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Author: Beata Piechocka

Mulatto 35х30см, MDF,oil. Tatyana Mironova at BeArte Gallery. Winner" of Russian Art Week 2018

Interview with Tatyana Mironova

Artist – Tatyana Mironova
Country – Russia, Smolensk
Born – 1978
Education – High education  – University of Arts
Main Theme – portraits, animals and birds
Main Art Subject – paintings and bas-reliefs
Inspired by – wildlife, human, “holy element”
Favourite artists – Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, from contemporary – Fred Wessel, Koo Schadler, Loetita Pilaut, Richard Clifton, Slava Fokk and others
2008 – was awarded a letter of appreciation from the Smolensk City Council for the creation of highly artistic paintings – winner at the exhibition of young artists
2018 — winner in the international exhibition «Russian Art Week», portrait genre, category “Professional”, Moscow
Tatyana Mironova for BeArte Gallery
Tatyana Mironova for BeArte Gallery
In modern art, there are directions that are just not interesting to me. For example, abstractionism.
In my artwork, I follow the rules – good drawing, composition, necessary contrasts.
Mulatto 35х30см, MDF,oil. Tatyana Mironova at BeArte Gallery. Winner" of Russian Art Week 2018
Mulatto 35х30см, MDF,oil. Tatyana Mironova at BeArte Gallery. Winner" of Russian Art Week 2018

Beata Piechocka: What was the beginning of Tatyana as an artist?

Tatyana Mironova: Like many children, I began to draw in early childhood and painted mostly people: I understood that I have to paint to have a beautiful image in the end. I really enjoyed looking at the smallest details of painting on wooden toys for a long time. I have this attention to details in painting now. It can be said that in painting the image of a person, a bird or an animal, the process consists of these small details: from small things a large one is born. I grew up in a natural environment in a big house and loved to watch sunsets and sunrises, young leaves of trees in spring, and snow-white fields in winter. Perhaps then I felt the power of colour and contrast. In my grandmother’s house, I really liked to look at the reproduction of the painting “The Unknown” by the famous Russian artist Kramskoy, I liked the beautiful contrasts and the face of the woman painted in the picture. Subsequently, this work inspired the creation of a self-portrait “Harmony in Black”, which participated in the All-Russian, then the international exhibition of portraits in the Erarta Museum (St. Petersburg) and was sold.

BP: Looking at your paintings, it is difficult to avoid the impression that you are very inspired by the art of the Early and Late Renaissance and the Russian icon. Where does this connection come from?

TM: My main subject in the painting is portraits. And, of course, I admired the masterpieces of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, copied their works. It is believed that the realistic image of a person was the main goal of the artists of the Early Renaissance. But these great creators have achieved more, reflecting the inner world of man in their paintings. When I look at old Russian icons, I understand that they are spiritualized, forcing the viewer to start a dialogue with himself, to become better. Religious scenes are also in the paintings of Renaissance artists and of course in the portraits, the artist must reflect the soul of man, his inner world. I always remember this when I paint a portrait.

BP. In your biography, you pointed out contemporary artists like Fred Wessel, Koo Schadler, Loetita Pilaut, and Richard Clifton. All of them derive a handful of the achievements in art by presenting it in a new modern version. Maybe except Richard Clifton who rather inspired you about the subject. For what reason do you think old art can be so appealing?

TM: Yes, many contemporary artists are interesting to me. Basically, those who know how to synthesize the aesthetics of classicism and modern art. Very interesting are those artworks where I see the synthesis of genres. For example, a realistic classic portrait of a person on a gold (or decorative) background, possibly with elements of abstraction. Thus, realistic art appears in a more modern context.

BP. In modern times it is difficult to indicate one leading direction of art, basically, everything is allowed. How do you feel with such freedom as an artist? Does the lack of rules in art bother or help you in your artistic work?

TM: In my opinion in modern art there are directions that are just not interesting to me. For example, abstractionism. In my artwork, I follow the rules – good drawing, composition, necessary contrasts.

BP. If you had to choose the direction of the art that is closest to you, what would it be?

TM: Realism, animalism, symbolism. These are the directions of art that are closest to me when the artist influences the feelings and mind of the viewer and expresses the joy of life.

BP. What kind of technique do you use in your painting?

TM: I paint with acrylic and oil paints on canvas or wood (MDF panels). I also use gold and silver leaf in my work, this is one of my favorite materials that give originality to my artworks, and this is a very important moment for the success of the artist, something that distinguishes him from other artists.

BP. What motivates you to paint?

TM: For me, art is life. Without it, life is boring and uninteresting, I understand that painting develops my mind, taste, sense of beauty. Often, the picture begins with the idea of a combination of colour, then I think about composition, and the patience and work. And, of course, I am glad that I found my viewer who loves and understands what I am doing.

The Little Red Riding Hood by Tatyana Mironova at BeArte Gallery
Little Red Riding Hood by Tatyana Mironova at BeArte Gallery
Self Portrait in Red by Tatyana Mironova at BeArte Gallery
Self Portrait in Red by Tatyana Mironova at BeArte Gallery

BP. In 2018 you became a winner of the international exhibition “Russian Art Week” in Moscow in the category of “Professional” in the portrait genre. The painting which was rewarded is “Mulatto from series of portraits the “Faces”. What do you think has determined your win?

TM: The picture “Mulatto” is a small but original work, which participated in the nomination “Synthesis of genres”.  A young black woman on the background of gold leaf – really original and creates a beautiful contrast. In addition, there is a feeling of luxury, chic.

BP. “Mulatto” reminds me of the coffin portraits from Fayum in Egypt. So, all this together: the icons, the Byzantine golden background contains the element of Greek art after Christ. What do you think about my connotation?

TM: Yes, this picture is really similar to Fayum portraits in colour, gold leaf is also often used in iconography. If in portraiture a gold background is applied, then it emphasizes the divine origin of man, reminds us that each has his own mission on earth.

BP. When I look at golden backgrounds and deep, spiritual eyes on your portraits I have the impression that you are the heir of the idea of a “holy” element in each of the paintings you’ve created. Is that what your artworks are about, about this divine element?

TM: In portraiture, the psychological component is very important, the image and the viewer interact. It takes time, effort, the skill of the artist in order to really create a living portrait. I think that the portrait is good if it contains the idea of the “holy” element.

BP. When you are painting portraits, what do you pay the most attention to?

TM: In portrait painting, as in any painting, good drawing and composition are very important, but what is always difficult is that the artist must reflect the soul of a person, his image

BP. In addition to portraits, you also create icons. Do you copy ideas or involve your own interpretation?

TM: There was a period in my creative activity when I was looking for my own way, so I experimented a lot with different styles, techniques, materials. I was always interested in icon painting, especially ancient icons. I studied the technology of icon painting with egg tempera on a plank of wood, as icon painters of the distant past did. Canonicity is the main feature of an icon, of course, it is an exact copy of the image from which a new icon is being drawn. I made several icons to order, but I came to the conclusion that I was more attracted by realistic oil or acrylic painting.

BP. You also paint icons, they are very popular In Russia. What do you think about why they are so popular?

TM: Icons are really very popular in Russia, as this is our history, culture, often it is a family value: parents pass the icons to their children. It is believed that icons protect the house from evil forces and have contact with saints and God.

Paired In Life By Tatyana Mironova At BeArte Gallery
Paired In Life By Tatyana Mironova At BeArte Gallery
African Bird By Tatyana Mironova At BeArte Gallery
African Bird By Tatyana Mironova At BeArte Gallery
Blue Birds By Tatyana Mironova At BeArte Gallery
Blue Birds By Tatyana Mironova At BeArte Gallery

BP. In addition to painting, you also create reliefs. This is quite a non-typical area of activity. Most often, it is associated with stucco and plaster that is used in palaces. Why did you choose such a niche as part of your artistic path?

TM: I studied the technology of creating a gypsum panel on wood (MDF panels) and in this way my artworks are really original wall decor. The bas-reliefs attract me by the fact that there are much fewer competitors here compared to painting.  Also, the works are very stylish and beautiful, people like it, and many have already found their buyers in Western Europe and the USA.

BP. What application would you suggest for reliefs for the ordinary interiors?

TM: I believe that the bas-reliefs are perfect for the popular and romantic style of Chebbi Chic with its light pastel colours. But for ordinary interiors, the bas-relief panels are also suitable, giving them originality. All my bas-reliefs are ready for hanging, they can be used as a panel or framed. Fine will also look a few bas-reliefs on the wall in one row.

BP. I know that you create reliefs in your own unique technique. Can you tell us a bit more about the work you go through while creating a relief?

TM: The process of creating a bas-relief begins with the preparation of the base – a wooden board, on which I apply a layer of acrylic glue impregnation. Then, after drying this base, I make a mixture of high-strength glue and plaster and place bas-relief elements in it — flowers, leaves in a beautiful composition. I prepare gypsum flowers and leaves for work separately.

BP. This sounds very complicated and time-consuming work. Which of the stages of creating a relief is the most difficult?

TM: The greatest difficulty is the creation of a successful composition of the bas-relief and its elements – flowers and leaves.

Flower Composition With Orchids. T.Mironova At BeArte Gallery
Flower Composition With Orchids. T.Mironova At BeArte Gallery
Flower Bas Relief With Orchids. T.Mironova At BeArte Gallery
Bas Relief With Orchids. T.Mironova At BeArte Gallery
Flowers By Tatyana Mironova At BeArte Gallery
Flowers By Tatyana Mironova At BeArte Gallery

BP. What do you want to express through your art?

TM: It is very important for an artist to define his mission, to choose his own way. In my work, I focus on the portrait. Through my art I want to express a simple idea -it’s good to be a man who understands his high destiny in this earthly life. I often study exotic faces, national costumes, ethnic jewellery belonging to women from different parts of the world.  In my series of paintings “Faces” images of people of different nations and races will be painted. So, viewers see that every nation has its own beauty, an interesting history, and this unites us all.

BP. Can you share with our readers your nearest artistic plans?

TM: This summer I take part in the international exhibition, in the world-famous project “Geysers of the Subconscious” in Moscow. And, of course, I will continue to work on the series of paintings “Faces”.

BP. Tanya, we wish you successes in this exhibition and on many others. We are also waiting for more of your beautiful artworks.  Thank you for time and the interview.

Tatyana Mironova with her artwork
Tatyana Mironova with her artwork
Auction online at BeArte Gallery
Warsaw Mermaid On Powiśle

The history of the Warsaw Mermaid by Pablo Picasso

Portrait De Picasso, 1908
Portrait De Picasso, 1908

Born: 25 October 1881, Malaga, Spain

Died: 8 April 1973  in aged 91, Mougins, France

Name: Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso

Educated: Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando and by father José Ruiz y Blasco.

Art Movement: Cubism, Surrealism

The fact that Picasso visited Poland in 1948 is not so well known. The goal of this visit was Wrocław where the First World Congress of Intellectuals in Defense of Peace took place. The noble idea of the event, though devoid of any real meaning, was supposed to be for a protest of the elites against the political division of the world. The Congress, organized under the favour of Stalin, was supposed to fulfil mainly propaganda goals. He was agitating against the capitalist West.

Picasso was invited to this congress as a member of the French Communist Party.  As Teodor Toepliz wrote about Picasso and revolution: “Like millions of people in Europe, Picasso treated the end of the war as openness to intellectual development, cheerfulness, and joy. He expressed his faith in progress, justice and in the liberating power of cognition by joining the Communist Party”

Picasso himself commented on his accession to the KPF with a laconic printed declaration: “My accession to the Communist Party is a logical consequence of my whole life, my entire work. I can proudly say that I have never considered art as a pleasurable lifestyle, as entertainment. With the help of drawing and colour, I wanted, since it was my weapon, to keep moving forward in the knowledge of life and people, in order to liberate us every day with this knowledge. In my own way, I tried to say, what I think is the truest, most justified, the best and what has always been the most beautiful – the greatest artists know it well.”

Initially, Picasso was not eager for doing this trip. First, he had never flown before. He did not like travelling or leaving France. He did not have a passport. The courtesy of representatives of the Polish government was quite big, for instance, they promised medals made with his picture. In the end, he made the decision to travel. Maybe he also agreed, because he was promised accommodation in the most luxurious hotel – Bristol, or because the Polish government has prepared a private plane for the artist – the Soviet painted green Li-2.

Lisunov Li 2 Soviet AF Monino
Lisunov Li 2 Soviet AF Monino 1994
First World Congress Of Intellectuals In Defense Of Peace In Wroclaw
First World Congress Of Intellectuals In Defense Of Peace In Wroclaw
Pablo Picasso Stanislaw Lorenz In MNWarsaw
Pablo Picasso Stanislaw Lorenz In MNWarsaw
Pablo Picasso and poet Paul Eluard decorated with the Commander's Cross with the Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta
Pablo Picasso and poet Paul Eluard decorated with Commander's Cross with the Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta

For the organizers of the Peace Congress, the participation of a person like Picasso was of great propaganda importance. It is no wonder that they had a huge pressure on their heads so such a huge artist could appear at the Congress. Picasso was a living legend. For the organizers of the Peace Congress in Wroclaw, the artist was like the icing on the cake among other prominent figures invited to participate.

Among them were such celebrities of those times like:

Joliot-Curie (daughter of Maria Skłodowska-Curie), Paul Éluard and Fernand Leger, Sartre, Bertrand Russell, and Julien Huxley, Louise Aragon, dean of Canterbury Hewlett Johnson, Roger Vaillant. At the Congress, Picasso read resolutions regarding the poet and communist activist Pablo Neruda, imprisoned in Chile. Because of the arrest, the poet did not appear in Wrocław. According to the rumour, Picasso was accepted with such popularity in Warsaw that the offended and jealous Ferdinand Leger left Wrocław before the end of the Congress. In the French party, Leger was older than Picasso and he was offended by all the splendour that fell on Picasso. Artist was to stay in Poland for 3 days, in fact, his stay was extended to 2 weeks. He and accompanying writer Paul Eluard were taken to Krakow, Oświęcim, and Warsaw. Several accounts from this period tell us that Picasso was very interested in the situation of the country he knew mainly nothing about and in people he met.

Among other things, he received a distinction from the hands of Bronisław Bierut, the communist president of Poland. It was the Commander’s Cross with the Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta.

Osiedle Na Kole
Osiedle Na Kole in 1947
Osiedle Przy Pruszkowskiej. Photo Odkrywca Warszawy.
Housing estate at Pruszkowska Str. was built in 1931. Photo by OdkrywcaWarszawy.
House on Sitnika.str. 1. Photo by AniaiJurek
House on Sitnika.str. 1. Photo by AniaiJurek

However, Picasso himself donated to the National Museum in Warsaw a collection of ceramic plates made and painted by him.

His companions in Warsaw were the married couple of architects Helena and Szymon Syrkus. Privately, Syrkus’ were friends with Picasso. Those who were deeply interested in French architecture had many common topics with Picasso. Helena and her husband were members of the Polish section of Congrés Internationaux d`Architecture Moderne. In particular, Szymon was an enthusiast of Le Corbusier’s architecture. Both pursued their leftist social views by designing functional housing estates for the working class.

Among other things, in the years 1931-1935, they implemented a modern housing estate on Rakowiec at Pruszkowska St. in Warsaw. Personally, as a child, I was fortunate to live in one of these blocks with my parents.  I can honestly confirm that these apartments, although small, were very functional.

Syrkus couple used system solutions with the use of fixed segments of the kitchen and bathroom, which was an extremely innovative solution for those times. After the war, the Syrkus designed their greatest achievement – a housing estate in one of the districts of Warsaw – “Osiedle na Kole”.

In addition to the segment solutions, innovative technologies were also used, such as the construction of external walls made of foam concrete blocks, and a ready-made concrete face layer was used. The layout of the greenery was also designed. The construction began in 1947. In 1992, the estate was entered into the register of monuments.

Exactly this housing estate, the “Osiedle na Kole”,  been still under construction, on September 3-rd in 1948, was visited by Picasso and Paul Eluard. Helena Syrkus wrote in her memoirs that when Picasso visited their architect studio, he saw the plans of the  Osiedle na Kole and asked them to show it to him.

Warsaw Mermaid In Old City
Warsaw Mermaid In Old City
Mermaid by Picasso
Mermaid by Picasso
Warsaw Mermaid On Powiśle
Warsaw Mermaid On Powiśle in Warsaw

Apparently, he was delighted with the functionality and the idea of building recycling he liked the most. The debris from war damage was used for reconstruction. The almost completely destroyed Warsaw was raised from the ashes. New, modern ones buildings were erected in place of old buildings. After the housing estate was led by artists Picasso and Eluard, the architect, Halina Pągowska-Czyżyńska, was leading the construction project according to the Syrkus project.

In her memoirs, she wrote that Picasso was very interested in the technical issues of construction. He even wanted to sign up for the memorial book, but there wasn’t one on the construction site. He decided, however, that he would leave something from himself.

Picasso even wanted to draw something for Halina, but she did not want to bother the artist. She asked only for an autograph. A moment later, Picasso entered one of the tiny apartments of the estate and drew with charcoal a Warsaw mermaid on the wall of the kitchen niche. The Mermaid with a sword and shield is the coat of Warsaw. After finishing drawing Picasso said: Pour Vous Madame (For you Madame).

The drawing stretched almost from the ceiling to the floor, was measured like 180 by 170 cm. Known for his pacifist ideas, the artist did not want to draw a traditional sword, which the mermaid holds in her hand. He wondered what else it might be, so Helena would propose a trowel as a symbol of the construction and the workers’ movement. Unfortunately, she did not know how to say trowel is in French, so she came up with the idea to draw a hammer. And that’s how a mermaid with a hammer came into life, mermaid having a shield with the sun, a prominent bust, and supposedly a face of Halina.

As later remembered Helena Syrkus, who was not present when drawing the mermaid:

– If only he would ask us where to place his wonderful signature! We would certainly advise him a large entrance hall, where his drawing would be viewed daily by all residents and where shows could be organized. You could even fix it, even glaze the entire wall. And so …

Auction online at BeArte Gallery
Woman In An Armchair No.1 (The Polish Cloak) 1949 By Pablo Picasso
Woman In An Armchair No.1 (The Polish Cloak) 1949 By Pablo Picasso

After Picasso’s departure, people were wondering who to give away the apartment with, or indeed the work of a living legend. As a result of Picasso’s stays in Poland, there was, among others, the image of the “Woman in a Chair or at the “Woman in a Polish Cloak”. Picasso, fascinated by Polish folklore, to his girlfriend François Gilot bought in Krakov a sheepskin coat with folk motifs and then portrayed her in them. To mention more, he sent a number of prints to the National Museum in Warsaw.

Finally, flat No. 28 at the street Deotymy 48 (at present, J. Sitnik Street) was assigned to Franciszka Sawicka-Prószyńska. She lived there with her husband, who was ill after returning from the Nazi concentration camp. Because Franciszka worked in a community center, she was taught on how to take care of the Picasso mermaid. Tenants were proud of acknowledging their mission and opened the apartment doors to hundreds of visitors.

For them, it was a kind of social mission. At first, Mrs. Franciszka was proud of the task entrusted to her, she even made a guest book and asked the visitors to sign in it. In short, however, she got the prose of life. The interested people were lining up from 7 am and the number of visitors during the day could reach up to 400 people. Individuals, people from all over Poland, domestic and foreign delegations, working-class people, school trips. Apparently, even Bierut came to see the mermaid. Franciszka was so tired of the situation that she began to cover the mermaid with a rug or curtain so that she could rest for a moment.

According to Franciszka, it looked like this:

“In the winter time, visits were bringing mud to me, in the summer debris and dust from the ever-growing housing estate … I did not have the right to paint, renovate the apartment, which had black walls after five years … Do I like Picasso art, I do not like such questions. What was on the wall was not one of the masterpieces. Finally, my husband and I tried to not look at the mermaid, but it was difficult, because the mermaid, was on the whole wall. So we hung the curtain to at least for a day to have a normal room … The rebellion in me gradually increased… I decided to go to somebody, to do at least something about it…”

Dalia Banner

Franciszka also was writing a letter after the letter to the administration of the community with a request to transfer the Picasso’s work. The numerous commissions to decide how to move the work of Picasso was gathered but they did not bring any results. So Franciszka continued writing, this time with a request for permission to paint. In an application from 1952, she wrote to the administration mentioning that author is Picasso. After about six months, the answer came with permission to renew the flat and paint over the mermaid.

In August 1952, the renovation brigade entered the apartment. And as Franciszka continued telling us: “…painters came. They spread their ladders. One took a wall with Picasso. “Damn! – said the painter – who did this to you, my brother-in-law could paint it better!!”. And splashed the paint. That’s how there was no longer the mermaid by Picasso.

You can say that back then, the drawing of the famous artist has lost its life because of the ineptitude and stupidity of administration. Due to the impossibility of moving the drawing, there where other possible options to save the mermaid, such as organizing a Picasso’s museum in Warsaw and move the tenants to another flat. The mermaid would certainly be an additional attraction in Warsaw. It is also known that Picasso painted the second mermaid while being in Poland. This time a lot more modest. It happened during a solemn dinner at the President of the city, Stanisław Tołwiński. His wife asked Picasso to enter the family album and draw something.  The artist drew a mermaid with dimensions of 21 cm x 29 cm. Unfortunately, this mermaid also went missing with the album. It is being sought for by the National Museum in Warsaw. I keep my fingers crossed for success

“Bouilloire et fruits” by Cezanne
Courtesy of Christie’s
Courtesy of Christie’s

Criminal affair from the past and “Bouilloire et fruits” by Cezanne that was sold for $ 59.3 million.

Monday, May 13, New York’s Christie auction house had significant reasons for satisfaction.

Paul Cezanne’s “Bouilloire et fruits”, valued at USD 40 million, was finally sold for an impressive sum of nearly USD 60 million. It was one of several paintings belonging to the media magnate S.I. Newhouse Jr. deceased in 2017.

You might say that “Bouilloire et fruits” deserves this price and deserves to gain fame again. But not everyone remembers that decades ago the painting was a part of a crime story that began in 1978 and which finally ended in 2008.

The history of this painting can be a perfect topic for a screenplay and from what I know it happened.

The beginning of the story begins from the moment Cezanne or his son sold the painting. The buyer was a collector Baron Denys Cochin, a French writer who became famous for the purchase of several French works of Impressionists. During Cezanne’s lifetime, Cochin bought and sold many of his paintings.

Cezanne Bouilloire Et Fruits
Paul Cézanne, Bouilloire et fruits, 1888–90. Courtesy of Christie’s.

In 1902, the “Bouilloire et fruits” was sold to Paul Durand-Ruel. Ruel is considered one of the first contemporary art dealers who also dealt with financial support for artists. There are speculations that Cochin and Ruel collaborated and speculated in the art trade. Then the painting came into the hands of the Cassirer family. For a time, it was on the deposit of Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, and the Municipal Art Gallery, Johannesburg.

The story has gone on and around 1952, the artwork was sold to the German art dealer Justin Thannhauser. After ten years, “Bouilloire et fruits” was in the possession by American collectors Dr.Harry and Ruth Bakwin. The Bawkin’s were doctors who created one of the best private post-war collections in New York. The collection was inherited by Michael Bakwin and this is where our proper story begins.

It was in 1978, during the celebration of the Remembrance Day, M.Bakwin and his wife left the estate for a short time. After returning, it turns out that they fell victims of the burglary and from their collection disappeared the 7 best paintings including our “hero” the “Bouilloire et fruits”.

Decades and involvement of several countries needed before the theft was resolved. Both a lawyer and a criminal had their participation in it. As it was mentioned in the beginning – a ready topic for the script.

The owners of “Bouilloire et fruits”.

  • Baron Denys Cochin, Paris.
  • Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the above, 11 March 1902).
  • Paul Cassirer, Berlin (acquired from the above, 5 February 1903).
  • Hugo Cassirer, Berlin (acquired from the above).
  • Lotte Cassirer-Fürstenberg, Berlin (by descent from the above by 1933; on deposit at the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, from 1933 and until 1939; then on extended loan to the Municipal Art Gallery, Johannesburg, circa 1939-1952).
  • Justin K. Thannhauser, New York (acquired from the above, 1952).
  • Harry and Ruth Bakwin, New York (by 1955).
  • Michael Bakwin, Stockbridge, Massachusetts (by descent from the above; stolen in May
  • 1978 and recovered in 1999); sale, Sotheby’s, London, 7 December 1999, lot 31. Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.

Source: Alain.R.Tuorg


The case regained momentum after 20 years when the unidentified owner wanted to put 7 paintings at the London auction. Photos of the paintings planned for the auction aroused interest in the Art Loss Register which was dealing with the recovery of stolen artworks.

It was confirmed that the photos depict seven paintings stolen in 1978. M.Bakwin authorized the Art Loss Register agency to take action to recover the collection.

However, it was not easy. First of all, it was impossible to determine who is the current owner of the stolen works.

All negotiations were conducted with the help of a Swiss lawyer representing an unidentified holder.

The place of storage of artworks was also unknown. To prolonged activities, that did not bring results, was added also the people’s fear, that contact with the owner of the paintings was broken.

The Swiss lawyer, on behalf of the unknown owner, made several proposals to Bakwin, which were to be a condition for returning the artworks. He offered artworks for a refund of $ 15 million. The next offer was that Bakwin has to pay 10-15% of paintings value or $ 1 million.

Time passed, the stolen collector was losing his hope to recover the collection more and more. Finally, Art Loss Register advised Bakwin to demand the return of at least Cezanne’s painting, the most valuable in this collection, for transferring ownership of the other six paintings to the unidentified holder.

After informing the FBI and the Swiss police about the situation, Bakwin, fearing the loss of everything, finally but reluctantly agreed.

At the same time, the Art Loss Register has set the conditions for the holder of the paintings. He had to submit a written statement in the presence of his lawyer that he was not involved in the theft of the artwork, that he had acquired them in goodwill. The sealed document was to be deposited in a public institution.

Paul Cezanne 1861
Paul Cezanne 1861

In 1999 the deal was finally closed. The Swiss lawyer and the representative of the Art Loss Register met and exchanged Cezanne’s painting for the proprietorship of the remaining 6 paintings. The originality of Cezanne’s work of art had been confirmed by two impartial and invited experts. The illegal holder still did not want to reveal himself and the ownership of the paintings was transferred to a newly established Panama company called Erie International Trading Company, Inc.

In the same year, M.Bakwin decided to sell Cezanne, and it was bought by a press magnate and collector S.I. Newhouse for 29.5 million USD. However, the story does not end yet.

The case of the remaining paintings came to life again when in 2005 part of the collection popped up at the Sotheby’s auction. Again, the Art Loss Register was involved in the case, and again M. Bakwin tried to regain his right to the ownership of the paintings with the help of English lawyers.

In the English court, a case was brought to the attention of the Sotheby’s and Erie International Trading Company. It must be emphasized that Sotheby’s was a party to this case only because of the possession of collection. It was obvious that Sotheby’s had nothing to do with the illicit acquisition of works of art.

At the same time, Erie Company founded the case in Geneva, as in the case regarding the ownership of the artworks mentioned in the contract, it was subject to Swiss jurisdiction.

In the English court, M. Bakwin tried to prove he was forced to transfer the ownership to Erie International Trading Company and the whole proposal was a forced situation. However, in the court in Geneva, the Erie Company has proved that their company is in legal possession of the paintings.

Soon, the English court took the side of M. Botwin’s lawyers. Thus, representatives of the Erie company to save the situation tried to reach the owner of the paintings.

The company came across a trace of Robert Mardirosian, a criminal lawyer who was supposed to represent the real thief. At the same time, the Art Loss Register established the connection between the creation of Erie Trading Company and Mardirosian. This could indicate that the robber was Robert Mardirosian.

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Bouquet. C. Christine Fertey-Green
Bouquet. C. Christine Fertey-Green

In order to get proof of whether Mardirosian is actually the unidentified owner of the paintings, the Art Loss Register reached for the case of the sealed document which was in deposit in London. By the court order, the document was opened.

The two signatures, one the statement and one from Mardirosian, were compared and confirmed to be identical. This was evidence that Mardirosian was involved in the theft of collection from the beginning.

Robert Mardirosian hired a lawyer who tried to prove that he received the paintings from criminal David T. Colvin. At the same time, Mardirosian has made public that David Colvin really stands behind the theft of works of art. Robert also involved a lawyer who tried to prove the veracity of his version.

Mardirosian claimed that the paintings were in his office thanks to David Colvin, who left them during one of the visits. Colvin was a Mardirosian’s client accused in a criminal case. He was on his way to Florida, and since he had nowhere to stay, Mardirosian offered him a place to stay for one night. In the morning, David Colvin disappeared and left the artworks.

The investigation indicated that the paintings had been in Mardirosian’s possession for over 20 years. Robert Mardirosian first moved them from Massachusets to the Swiss bank and then tried to sell at an auction in London. David Colvin could not confirm the Mardirosian version because he was shot in 1978 for a poker debt of $ 1,500.

Mardirosian was arrested by the FBI and finally, he the lawyer who possessed the happiness of the stolen paintings was sentenced to 7 years in prison in 2008.  Is reported by the FBI on its pages: “In November of 2008, retired Massachusetts attorney ROBERT R. MARDIROSIAN, of Falmouth, was sentenced to prison on August 18, 2008, for possession of stolen goods. The case of Stockbridge home in Massachusetts history.

In February 2007, finally, Michael Bakwin regained the remaining six paintings by means of court decisions.

Additionally, Bakwin in 2011 won a $3 million in a civil judgment against Robert M. Mardirosian.

As wrote John M. Guilfoil in Michael Collora, the lawyer of Mr Bakwin said “I think the civil jury here has sent a strong message to those dealing in stolen art that there will be a price to pay for that activity’’.

Collora said Bakwin, who is now in his late 70s, finally feels that the story has concluded.

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Sources used when writing the article:

  • Paul Cezanne. Życie i Twórczość. Maria Teresa Benedetti. Arkady. 1998

Photography and illustrations: images used for this article have been placed for non-commercial purposes and only for informational and educational purposes. Photographs contain information about the source or links to the source.

From Devils Dyke by Philip Tyler
Philip Tyler
Philip Tyler self-portrait

Philip Tyler is an English artist and teacher of visual research and colour theory, who in one of his interviews said about himself: “I draw, paint, make prints and work digitally as well as take photographs”.

He has a track record of exhibiting work both nationally and internationally since the mid 1980s and his work has exhibited in The Ruth Borchard Self portrait prize,  ING Discerning Eye, Royal Institute of Oil Painters, The Lynn Painter-Stainers prize, The Garrick Milne Prize, The Royal Overseas league, East, The National Open and the Whitworth young contemporary’s competitions.

His work is in both public and private collections in this country as well as in America Australia Finland Hong Kong and Sweden, including Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, Peterborough Museum as well as being collected by Brian Sewell

Campanent by Philip Tyler
Campanent by Philip Tyler

Since May, Philip Tyler has been a member of the BeArte Gallery and together with other English artists has been presenting his landscapes on canvas.

What is most amazing is that Philip creates such unique landscapes with eye-catching colour combinations, despite the fact that he is colour blind.

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Beata Piechocka: Can you tell our visitors how your adventure with art began, why did you become an artist?

Philip Tyler: The decision to become an artist was not one which happened quickly. I began drawing properly about the age of 7 and I took my studies very seriously once I went to secondary school. I was lucky enough to have two fantastic art teachers who guided me through my final years at school and onto and Art Foundation in east London. As a working-class kid, the idea of being an artist was outside of my experience, so I was focusing on becoming an art teacher. It was only in the final year of my degree at Loughborough College of Art and design that the idea of being an artist became a serious one I have strived to push myself and my work ever since.

BP: With what direction, the trend of art you identify or associate yourself the most?

PhT: I am really not interested in trends or fashion in the art world. The internet is full of images of people adopting mannerisms and approaches to look current. I’m only really interested in responding to the emotional situations I find myself in.

BP: What motivates you to make artistic work?

PhT: Of course, I am inspired by the work of other artists.  I want to be the best artist that I can be and the only way I can do that is to match myself against the very best.  When I am painting I completely lose myself, It’s the place where I can truly be me and forget my concerns.

Overlooking Findon by Philip Tylor
Overlooking Findon by Philip Tylor

BP: You cover many topics in your artworks, self-portraits, also portraits of stars, landscapes, and views of cities. Which of these topics is the closest to you and why?

PhT: I tend to work in series and at any one time I am completely absorbed by the subject. When I am painting landscapes I am obsessed by them, when painting portraits, I am obsessed with that.  But my self-portraits are probably the things that I am the most obsessed with, whilst the landscape have a real emotional resonance with me because they were made after my father died.

BP: In one of your interviews, to the question about an experience in your life which influenced your art, you mentioned the loss of loved ones and the birth of your daughter. These are different occasions which bring different emotions, sadness, loss and joy. Just like life. How these personal events influenced your art? Can you share a bit more about it with our readers?

PhT: Painting can be used as a cypher fore complex ideas. The ability to channel whatever ones feels into work is challenging, but if one is able to do this then one will always work, whether you are happy, sad or indifferent, you can always make work

BP. When I look at your work, I feel that regardless of whether you are painting the sky, face or streets of cities, you are painting a portrait. I mean, it’s not just a physical resemblance or an impression of reality on the canvas. It seems to me that you want to convey the essence of the object you paint, both physically and mentally or maybe even metaphysically, even if it concerns the clouds. What do you think about my interpretation of your art, how compatible is it with what you paint?

PhT: Yes, I think that I want to capture the essence and the spirit of a place or a person.

BP: Great Britain has a beautiful tradition of landscape painting. The most famous and known to the world are Turner, Gainsborough and Constable. Turner,  painted the impressions even before the Impressionists, Gainsborough is known for his portraits of the landed gentry, also dreamed about the rural village and painted romantic, often creating, idyllic landscapes. Constable went away from embellishing of what he saw and painted the truth: realistic, natural and chaotic landscapes. Among these three artists, whose style is the closest to you and why?

PhT: I think that I feel more of a connection with Constable in terms of his directness of approach.

Philip Tylers’ self-portraits

Philip Tyler
IMG 20180802 153504
IMG 3942
Philip Tyler Selfportrait

BP: When I first saw your paintings, these were landscapes. However, I admire, for example; Your self-portraits, but most of my attention was caught by your way of depicting clouds. In my mind, maybe a little funny, I was calling you Lord of the Clouds, because that was my strongest impression after reviewing your artworks. What intrigues you in the landscapes that you want to paint them?

PhT: I grew up in London surrounded by tower blocks.  The landscape has poetic and romantic connotations for me as I first really got to grips with landscape painting once I left home for the first time.  The landscape also reminds me of the few family holidays I had as a child with my mum and dad. In more recent times landscape has a real emotional connection to me, especially after I lost my father and had to come to terms with the impact that had on me. I think that there is something uplifting and perhaps spiritual about being in a massive cloud and space it inhabits.

BP: Most artists paint other fragments of landscapes, e.g trees, groves, rivers. Why did you soar higher and have chosen clouds? What does the sky have in itself that Earth doesn’t?

PhT: I think that it is the sky that seems to capture everything I want, especially if there is a storm brewing, or has just dissipated.


BP. Looking at your paintings, I can see that you’re using a unique palette. The colours, although not intensive, but are light. This is not a typical palette for the UK landscape, which is associated mainly with grey. Your landscapes remind me more of Italian views. Have you always been accompanied by such colours? Where does the intention of using this palette come from?

PhT: I think that there is a real difference between the colour that you see on the screen and the colour you see in the actual paintings. I am obsessed by colour and I teach colour, but I am also colour blind, so rather than thinking about what the colour is in the landscape, I am much more interested in what the colour can be.

BP: Do the colours you are using result from what you see or are they the result of a conscious and analytical decision? For example, for strengthening and balancing the composition?

PhT: Colour is explored in a systematic way in terms of my choice of the palette, but also used in an intuitive emotional way. The colours you see if often the top layer or many other colour decisions.

BP. The composition of your landscapes is for 70% of the sky and 30% of the land. It is also mainly horizontal. Is this a way to strengthen the effect of the presence of the clouds?

PhT: Yes I Iove the tension between opposites, empty space and gestural areas, hot against cold, soft against hard.

BP. In your paintings, it is difficult to look for some significant dominant elements, the main “heroes” of the landscape so to say. It’s hard to decide which element is important, except for the clouds. Is this your way of achieving the illusory effect, where space enclosed in the image format?

PhT: The landscape is a real one, not imagined but translated. I am often drawn to those Sussex views which disappear away toward the horizon, where not one thing is the single protagonist, but all parts contribute to the whole.

The cityscapes of London by Philip Tyler


BP: At prestigious auctions of modern art, it is difficult to find many examples of landscape paintings. However, as the reports show, the landscapes are selling as one of the best topics among individual art lovers. What do you think, why landscapes are still so popular?

PhT: Landscape evokes many things in the viewer.  Whenever I have tried to paint a picture to sell I have failed.  I only seem to sell the paintings that come from my emotional response to the subject.

BP: Can you share your way of painting your landscapes? Do you paint in the open air, do you use photos or memory? Can you describe the stages of work?

PhT: All things are permissible and used. I draw and paint in the landscape, take thousands of photographs, make print and loads of colour studies. All of this then gets synthesized into a large painting.

BP: In which technique do you paint? Is it glaze, verdacio, alla prima, inpasto? And why?

PhT: All techniques are used to achieve different effects, vaporous clouds, trees, shadows, paths, rain, sunlight. You achieve these phenomena by adapting how the paint is applied, but the process of painting a landscape usually starts off in an explosive way with lots of energy being thrown at the canvas.

BP: How do you build the illusion of space on the image?

PhT: Physicality of paint, thinness, thickness, saturation, tonal contrast all of these things are the formal elements used to create space as well as the perspective of course.

BP: You wrote the book “Drawing and painting the landscape”. Lisa Takahashi gave an excellent review of this book. What prompted you to write a book about painting landscapes?

PhT: I have really enjoyed the process of writing and the books are an attempt to share my knowledge.  One day I am going to die and it is nice to think that alongside the paintings I leave behind my thoughts on drawing and painting have been recorded as well

BP: In the book, you give examples of your favourite artists. Can you tell our readers who they are and why you include them in a book about landscapes?

PhT: Virtually all the artists in my books are either artists I know personally, have shown at the same galleries or have admired online.  There are many good artists out there who do not always get the coverage they deserve.  The books provide an opportunity to promote their work

BP. Do you have any advice, suggestions for the beginner landscape painters

PhT Buy my second book and be prepared for failure. You learn from your mistakes, so the more that goes wrong the more you can learn from these.  You do not have to have a studio, not copious amounts of time.  You have to work with what you have but you will learn by making painting after painting

BP. What does a great painted landscape mean for you?

PhT: When you encounter a great painting, you are brought into contact with the person who made the work, you touch their spirit and their humanity.

Drawing and Painting the Landscape: A course of 50 lessons

Drawing and Painting the Landscape: A course of 50 lessons
By Philip Tyler
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: The Crowood Press Ltd (1 Sept. 2017)
Language: English

Contact us for purchase

Fulking escarpment by Philip Tyler
Fulking escarpment by Philip Tyler

BP: Does the process of teaching others to help you to develop your artistic skills? If it does, in what ways?

PhT: Sometimes, but equally teaching is very difficult. It is not always about what I do, more often than not I have to out my head into what the student is doing and figure out a way of working through their problem.  I have to be aware of a lot of art and design and a lot of ways of working if I am to guide the student in the right direction.

BP: Will you describe the fact that your works are in many foreign galleries around the world as the final artistic success? Or does it mean something different for you?

PhT: It is exciting to see that one’s work is spread around the world, but success is elusive.  How is this measured?  Is this about appearing in a major show, appearing in important magazines, being bought by major collectors?  If this is a success then I am a long way from this. If success is not having to teach every day, then that is what I am working toward

BP: What we as BeArte Gallery can wish you on your artistic path?

Ph.T. Having a more international presence and having worked in some museums and art galleries would be nice.

BP: Looking at your artworks, I’m sure it will happen.  Thank you for your time and we wish you will soon fulfil your plans.

From Devils Dyke by Philip Tyler
From Devils Dyke by Philip Tyler
Visit Philip Tyler

Explore landscapes from other artists at BeArte Gallery

Clouds by Ilona Primus - Ziarnowska
Clouds by Ilona Primus - Ziarnowska
Inverno I by J.Malinowski
Inverno I by J.Malinowski
After Battle by J.Haluch
After Battle by J.Haluch
Landscape with a Lake Agnieszka Rogowska Gallery BeArte
Landscape with a lake. Agnieszka Rogowska. Oil. 80 x 65 cm. 2018
Forest, March 2018 by David Harrison
Forest, March 2018 by David Harrison

Religion and Art

Religious themes are an inseparable subject in most early art paintings. Because the Church has been the patron of art in past centuries, it is not surprising that the religious subject was one of the most frequently undertaken by artists. In the Middle Ages, the artists were creating only on religion and for God topics, and then from the Renaissance to modern times, this relationship between art and the church has gradually disappeared.

At present, painters who referring to biblical scenes are very rarely encountered, and this subject has become a kind of a separate niche. It cannot be concealed, however, that one of the greatest masterpieces of art arose from the Biblical inspiration.

All the New Testament’s themes strongly influenced the imagination of painters. At the same time, they were also an inspiration to communicate various contents, meanings, and symbols directly related not only to the topic itself but also indirectly to the existence of every human being. Such subjects as treason, pain, suffering, sacrifice, redemption, and victory accompany man on various levels of his existence and in various dimensions.

The Last Supper - Facts


The most famous painting connected with the Easter subject is, of course, the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. Almost every year, new revelations and appear.

Amateurs and experts, they can’t get enough and still continuing to discover new meanings. The new chapters of the Last Supper are being opened every year. No wonder, eventually, that great artwork came out of the genius hands.

All known facts are that the Last Supper, or Il Cenacolo, is a fresco made by Leonardo da Vinci. The mural was created in the years 1495-1498. Its dimensions are impressive – 4.60 m to 8.80 m. Leonardo created it commissioned by Prince Ludovico Sforza, the fresco was made for the dining room of the Dominican monastery, in the Basilica of Santa Maria Delle Grazie, in Milan.

From my point of view, such valuable work should be immediately hung in the museum under special protection. I write this with a pinch of salt, but the fact remains that at the time when Leonardo created a fresco, was the same as for us buy a decoration to match the colour of the sofa. Of course, an exclusive sofa, because only such sofas could have the prince of Milan.

In the Last Supper, the artist used an innovative technique, which unfortunately proved to be unstable and despite the repeated renovations (21 years of renovation), the fresco is still in a very poor condition. Some people suggest that it is the attempts of restorations have done more harm to the artwork than the time. It can be easily counted that the renovation lasted longer than the process of painting the fresco.

Leonardo used the technique of combining tempera and oil paint. This allowed him to paint on dry plaster and what it involves – a slow refinement of details. He tried to find the intermediate way between the drying time of oil paints and tempera. The paints were put directly on the primed wall and not as it was before – on a wet surface.

The humidity of the air present in the Dominican monastery was not good for the fresco. Another element that contributed to the destruction of the work of art was the forging in 1652 of the door to the monastery kitchen, thus permanently damaging the fragment of Jesus’ feet and part of the table.

Other consequences and damages were during the Napoleonic wars, the stationing of the soldiers in Mediolan who organized the stable inside the monastery. I hope that the horses appreciated the surroundings of the artwork because the soldiers apparently did not. Unfortunately, looking on fresco damages, I am sure that artwork did not do well in this company either. The Second World War, in turn, and the bombing destroyed the part of the refectory.

The Last Supper - What it really represents?

In general, the Last Supper represents the apostles surrounding Christ and eating the last meal together. According to Christian tradition, this is the moment of the first Eucharist consumed in the form of bread and wine. However, in the Last Supper Leonardo Da Vinci illustrates this part of the New Testament:

“[…] After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” (John 13, 21-24).

Leonardo introduced Saint Peter and Saint John who banded over towards each other. They are talking behind Judas. That is the way in which he describes the text of the Gospel. Peter, according to the text, could not sit next to Christ, although he was the successor of Jesus. Therefore, at the right hand of Jesus, Leonardo painted John.

Holy Trinities on the Fresco

All the apostles are depicted in trinities. On the left of Jesus, we see the figures of John, Peter and Judas. The next three are Bartłomiej, Jakub Mniej and Andrzej.

At the right hand of Jesus, the first three are Thomas, James the Greater and Philip the Apostle. Next to them, engaged in a discussion, were sitting Mateusz-Lewi, or later Matthew the Evangelist, and Szymon and Tadeusz.

Last Supper Trinities

Jesus sits in the middle as a central figure. His character symbolizes succumb and acceptance of the inevitable. Jesus divides the table and interlocutors into two parts. Interpreters of Leonardo’s artworks convince us that everything on the left side of the table is all that concerns divine thinking, and everything the right side takes place on human grounds.

He combines these two approaches. The figure of Jesus focuses the viewer’s attention. It is static compared to live gesticulating apostles. The very figure of Jesus is inscribed in an equilateral triangle.

Dalia Split Left
Dalia Split Right

Why is it a Masterpiece?

From an artistic point of view, what impresses in the depicted scene is the mastery of the perspective that Leonardo used. The interior on the painting is an illusionistic extension of the monastery’s dining room.

All lines connecting the heads of the apostles, tapestries and beams would all converge in the person of Christ.

The artist expertly introduced the depth of the refectory. Leonardo, as an inquisitive researcher, was not only an artist but also an inventor, researcher. He sought to paint the space between objects. He tried to recreate a 3d effect on a flat surface. He studied with mathematical accuracy all the issues to present the depth. He was designing the composition based on the legacy of the great Greek geometers.

Last supper perfect lines

Everyone, regardless of their knowledge of art, can admire the illusion of perspective. Also, the way in which he showed the characters. Their naturalness and realism. The viewer can feel like a participant in the scene he is looking at. Characters are not rigidly posed, they are not embellished, everything has the dimension of a real event taking place.

Looking at the fresco, we can almost feel how each of the apostles reacts vividly to Jesus’ words. We can easily notice the individual psychological features in each of the represented forms.

Leonardo spent months searching for models for the Last Supper, refining every gesture and the smallest detail. Rumor has it that he devoted the most time searching for Judah and apparently found such a figure in the criminal districts.

Another curiosity is that Leonardo did not like to paint halo, that’s why on the fresco the halo was replaced by the daylight entering the room. Thanks to this solution, the viewer has the impression that light is spreading from Christ. So nothing on this fresco is accidental.

The artist also depicted all the details of the presented scene with a great accuracy. Experts believe that in the presented pewter vessels, Leonardo painted the reflections of the figures of the supper participants. Unfortunately, this reflection hardly survived to our times.

All the above-described elements, such as realism of the depicted characters, attention to the details, ability to present the psychological character of the figure, mastery in painting the perspective, perfect knowledge of geometry and the great ability to juggle the meaning, make the Last Supper a true masterpiece.

It is also one of the most frequently reproduced religious paintings.

Codes and Theories

This famous Leonardo’s fresco still evokes many emotions and pseudo-scientific theories. According to many, it contains innumerable mysteries and allusions, what assures us Dan Brown in his book “Leonardo da Vinci’s Code”.

In addition, according to Giovanni Maria Pale, who is both a musician and computer scientist specializing at the Last Supper, the musical record of the short requiem is hidden.

Another curiosity is the additional hand with a knife, which is hidden among the first Trinity from the left side of Jesus. On the image, you can see a hand holding a knife, just behind Judas. Initially, it was considered a mistake, if genius Leonardo could be so wrong. Currently, researchers believe that it is Peter’s hand. It is interpreted as a violent reaction of Peter to the words of Jesus regarding the events in the Garden of Olives.

There are numerous references to astrology and the placement of the Trinities of the apostles according to the seasons or constellations. One of the most intriguing is, of course, the theory that Mary Magdalene is depicted on the fresco too, that it is her and not John the apostle, and the knife held by Piotr is, in fact, meant for her. Even more, Peter’s second hand is aiming at Magdalene’s neck.

Last Supper Theory

Processing of the Last Supper

The Last Supper has had many modifications and depending on the modifying needs, the fresco was modified into a funny, shocking or carrying a deeper message.

The apostles could be changed into pop-culture characters or fictitious characters. Sometimes, even erotic items or other pop-culture items appear on the table.

An example of this is the work of Susan Dorothy White, an Australian artist who painted the First Supper in 1988. The da Vinci painting inspired the artist to raise the problem of human rights and especially women rights.

Many speaking version of Last Supper by Rauf Mamedov as a good example too. His interpretation speaks volumes about the loneliness of Jesus facing inevitable death. About loneliness as a general problem of each of human beings.

And maybe this is a true reason why Leonardo is genius – he intrigues and inspires despite the time.

Stanislaw Szukalski Portrait

The life and struggles of
Stanisław Szukalski

Showing The Way 1978 Desa Unicum Auction March 2019
Showing The Way 1978 | Desa Unicum | Auction March 2019

One day, looking through the resources of Polish art, I came across Stanisław Szukalski’s works. This time my attention was caught by the acrylic painting “Showing the Way”. This is the artwork depicting the King of Saudi Arabia, Khalid and his son Fahd. Szukalski performed it on order in 1978. As soon as I saw this image the pieces of information began to emerge in the depths of my memory.

First of all, I reached for the film about Szukalski, realized by Leonardo DiCaprio “Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski”. The premiere of this movie was in December 2018 on Netflix, directed by Ireneusz Dobrowolski and screenplay by Stephen Cooper and Ireneusz Dobrowolski.

I do not know why, but when the information about this film appeared, I did not pay much attention to it. Now, consciously, I decided to go back to the movie.

Genius or Madman?

Szukalski, considered by many to be a visionary of his time, for some reasons, disappeared for years from the art scene. By some, he was considered as a genius, by others as a crazy sculptor with an ego. There are also critics who believe that the discoverers of his talent really let him lose his head. Critics emphasize his pseudo-scientific views on the origin of humanity and nationalism as part of his youth artistic way. He was also the creator of the pseudoscience of Zermatism.
Well, sometimes genius is accompanied by madness. Watching the documentary about Szukalski and collecting the materials about him, I wanted to find out which of these theories are closer to the truth – a genius or a weirdo, and what Szukalski was struggling with?

When I watched the movie and explored his artworks, I saw a man whose life and artistic career were directed by events completely independent of him. Which at the end of his life led him to the struggle of the constant feeling of unappreciation and unnecessity.

Szukalski was overwhelmed by the sense of the great loss, as according to his assumptions his talent was underestimated. He saw the loss rather in the context of his life, as he was feeling the lack of opportunities for creating, than through the prism of a personal career.

He struggled with regret that the achievements of his life would be lost and that he would not be able to accomplish all his monumental projects. Szukalski’s life is a true material for a biographical film, not just a documentary.

You certainly can not understand Szukalski without delving into his fate, intertwined with the fate of his homeland. Szukalski was a live mixture of talent, great ego and the times in which he lived – the formation of Polish independence, escape to the USA during the Second World War, the fight against the communistic Polish government for the return of the survived works and peripheral life in Los Angeles.

A great talent that fell into oblivion. Fell because of the successes in the USA and in Poland, where he was hailed as a national artist – after being nothing in an adopted homeland. In my opinion, it is impossible to fully assess and understand Szukalski’s attitudes without even understanding the times in which he lived.

Watching the movie, we see an old man full of regret about the world that did not appreciate his artistic contribution to the development of humanity.

Auction online at BeArte Gallery

At the same time, a man of certain strength and self-confidence, a visionary, convinced of his importance to art. Sure, Szukalski was overwhelmed by the conviction that he is more valuable than other artists, such as Picasso, whom he, by the way, called the Pic-asshole.

Art was to bring content to him, to symbolize and serving ideas, free his emotions. It was supposed to evoke an unforgettable impression and not be a theory or decoration.

Szukalski was known for his indiscriminate criticism of works of other artists during visits to exhibitions and museums. He did not hide his thoughts and did not win because of that trait friends.

Overwhelmed by incomprehensible ideas, on the verge of nationalism and pseudo-scientific theories, obsessed with the Slavic issues and searching after the mother of all languages, he wanted to become the greatest Polish artist in history.

Most of these ideas were evolving in him. You can see how Szukalski changes after the Second World War. His nationalism gives way to cosmopolitanism, his approach to the Jewish question changes. This resulted in the attribution of some of his artworks to the Jewish people.

Looking at a certain distance on the artist’s life, one can notice several points that undoubtedly influenced the development of his personality and the fate of the artist.

His father – Dyonizy Szukalski. It was because of him that the family appeared in the USA. Great authority for the artist, the man with whom Stanisław was very connected. Dyonizy, who was involved in political affairs as a socialist, had to flee with his wife Konstancja from occupied Poland. They fled to Brazil looking for a better life. After a few years, they came back. Their financial situation was not the best one.

Dyonizy was looking for the opportunity to be able to contain the family, which at that time were already of two children, Alfreda and Stanisław. He left for South Africa. There he took part in the Second Boer War against the British Empire. The political views of Dyonizi will be reflected later in Stanisław’s views. After returning from Africa, his father had a chance to buy some land in Poland. The situation of the family still did not improve much. Dyonizy decided to move to the United States this time, where he took all his family.

Stanislaw Szukalski
Stanislaw Szukalski

Between America and Poland

Stanisław attended school in Radomsko, Poland. As a very young boy, his first steps in art were in sculpting figures. Which he handed out to the local favourite girls. But it was in the Art Institute of Chicago, where he was first time recognized as a great talent in sculptors. However, later his skills will be recognized as a great talent for sculpturing at the Art Institute of Chicago.
He studies further artistic studies in Poland. The father, at the instigation of the Polish sculptor Antoni Sublima, sends a 15-year-old boy to Krakow. We can imagine this youngster away from the family during a great journey through the huge Atlantic. It was not the first time when Stanislaw learned how to be independent.

Krakow and first successes

In Krakow, Stanislaw undertakes examinations to which, despite his young age, he is exceptionally admitted. He is accepted, first recognition from the professors was in the words “There is something special about him”.

Recognized by others as exceptionally talented and seeing himself as a genius, Stanisław had the honor of being in touch with the greatest artists of that time. He was rebeling against the traditional teaching system. And he even was suspended in the student’s rights. You could say that he was seduced by his own ego.

Jacek Malczewski, one of the greatest Polish artists of the era, took him under his protection. After some time, forced by the situation Szukalski matured for the decision, and he apologized to the professors. Eventually, he returned to the Krakov Art Academy. His works are rewarded and staged equally with other great artists.

The first rewards for the sculpturing he received in 1910. He organized his first exhibition in 1912. Another success was during the presentation of his sculptures in 1913 at the exhibition along with the works of mature artists. Around 1914, he created sculptures in bronze: the Orator, the Bust of David and the One-Handed Man in the Wind.

Let us remind that he was a young 20-year-old artist at that time. Probably this whole situation strengthen Stanisław’s ideas of his absolute uniqueness. Certainly rightly. But the maturity of the personality didn’t accompany the ego. In the following years the overly bloated ego did not bring him supporters or allies in the artistic world.

Young Stanisław Szukalski
Young Stanisław Szukalski (With courtesy of Netflix)

Again America

In 1913, his father’s fate affected his life again. The artist, worried about his father’s condition and family situation, returned to the USA. He was doing odd jobs and continued his studies at the Chicago Art Institute. He was receiving awards and had the chances to organize exhibitions. At that time he created the first sculptures in bronze. It was then, the artworks as Work, Dream, Man’s Fall, Fight of quantity with quality or Atlantis were created.
A few months later, Dyonyzy was killed by a car. In DiCaprio’s documentary, Szukalski described himself the dramatic situation that he went through. He described how his father was lying on the street, how he carried his body, how he could not let his body be taken away. After years Szukalski will be asked where he learned anatomy for his sculptures, he would answer that it was the body in his hands that taught him human anatomy. It was a great personal tragedy for the artist.
With the death of his father, his material situation deteriorates even more. Stanisław was starving, he tried to seize any work, he even worked in slaughterhouses. Nevertheless, he happened to meet significant figures for the Chicago Renaissance and finally entered the artistic circles.
Among others, Ben Hecht, who met Szukalski in 1914, and who wrote about the artist in his autobiography “A Child of the Century”: “For twenty years my friend … experienced disasters which would have killed off a dozen businessmen. Sickness, poverty and hunger yipped everlasting at his heels. … during his struggles he heard only the catcalls of critics and the voices of derision. Yet when I saw him in 1934, I saw a man who had feasted on power and whose eyes smiled with triumph.”

Tagore. Szukalski. NAC
Tagore by Szukalski. NAC, 1929

Hindu threads

In 1917, Szukalski met the Nobel laureate, the Hindu poet Rabindranath Tagore. Rabindranath was a prose writer, philosopher, composer, painter, and teacher. Szukalski, at his invitation, was to organize an institute of fine arts in India. Szukalski also carved a portrait of Tagore, the copy by an Indian sculptor – was placed at the University of Calcutta.

According to the Tagore proposal, the artist tried to get to India at the invitation of Rabindranath. Unfortunately, the repeated fate of Szukalski happened, everything seemed to be according to the plan but at the very last moment, decisions independent from him ruined the artistic development.

First, his visit was prevented by the war in India and then by the British embassy who refused to issue a visa due to political views. This mutual reluctance, the Empire to Szukalski and Szukalski to the Empire, will be reflected in the artist’s works.

Such circumstances were in a way a synonym of his life. Whatever Szukalski decide to do, it’s destroyed either in an embryo or after the realization of the project. This is what happens with the full of impressive designs of monuments, buildings, medals and coins. Something was always on his way, either making it impossible to implement or just destroying artistic achievements.

John Biro

Personal happiness, rest and further successes

Finally, after years of struggling with reality, there was a breakthrough. The personal and financial situations of Szukalski’s life improved. In 1923, he married Helena Walker, an artist and daughter of Dr. Samuel J. Walker, an outstanding member of the Chicago community.

Chicaco Society Egagement H.Walker And Szukalski

The New York Times
MAY 28, 1922: SZUKALSKI TO MARRY CHICAGO SOCIETY GIRL; Engagement of Miss Helen Walker to Sculptor of Tortured Figures Causes a Stir.
May 27, 1922: Stanislaus Szukalski, a long-haired radical Polish sculptor, “son of a blacksmith, arrived here today and announced his intention of marrying Miss Helen Walker, daughter of Dr. Samuel J. Walker, a prominent physician.
In this abstract, we see the clash of two worlds. The artist was described: “a long-haired radical” and a daughter of local high society. Szukalski was perceived as the Cinderella who met the princess.

NYT, Chicago Society

Newlyweds were travelling around Europe. The sculptor gained international recognition and prizes. Spouses lived in Italy and France. This applied more successes. He was able to take a break or focus on work.

In 1925, at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art in Paris, the artist received the Grand Prix for sculptures in bronze and the Honorary Diploma for architectural designs and the Gold Medal for stone sculpture.

He is also appreciated in America. The famous “Vanity Fair” wrote about him: “with his talent, he put Chicago on the art plains and in sculpting he is like Dante and Edgar Allan Poe in literature”

However, his personal life did not work so well in spite of the coming to the world of Elżbieta Kalinka, his daughter. In fact, not much is known about her. We get some information in DiCaprio’s movie.

Leonardo in his documentary raises the issues of incompatibility of spouses in their marriage life.  He suggested that it was about sex which that was not important for Szukalski and completely irrelevant to Helen. They divorced in 1938 and after a year he married his daughter’s kindergarten teacher – Joan Lee Donavan.

I did not find any information about contacts between him and his daughter. Elżbieta Kalinka disappeared from Stanisław’s life. Perhaps, what I can not be sure, such broken, because of the divorce, relations with a few-year-old daughter were never to be renewed.

I am convinced that divorce also affected the image of the artist, in the eyes of the apex of contemporary social society. Perhaps many doors were closed in front of Szukalski.

Szukalski Krakow 1936 Exhibition 2
Szukalski exhibition in Krakow 1936

Polish national artist - back in Poland

Another event that influenced the development of Szukalski’s personality and his talent was the arrival to Poland in 1929 at the invitation of the Polish government.
Polish independence lasted only 11 years. The young state after years of non-existence wanted to have its national artist. Stanisław Szukalski undertook this mission. He was feeling honoured, appreciated and very much sensing his historical mission.
He brought all his works to the National Museum. The artist received orders and task for the workshop. His personal life with his new wife, Joan, was also thriving. It was one of the happiest periods in the life of the spouses.

Szukalski exhibited 98 drawings and 34 sculptures in Krakow. He gathered a group of students from the Krakow School of Decorative Arts and the Art Industry, who later attempted to imitate Szukalski’s art. He lectured and gave speeches. He resented because of imitating Western designs. He criticized the way of teaching at traditional universities.

At last, he founded his own art school, so-called “Twórcownia” and an artistic group called “The Horned Heart”, whose main postulate was to cut off Western influences and establish into national, Slavic roots in art.

Szukalski wanted Poland to have its own native art after years of occupation by three countries. He criticized copying trends from the west.

He referred to the Slavic roots, he issued appeals for the reconciliation of the Slavs, among others to Ukrainians, Slovaks, Czechs, Russians and others.

Boleslaw The Brave
Boleslaw The Brave 1972

Los Angeles - the beginning of the oblivion

The artist was also involved in writing as a result of which in 1938 he staged the play “Krak, Ludola’s son”.

Stanisław Szukalski, seduced by the narrative independence of the young state, begins a dangerous flirt with nationalism and anti-Semitism. He is a co-creator of the nationalistic newspaper Krak, in which aggressive slogans appear. I am convinced that, after many years, this episode will contribute to the rejection of Szukalski by the American art world.

The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 is, in my opinion, one of the most eventful events that completely re-evaluated the artist’s views and also shattered his further artistic career.

During the air raids, the artist’s studio was completely destroyed. Many sculptures and drawings have been destroyed or lost. Almost all the achievements of the artist have been lost. Stanisław himself barely escaped. It was actually the beginning of his fall.

Szukalski and his wife hid in the American embassy. They managed to return to the USA with a few suitcases. Szukalski had nothing.

In 1940 he and his wife settled in Los Angeles. They sometimes lived on the edge of poverty. In addition to the dirty jobs he managed to find, he wrote over 40 volumes of typescript about the mysteries of the origin of humanity and the language, including Zermatism.His family was living in a one-room house. The movie shows how small this room is. Cluttered space, scarcely enough room for the remains of his sculptures, drawings and books. There is no room for where to continue artistic work.

The Los Angeles authorities granted the artist a pension of 250$ US per month, which barely allowed the rent to be paid. The artist tried to get income for selling drawings or postcards or from occasional medal events.

Friends are trying to help Szukalski. However, the attempts fail. Museum curators are enchanted by his sculptural achievements, but at the same time do not want to get involved in the artist’s promotions. Nobody was interested in showing Szukalski’s works in galleries. The artist was considered too politically involved, for not cooperating, but criticizing the artistic world, for the lack of adequate facilities in the USA and for being crazy. Stanisław Szukalski also tried to deliver his works from Poland to the USA. However, the communist government was not willing to cooperate with someone who fled from Poland to the USA. The relations between the two political blocs were solely hostile.

Convinced of his exceptional talent, and unable to find a job or bring his works from Poland, that could become his surviving, he fell into deep bitterness.
Looking at this man who with tears in his eyes says into the camera that he is a stranger in the USA even though he is a citizen of this country, that they laugh at his name, that Poles are guilty of losing his works – I see a man painfully treated by the fate. “I am a patriot without the country” – he shouted with tears in his eyes.
Sculptor more and more often fell ill. He felt underestimated by both his homelands. After the death of his second wife, his situation had deteriorated. Joan was his good guardian spirit, she cared for Stanisław. They were both very close to each other. They never argued. This death was a very painful loss for Szukalski
In spite of this situation he still worked, even after several hours a day, he drew and wrote and carved.
The weakening artist was sent to hospitals or to social welfare institutions. He died on May 19, 1987 in a hospital. Glenn Bray took Szukalski’s death very badly.
It was Glenn who fulfilled the last will of the spouses and on July 30, 1988 their ashes were scattered on Easter Island, on the island which according to Szukalski was the beginning of humanity.

Szukalski, Kopernikus, 1973
Szukalski, Kopernikus, 1973

Evaluation of Szukalski's art and his artistic heritage

In the early years of his creating life, the artist was influenced by Young Poland’s modernism. Particularly noteworthy were the busts, at which he was able to skillfully show the characteristic features of his models. These were often small format works, moody with soft modelling.
Later, his work begins to combine many styles. There are elements of modernism as well as expressionism, cubism and futurism. Many of his works have folklore features or reminding similar to the art of pre-Columbian America.

Especially in the USA after 1915, his expressive compositions, symbolic sculptures, patriotism and eclecticism of styles met the great interest. The American press wrote that his artworks are full of life and imagination.

According to art critics, Szukalski possesses a unique ability to combine styles of different eras or even different cultures. For example, he combined American Indian style with Slavic elements. Images of poets, kings or politicians looked like Aztec leaders or priests in a modern version.

However, despite the fact his art seemed cosmopolitan, it was still accompanying his strive for creating Polish art. Perhaps in a mix of these styles, he wanted to find something that would be characteristic and unique. Therefore, he boldly used elements deeply rooted in the early Polish folk and pagan traditions.

After the Artist’s death, Glenn Bray dealt with artistic legacy. He and his wife, Lena Zwalve, administered and maintained artist’s achievements, for example, in the form of photographs and manuscripts under the name “Archiwa Szukalski”. Currently, Glenn works in the foundry in Hollywood, which deals with the production of subsequent editions of Szukalski’s works.

The artist’s surviving works are owned by the heir and the Polish Museum in America, the National Museum in Warsaw, and the Upper Silesian Museum in Bytom.

However, Leonardo Di Caprio became a valuable collector of sculptures of Stanisław Szukalski. In 2000, he funded a posthumous and retrospective exhibition of sculptor’s works. The exhibition took place at Laguna Art. Museum in Laguna Beach, entitled “Struggle”.

Examples of the most important sculptor’s works in the last years of his 75-year-old life:

  • Struggle – the hand carving is finished
  • Monument to Bolesław Chrobry, the first Polish project – destroyed in a bombardment.
  • The monument to Adam Mickiewicz – the greatest Polish poet – did not come to fruition
  • Prometheus (1943), designed for Paris in tribute to the French partisans;
  • Copernicus – Polish astronomer
  • Gaul’s Rooster (1960), a gigantic and complex structure that he wanted the US to give France in thanksgiving for the Statue of Liberty.
  • Katyń (1979), a monument commemorating the deaths of over 20,000 Polish officers and intellectuals killed by the Soviets during World War II;
  • a monument to John Paul II, intended for the city of Venice (1982).

Szukalski is not an unambiguous character. Great talent is often accompanied by a pinch of madness. Eclecticism and combining of the ideas were very popular in the artist’s sculptures, but not necessarily in the ideas, he proclaimed.  The whole was made of contradictions. This man can not be described in one word.

He stood on the verge of several realities: pre-war, war and post-war. And in none of them, he was allowed to settle in for longer, grow in roots and develop. Fate insisted on throwing logs at his feet from which he failed to build the stairs to success.

These logs he often threw by himself through the lack of humbleness and excessive criticism of current trends in art. Living in an adopted country, he felt a second-class citizen. His real homeland turns away from him like from a “pariah”. Like many other artists before and after him, Szukalski is alone in his struggle with the grey and often brutal reality, in his fight for being allowed to create.

We can multiply the assumption of why DiCaprio and Ben Glenn were interested in Szukalski. Leonardo is a collector, Ben is in possession of an archive and works in a company dealing with casting versions of Szukalski’s sculptures.
Paying attention to the sculptor’s art is certainly in their interest. However, why it should be important compared to the fact that they enable Stanisław Szukalski’s art to see the daylight again. The most important is that this undoubtedly talented artist has a chance to re-enter the consciousness of art lovers. It is a pity that it happens so many years after his death.


Photos we attached to the article are used for a non-commercial reason. They serve to illustrate the content of the article.

Official trailer
Kasper Eistrup, Portrait of Prince Frederik

Frederiksborg Castle
National History Museum in Denmark

Group of Amateur Artists from Hvidovre go at the exhibition a in Roman Empire

One of the beautiful February days, I and a group of my favorite artists – amateurs, whom I meet every Thursday in painting classes, went to the exhibition at the Frederiksborg Castle.

The plan was to see one of the most exciting paintings in Denmark in these days – Kasper Eistrups portrait of the Successor of the Throne, Crown Prince Frederik.

In addition to this “pearl”, we were also going to see other paintings of the artist which were available for us too, as this was his first solo exhibition. In total 84 artworks from the artist, 20 years working with art are exhibited at the castle.

My group, always joyful and creative artists, gathered just after lunch in front of the castle. The castle itself deserves a separate story. It’s both amazing and beautiful at the same time, and it is essential because of the history of Denmark. But about the castle, I might write another time.

After buying tickets, we all went to the exhibition with works by Kasper Eistrup and let me add a few words about the artist.

Kasper Eistrup, known as the former vocalist and guitarist of the Danish rock band Kashmir, has devoted himself to art. The artwork, showing His Majesty Crown Prince Frederik, was made for the museum of Frederiksborg Castle.

As I’m not Dane and haven’t even followed the Danish rock music, I can’t tell you if it’s good Kasper resigned from the world of rock music, though I can tell you I’m glad that he decided to focus on painting.

His paintings, being on the edge of surrealism, symbolism and realism, appeal to me. I am glad that the artist experiments and combines techniques from lithography, drawings and paintings and create a kind of collage. And of course including, as was the main attraction today, the painted artwork of His Majesty Crown Prince Frederik.

The history of how the portrait of High Prince was created, is known to most Danes. The artist portrayed the prince in the Royal Castle Amalienborg. He rearranged the living room, which for Princess Mary was accepted with some doubts and only for the sake of the art.

The painting shows the Prince in the role of a gentleman, a relaxed version of James Bond. As far as I know, this was the artist’s intention, and I admit the two characters, James Bond and the gentleman, was my first impression. Not the heir to the throne but a gentleman, Bond and a martini on the table… shaken not stirred.

At first, my eyes got a little confused by the composition; diagonal. It’s challenging to work with a diagonal layout.

The artwork is broken by a nonexciting line, that cuts the artwork into two parts. Artist balance the composition with tables on one side and a tree on the other and the harmony is intact in this way.

It is also essential to locate the figure of the High Prince, who seats in the corner of the couch. He is like a central point and makes a ballast for the composition. Diagonals bring a specific dynamic to the image, tension; it electrifies the space on the canvas.

The second surprise is a pink sofa. It exists at the Royal castle Amalienborg. The juxtaposition of this piece of furniture with the prince, also adds a kind of glamour, sophistication.

And then there’s a tree, growing straight from the carpet. One of the surrealistic and symbolistic features of Kasper. Is it a fig tree? I do not know if the artist deliberately used this tree, but his symbolism is strongly connected with the biblical message, and a man resting in their shadow of a fig tree is a symbol of peace, prosperity and safe existence.

The abstract background is slightly too much antagonistic with other objects. A way to create the background is quite typical for Kasper. Different, thin lines and doodles.

However, it brings a bit of confusion to the picture. With this amount of detail, in contrast with the rug, I think I prefer a more uniform, stable background.

Maybe the artist intended to introduce this “anxiety” ant to intrigue a viewer.

The High Prince Frederik sits with scattered hands, relaxed. Who would not be after such a martini and if he was James Bond?

Dressed in a tuxedo, apparently, it is a special gift for the 10th anniversary of the wedding from the High Princess wife.

If I had to play in a psychologist, I would say that the artist presented the High Prince as an open, modern man, a good listener, a remarkable versatile human being.

Here, it is vain to look for signs typical of royal family performances such as; signs of power. Well, unless you consider it a tuxedo and a fig tree.

I like the various characteristics appearing in the picture. For example, how the artist painted the shirt or shoes and the face. You can easily see that the artist is very talented.

Generally, the picture makes a good impression on me. It is indeed unique when it comes to presenting royal family members, in this case, the future king of Denmark.

I feel slightly unsatisfied when I looked at some lack of precisions when the artist painted the legs, especially shown in the thickness of the ankles etc. The edges of the sofas could have been much more carefully done.

It’s a bit like Kasper was in a hurry or decided that the knees of the prince and his ankle in socks should not deserve more attention. While there is no doubt about the artist’s talent, we could expect greater perfection in this painting, created especially for the museum. But it’s my impression and my opinion. Of course, the time available to the artist may also have played a part. But in such cases, the necessary time must be given.

Kasper Eistrup, Portrait of Prince Frederik
Kasper Eistrup, Portrait of Prince Frederik
Kasper Eistrup, Portrait of Prince Frederik

Opinions from the participating group

I was very excited about the image of the Crown Prince probably because you recognized him easily. The easily recognizable is probably from where my excitement comes.

Anyway, the part of the painting where there were only doodles was absolutely incomprehensible to me, and when we saw the other paintings of the royals, ministers and other characters, my enthusiasm fell. It was as if he had been too busy. The rest of his paintings I could not understand. Others must judge them.

– Preben M.

Kasper Eistrup shows me fun subjects with exciting effects. Regarding the Crown Prince, I see a relaxed Frederick with a warm, humble expression. He appears as a quite ordinary guy in an environment that also doesn’t seem particularly royal.

That said, the artist has nevertheless managed to bring out the dignified and nice person that Crown Prince Frederik is now. Well done.

– Helen Friis

I was both impressed with the exhibition, but also a little disappointed. Kasper Eistrup’s painting with Crown Prince Frederik, I had previously seen on TV, where I became very excited about it. But when I saw the painting in reality, I was a little disappointed. Crown Prince Frederik looked 10 years older.

However, there were many beautiful features in the painting. Kasper Eistrup’s many other portraits were stunningly beautiful, but messy because of his way of building the paintings as a kind of collage.

We had a great trip to the castle which was so beautiful and the weather was lovely; It was the most beautiful spring forest day you could imagine.

– Linda Engblom

Don’t Miss. Malwina Cieślik – “Malachite Meadows” Exhibition.

BeArte Gallery is happy to announce that one of our talented artists is having the upcoming Vernissage.

Great exhibition of the talented Malwina Cieślik – On the 8th of March, at 18.00, in the Gallery of the Municipal Cultural Center in Radomsko (Galeria Miejskiego Domu Kultury).

Once more wandering into country warm
on malachite meadows of the sea
birds of return are dying in their songs
against fruit of crossroad orange trees…

Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński – “Song”

Malachite, sea and endless Malwina’s meadows are pouring out the edges of the image on the canvas. The artworks seem to have no end. Artist invites you to travel through the created oil on canvas.

The image of the sea is emotional, with spirit, sometimes it’s slightly offended, as it has been pressed into the small dimensions of the canvas. Because of this, it becomes a Fates, impenetrable like dark Cobalts and Malachites, yet still broken with intense aquamarine. The anxiety will experience the souls of those who travel through the canvases of Malwina.

At other times, the sea is like jazz and blues, it rocks with calm waves of blue and turquoise colors. The sea that affectionately stroking the warm yellow beaches and gray shades.

“On the Island”

And all these marine landscapes, these malachite meadows do not seem to require a human presence. They are enough for themselves.

The human presence is hidden by expressively painted, but separated from the whole image, with nervous contours, boats or ships.

This is because a ‘man’ is like a guest, a traveler who will soon disappear behind the edge of the canvas or who have moored for a moment on the beach and will vanish after the sunset. The man traveling through malachite meadows, traveling through life, captured in a very short time of its existence and unlike the sea and beaches, is the only fragile and transient.

No ‘man’ is a hero on the canvas but the sea. Water, wind, and sand – are elements of the painting. Travel – as a metaphor of life. Sea – as a metaphor of infinity, unbridled nature and freedom.

That is why the landscapes of Malwina are not just simple views of the open air. Malwina grows every image in her heart, in her mind. In the privacy and comfort of her studio, she creates her own understanding of the landscapes on canvases. She creates her own reality, which is a combination of what the artist has seen, remembered and what she wants to convey from herself.

“Last Summer Sailing”

Typical for Malwina are wide spots of colors painted expressively using a putty knife. Sometimes it brings out an object from the background with a help of a nervous, dark line. Minimalism in colors, where the highlighted details give the image meaning and make them even more eye-catching.

Malwina’s paintings are a reflection of her emotions and character. It is a manifesto in which she cries out: I love freedom, I love life, through which I can breathe freely. I am happy every moment, and this moment I share with others through painting pictures.

In the series “Malachitowe Łąki” (“Malachite Meadows”), the artist refers to a poem by K.K Baczyński, which was created during his stay at Solta in Niecuam. Just like a poet, the painter was enchanted by the surrounding nature of Solta. She created her own poetry, in which words were transferred to oil on canvas.

Once more we set our feet in heated youthful grit
Once more wandering into country warm.

Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński – “Song”

For those who missed the Exhibition, we are happy to share insights from Polish resources. Check the links to see the photos and read the reviews about the event at and Wiadomości Radomsko

Written by – Beata Piechocka, happy owner of Malwina’s paintings.

Make sure to check Malwina’s artworks at BeArte Gallery

The Guy with the Ear and His Vibrating Restaurant Article

For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.

Van Gogh

The statement that artists become famous only after death is half true, considering stories of the most famous ones but it would be trivial to say so. Nowadays, it is a little easier to become famous during life, as you can use internet tools in a more skillful way. Presenting and spreading your artworks and ideas has never been so easy before.

Everyone probably heard about Van Gogh. Sometimes I thought that he was probably more known for his difficult life than for his art. And I wondered what is more important here then? – His life, as a good topic for a novel or a movie, or actual talent and influence on the emergence of further directions in art. Van Gogh did not have great recognition during his lifetime as well as he did not have all the tools that are available to contemporary artists nowadays. Only after his death, he became the most famous Post-Impressionist.

Over time, the world appreciated his contribution to the development of art. Walking around the exhibition in Arken (Moder Art Museum in Denmark), I had a feeling of lack at the beginning. As everything seemed to be so simple… Just think, we are bombarded with interactive programs from all over, living in a world overloaded with short and simple contents, we turn into fools when we look at something that is simple, simple like a picture. Trees, landscapes, sky, fields, restaurant interiors – all these are simple things. Nothing flashes, nothing disappears, nothing forces you to guess: what the artist wanted to say by this piece of canvas? Just an ordinary representation of reality painted with funny brush strokes. Without an intellectual contribution, not manifesting socio-political ideas but simply – CLEAN ART. Artist, object, creative act and its result, everything that needed. How pure and maybe even naive it may sound in the modern world. Simply light and color forming shapes and passion as a glue between them.

Van Gogh must be seen as an artist whose give us purity of his art. The purity of the relationship between the impression and its projection. The exhibition included many stunning and well-known works by Van Gogh, including his portrait and “Yellow House”. However, a less-known artwork caught my attention.

I was charmed with the painting “Interior of the restaurant”. It is a painting that is covered with questions as well as with incredible details. Accurately dating Interior of a Restaurant in Arles has been difficult, largely because van Gogh never mentioned the painting in any existing letter. But no precise information about this artwork doesn’t make it less incredible.

It is an image that no photo can convey. Even the illustration I used for this blog makes me feel pity and not satisfied, as it has nothing to do with the original. Who is interested in the empty interior of a restaurant? However, it is not important. As this painting is not about the context – it’s all about light and color.

The restaurant is a pretext to show all these luminous phenomena, the dance of the color, those hallucinations that our eyes experience and which the artist presented masterfully with the light. I had the impression that the air in the restaurant vibrating, the colors were ringing, they were clean and loaded at the same time. I was fascinated by this dance. I tried to analyze how the artist built shapes, what colors he used, what and how he contrasted. However, these intellectual puzzles have only made me feel tired. Have Van Gogh analyzed as much I did before putting paint on the canvas? I think everything was simply driven by his emotion, passion and the need to create.

I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.

Van Gogh

Not because of his cut ear, but because of the dance of light and sound of the colors, because of the vibrations of the air on the canvas, and this ubiquitous, uncompromising and pure artistic soul – Van Gogh must be seen.

– Beata Piechocka, Gallery BeArte

Abstract Art – How to Understand Article

On a recent trip to Lisbon, I had a great pleasure of having a conversation with Rita, who besides have introduced me some wonderful port wines, and artworks of students that are very interested in modern art forms and directions. Our conversation spread across many subjects, and it covered not only wine and art, as you can say that both topics include fundamental human qualities like emotions and curiosity and are therefore closely related.

To me, it was very exciting to listen to a young art student because, among other things, we inherent in a tendency to change and develop our opinions and perceptions through the years.

Rita is a beautiful calm and balanced young woman who was quite literate and very well-educated in her opinions and explanations. Certainly, because she taught children in art and thereby, was able to ask a lot of interesting and certain questions.

When we talked about abstract art, she came up with a very simple formula that is worth mentioning here. She was using many others either, but the one below was the most often heard: “My son Jens in 7 years old, and he could do better or at least the same way”. And it’s both correct and yet wrong.

At times, abstract art is relatively naive and technically not so difficult to perform. So to say, it can be imitated along this way. We can make a copy as it were. But what most people will never be able to reproduce is the creation of the original; Even to get the original idea; Even be able to transfer the author’s imagination he took from his soul and put it on the canvas. It could only be the artist, after all, it is he or she that had feelings and thoughts that were released, and at the same time the skills that made it possible. So even though we can copy, the difference between us and the artist is that the author is the only one who creates and we are others who “only” copy.

As an art student in Warsaw, I even remember that one of the most difficult subjects was abstract art. When we were about to work abstractly on canvas during our third year, it seemed straightforward and not difficult at all.

Most of us “fall” right into the trap, as simply 8 lines on a canvas can be either an art or something sloppy, and since we had to explain in detail the color choices, motives to our professor, etc. we realized that we were already wrong with colors choice. Because for how will you intelligently explain that the brush spontaneously and without the larger plan had chosen a little blue spot here and yellow there. So we were going back again and again and again until we began, to think also abstractly. It was quite difficult and although it seemed incredibly simple, the abstract art for many of us was by far the hardest.

When I showed Sebastian’s picture “Baltica III” to my partner’s 11-year-old daughter, her first word was “a nice sunset” and she proceeded to describe the dark sky from the top, the calm water, the beach above the sea and so on and so forth.

The same scenario repeated with “Citronsø”, and although she did not know either titles or ideas behind these artworks, she could easily translate Sebastian’s thoughts and feelings into simple words and short sentences. It was fun though not uncommon, because children still have great developed creativity, as opposed to adults, who are also controlled by the other half of the brain that develops logic, structure, responsibility, etc. They look at the world differently and see themselves more abstractly, because every day they learn and form their own thoughts and stories about what is big and what is small, and not yet filled up with all the responsibilities we, as adults, have and take on us. The older we become, the more things we get stocked and clarified in our heads, that’s why we automatically suppress our creativity and abstract perception, when so many conditions have already been achieved by now we are moving on to something new. Of course, all this is put in general.

Artists are often more “childish” and therefore able to work in art very differently from “normal” adults. They, so to say live in another world and have had the opportunity to stay there since childhood and, in particular, were able to explore this world far deeper than most others were allowed to.

You can ask what should we do with this abstract art if only a few people can understand it? And the question is relevant because art that does not affect us or awakens feelings should not fill our everyday life. Yet, it may have its eligibility. Just as learning a new language can develop us, or reading a book of a new subject for us, or maybe the one that is written in a different way can make our brain work more intensely, so the feeling of the abstract can develop too. We just need to learn to understand it and inquire into what is unclear to us, just as a child would do. We need time to realize what hides behind the artist’s feelings and ideas. Because when we do, a new whole world will open for us. Our understanding will bring us to a new place and definitely what previously was not a matter for us, can now become like something amazing and affect us with feelings we have not had for many years. But we must dare to stop, learn again, try to keep everything else out and just let the imagination flow through our mind and soul.

In conclusion, a little advice from me: When we understand the abstract artwork in front of us, we do not have to doubt our own perception of this feeling, if only it doesn’t fit our taste. Art is so wonderful just like music or similar to that, it affects us a lot differently: Something touches our inner ones in a positive vibe, so other things can be even ignored. All this is about feelings and impressions and once we understand the artwork, it’s up to us to choose or choose it not. Art exists longer when we fall in love with it.

– Beata Piechocka, Gallery BeArte

At Sophienholm with Flemming Hoff Article

We received an invitation from Flemming Hoff to visit him at Sophienholm, where he and eight other artists were participating in an exhibition called “Seeing the unseen”. All artists are very important to us, so we did not hesitate to accept the invitation to see his artworks and of course to have an opportunity to talk personally about the act of creation. Flemming has six wonderful paintings represented at Sophienholm.

Previously, we have been familiar with Flemming’s artworks but only by the internet and we were very curious to find out much more about him and see if we can make inquiries about his masterpieces after seeing them in real life. And so, we went to the meeting with great curiosity and high expectations.

It was a cold but beautiful November day in Sophienholm and we were thrilled by the romantic view of every sight of the magical place. The small palace was looking down at a picturesque lake, it was like a pearl on the tiara, situated on a steep hill it was adorning the area around. A very silent, cool and romantic district with its own atmosphere. If not a noise from the cars passing by, it could make an impression of a place where the time has stopped.

We were lucky to admire a breathtaking view – white little palaces with cozy restaurants, old stables, lake and gorgeous golden autumn robe that covered all the trees in the area! 

Inside the buildings, the typical atmosphere of an old room adapted for modern purposes prevailed. Unfortunately, the past beauty of the buildings could be noticeable only in the remains of frescoes over the doors, in the corners of rooms, plafonds, the view behind the windows, and one lonely and old wooden bench which sagged already next to the window. It was quiet inside; just the sound of the creaking floor was breaking the silence from time to time. Nobody was there besides the cashier. White empty room’s walls were specially designed for hanging pictures on them. Flemming was not there yet, but we decided not to wait and went on the sightseeing ourselves.

Flemming Hoff descends from the flow of American painters which is called field painting. The most famous artist in that flow is Mark Rothko. In our gallery, we have other artists who have been also inspired by the direction mentioned above: Sebastian Skoczylas for example. This is an abstract way of painting based on stripes and colors. The aim of the artist is to influence our perceptions, create an eye illusion by manipulating the surface’s structure and the combination of colors. The painting is derived from the landscape’s pictures that are seen (mostly) in the horizontal layout of the stripes. Read more about that direction: sensualism.

In the second room we entered, we have found three large canvases done by Flemming Hoff. It was a series of pictures, created as a set of shiny black, and bright yellow (commonly called “lemon”) paintings. The artist contrasted the black glossy surfaces of the edges with the center of the image. The center of the canvas represents a square made of a black background and mentioned above “lemon” yellow colors. However, the combination of colors is not even or perfectly smooth, the yellow color is also laid into the stripes. The scoured edges of the square give a viewer an impression of motion, lightness or the feeling of a parchment that has been applied on the edges.

Then the author intentionally removes the yellow color by special tools and create horizontal scratches and an impression of the abrasion. This is how the method of illusion is usually created.

The second canvas we saw, reminded us of an antique door… a mysterious door consisting of two closed wings. The canvas is made in the soot colors. Thanks to the artist’s efforts, painting has been scratched, polished and such manipulations outlined the three-dimensional illusion that was present in the painting. His work also shows his passion for ascetic colors and creation of impressions through the structure and its type of the surface. The color issue is rather on the second place. Black glossy background creates a frame for the central stripe, which is made of a black matte paint.

The third canvas from the series, in some ways, was a repetition of the first one. It is because the artist used the same colors, composition but a little different direction and manner of the way the tools were used. This time it provoked an illusion of motion, spin. This trick is noticeable quite well when you can admire the canvas from a special angle. The painting was creating a feeling that the air was trapped between the yellow stripes and black background. For this reason, the first canvas in comparison to the last one gives an impression of a direction with more stable and linear mood.

To recognize the effects which the artist intended to represent in the paintings, you better to admire the pictures from a distance. As only from a distance, we can see how the surface of the images give the illusion of waves and creates a third dimension. But to understand a technique and “taste” all the “flavours” prepared by the artist, you should keep your nose few centimeters from the canvas.

Before seeing other paintings, Flemming came and we could enjoy his company for the rest of our tour. He is a nice and open-minded artist, very cheerful and easygoing. We found the contact immediately and started our conversation about the process of creation of his works right after we got acquainted. We were excited from the very first moment.

Flemming led us further and we saw another painting of his. It was a large canvas set in the space on the staircase. Our first impressions were both “Wow” and “Oh no!”. The artwork was nearly screaming, it was creating a kind of psychic space. Two shades of energetic red, two different temperatures of the same color, horizontal stripes and scratches – so many things were happening on the canvas! It was like if the painting was almost bursting the walls. The picture was, so to say, pressed in between the small walls of such a little area. It was creating an image of a beautiful woman with luscious forms put in a tight corset. “Move this canvas somewhere else so it can breathe and show its glory” – Were my thoughts. – As the color needs light and space”. Flemming did his artwork specifically for this exact space in Sophienholm, but probably his art is too energetic to be placed somewhere with so little space. It deserves to have a larger room.

The picture consists of three vertical stripes, but you can actually turn it 90 degrees and have a new picture with perfect horizontal stripes. It consists of a main wide stripe made of a cold red color. Side stripes are slightly orange in their color, they are scratched on the edges in Flemming’s style. This artwork is the same as the previous works, because the impression of perspective is also present. Eyes search for familiar shapes and the brain interpret them in its own way.

Flemming Hoff told us he was painting this picture for several months as he was trying to reach the final effect in a perfect way. It is a very expressive work of art and the balance between the cold red and the warm red is amazing. I had the impression that the work is still unfinished as if it was missing the last touch. It is comparable to the listening of a loud symphony when the sound suddenly breaks down. Then the conductor raises up his arms, waits for silence to give a new command to the orchestra and continues the explosion of the music. The exact moment of silence when you follow the conductor’s hands, was an impression I got while looking at this painting.

The next two works we saw were placed on the base floor. One of them was more to my liking, the other became Thomas’s favorite. That first artwork, my favorite one, has a white background and black stripes, created with a technique of scratching off the black paint with the special tools. Thanks to these two colors the painting gave me an illusion of presence there a third color – grey. In some places the artist let the paint flows down in the thin black strips, which looks like commas or maybe the notes on the score. In several places, Flemming’s hand has created some wave collapses which resulted in a ripple effect. It reminded me of the process of record of the music. When I was looking at Flemming’s paintings a thought that Flemming loves music came to my head. Probably he listens to classic and dignified musical works. We surmised that he listens passionately during the act of creation and he confirmed our suppositions.

Flemming uses a variety of tools such as sandpaper, filler etc. to create scratches and smooth surfaces. He is using mostly large canvases, for example, the canvases in Sophienholm are 210 x 190 cm each.

Throughout Flemming’s paintings, you can see his love to work with just a few colors. He is very ascetic in colors. He creates his images using delicate scratches, but he repeats them until he gets the expected effect. He is using scuffings and scratches and different layers of paint. He is manipulating on the large surfaces. This gives the effect of space and perspective and the illusion of motion. His paintings are close to architecture works and more advantageously and beautifully look in the large rooms. Flemming’s works are ideal for modern apartments, offices, hotels or anywhere else where you have large clean surfaces.

The meeting with Flemming continued during a fast lunch together in a pleasant atmosphere of talks about the art market and the process of creation of his paintings. Flemming shared with us his art and ways of getting inspiration and we were very honored to be in his company and enriched ourselves with his stories.

I have to say that in our opinion, his works are distinguished by their magnificent quality and creative concept. He is a great artist and his loyalty to his own techniques and thoughts makes his paintings more complete and create a total harmony. What seems flat and boring on a phone screen, tablet or a monitor speaks out and gets almost hypnotizing when you see it in the real life.

Why is Flemming Hoff’s art important? Some may go so far that they will call it “The Emperor’s New Clothes” (tale written by Hans Christian Andersen). Is the comparison driven because people do not understand the importance of his works or the true message? I do not think so as everyone must choose their own experience and path of understanding. But it is a fact that even those, who do not know or don’t see the true message will be influenced by Flemming’s paintings.

Here we were talking a lot about forms, deep sense and other dimensions where are able to see in artworks only if we take our time and switch on our imagination. Want a bit more proof? Let’s digress from Flemming and consider a different example.

When we visit the DR Concert Hall in DR City, we walk into the hallways with the gray concrete walls and see their irregular grooves and patterns. The French architect Jean Nouvel deliberately chose such a specific type of concrete and, not least, created by it the game of the material we can find in the raw and bare concrete walls. But by breathing the life into this dull material, the walls got transformed and began to affect us. When you cross these walls daily, you may not want to think about the game the concrete creates, but you will unconsciously detect familiar marks from at least the last passage and the walls will display their presence and give you the feeling of safety. If Jean Nouvel used full-sided and smooth white painted walls without the slightest structure, we would feel completely different. There would be no focal points and calm patterns, but just the big white surfaces that would make us feel unsafe and give a sense of emptiness.

We are always influenced by all the visual impetus and especially those we learn to recognize, or those we are familiar with. Flemming Hoff’s impressive formats can seem too big at first glance, but when we stop, get closer in order to understand and identify the technique and experience all the patterns and colors, afterwards, we step back and look at the whole picture again, the shapes will suddenly be present, and now we are able to find movements on the canvas where recently there was only a still surface and no figures, just chaos we couldn’t understand before. So, the more we consider the big artworks, the more depth we find and the more joy they give us.

Returning back to the Flemming’s works, I would dare to say they are, in fact, a beautiful picture of our everyday life and they represent a very real art of the present time, where everything is going too well, and we’d rather let ourselves be affected by this life or just flow along with it, rather than immerse ourselves in the world of perfect and meticulous. Rembrandt, Lautrec, and all the other great artists added fewer and fewer to their works, simply because the time is only for short impressions, text messages consisting of only a few words and our constant hurry from A to B. Here, in this modern chaos and epo-hit rate, Flemming’s works of art are quiet and as wonderful poems give us peace when we read them.

I hope, you, dear reader will like what I wrote, and it will be a great experience for you. Generally, we can only recommend you take the tour to Sophienholm and enjoy both the wonderful art and of course the breathtaking nature of the place around.

– Beata Piechocka. Gallery BeArte