designing kilims and carpets. Which at that time was quite a common phenomenon, he combined the activity in the field of “pure” art with activity in the field of applied art. And he did it at a very high level.
Description of the painting:
In 1899, he was in Paris. During this period he painted the “In front of the Bookstore in Paris” belonging to the Rogaliński collection. It belongs to the cycle of nocturnes created by the artist. The composition of the work is based on a strong contrast between the first and second planes, emphasizing the bright background of the bookstore window. The silhouettes of the five people, one woman and four men, depicted in the foreground are undetermined black spots. This arrangement is deprived of depth and is read by the viewer as practically two-dimensional, flat, characteristic for kilims, woven representations, but also posters.
Light has completely dominated the picture. Its glow, however, makes it impossible to see the books. The main – one might assume – object of interest of the crowd gathered in front of the building. It should be noted that this kind of group portrait of people captured from behind was painted outdoors.
The specific framing puts the viewer behind a crowd of onlookers watching the exhibition. Leaving us a free space. The opening of the central part of the presentation to the observer follows. However, the viewer’s position does not allow us to see the objects presented to the passers-by. On the other hand, the physical barrier blocking the sight and directing it to the right is the figure of a man in a bright straw hat. As the only person, he is facing us in profile. He is not interested in the show window but uses the light coming from it to read the newspaper in his hand.
In Józef Czajkowski’s view, the light that appears in the background of the performance attracts the attention of the interested parties. This is an intrusive, dominant, absorbing and consciously exploiting the instinctive direction of the eyes to its source. It draws the viewer into a specific kind of visual game. Paradoxically, the presence and intensity of this light does not allow the viewer to see the objects which it was supposed to highlight in the crowded street of the bustling city. Therefore, the silhouettes of the figures immersed in darkness and the images of the objects cloaked in the luminous glow remain unidentified.