Teodor Axentowicz (1859-1938) gained fame as a portraitist. This type of presentation ideally fit into his income-generating activities. Young ladies from the upper class willingly posed for the renowned artist, who was appreciated in the Parisian salons, and who eagerly accepted such commissions. On the other hand, this allowed Axentowicz to focus on what seemed to interest him the most, on attempts to capture the mystery and individuality of the female nature. “Pure femininity is not senses, it is gender psychology […] The dominant accent in female heads and minds is expression. These heads are beautiful, sometimes even very beautiful, as is often the case among real women, but Axentowicz never stops at a beautiful mask. He is looking for life contained in expression.”*.
This love of studying the fair sex also led to his interest in female artistic education. In 1897, Teodor Axentowicz founded a painting school for women** in Krakow. Among its lecturers were Leon Wyczółkowski and Jan Stanisławski. He recognized the complexity of femininity and the creative potential it contained, which he meant not only to capture, but also to shape.
Description of the painting:
The discussed work, which is only an unfinished sketch, allows to trace the artist’s perception of the models. He focuses mainly on their faces. It is on it, more precisely – in the female eyes, that one can discover a whole range of dormant emotions. “Women in Axentowicz’s paintings never smile. Their expression is in their eyes. Contemplation, sadness, and often a strong dramatic accent shines through the beautiful eyes of Axentowicz’s women.” *.
On a fragment of gray paper, the delicate penciled bust of a young woman was captured. When creating a sketch of the portrait, the painter did not focus on the model’s outfit. He meticulously portrays the details of the woman’s face and headdress. Her face is captured frontally. Attention is drawn to her eyes looking straight at the viewer, brown, full of light, illuminating the model’s face. Above them are clearly outlined, black eyebrows. Her lips remain closed. Her dark hair was tied high and covered with a black, plain hat. The slightly tilted head to the right harmoniously fits in with the diagonal angle of the hat. The woman was portrayed in an unspecified interior. Behind her, a fragment of a window frame or shelf was barely outlined.
The expression on the model’s face fully reflects the feelings accompanying her, she is serene, calm and somewhat haughty. She is focusing on the temporary role she has to play.