Whether it’s Valentine’s Day or any other time of year when that muscle in your chest starts throbbing away, sometimes you have to look upon art that inspires that loving feeling. Culture.pl brings you six sensual images by masters such as Jacek Malczewski, Maja Berezowska and Stefan Norblin that will get you and your loved one’s blood pumping.
Teodor Axentowicz – Spring (1900)
This pastel on paper portrait was made in 1900 by Teodor Axentowicz. He was one of the most valued painters of the Young Poland period, which flourished from the 1890s to the 1910s as a Polish response to modernism. The image depicts Ata Zakrzewska, his Kraków muse whom he immortalised in a number of works. In her right hand is a tulip, a flower that blooms in spring, the season whose name is the title of the piece. Her other palm holds a mirror, an attribute of the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty Aphrodite, suggesting that the deity’s aspects are linked to the model, a personification of spring.
Maja Berezowska – Kiss (1955)
The author of this piece, Maja Berezowska, was a noted Polish draughtswoman, best known for her erotic art and characteristic delicate lines. She created this particular picture, the watercolour and ink Kiss in 1955, in the later stages of her artistic activity. Her extensive oeuvre includes paintings, stage scenery designs as well as illustrations made for publications such as Boccaccio's Decameron and Jerzy Sztaudynger’s short poems published as Piórka. In an interview she once said: ‘There would be no life without love. To me there is nothing quite as beautiful as the human body and as long as I live I’ll be drawing it. In the most beautiful way possible!’
Jacek Maleczewski – Possessed (1887)
Even though there is no nudity in this image, it shows a scene filled with subtle eroticism. The youngster to the left keenly observes the pretty girl in the middle through the greenery, probably trying to go unnoticed. She, on the other hand, seems to be aware of what’s going on and is enjoying it. The piece is part of the series by Poland’s leading symbolist Jacek Maleczewski called Rusałki, a title that is also the name of female Slavic daemons that lured young men to their doom. The title of this particular 1887 oil painting, Possessed, gives further insight into its gloomy meaning and explains why the spectators to the right appear worried.
Władysław Podkowiński – Frenzy of Exultations (1894)
The 1894 Frenzy of Exultations by Władysław Podkowiński is a one-of-a-kind oil painting and a classic of Polish symbolism. A scandalous sensation at the time of its creation, the intense scene is often considered to show the destructive side of erotic instincts, feelings that are as wild as the possessed steed and have the power to make you lose yourself like the woman depicted. Despite the indignation of some, the famous Young Poland poet Kazimierz Tetmajer commented on the piece by stating that ‘We, the young artists who write and paint, we welcome Podkowiński’s fantastic work which demolishes all schemas, with the greatest of joys’.
Stefan Norblin – Dance (1940s)
This oil on canvas painting titled Dance was created by Stefan Norblin in the early 1940s in India. It was commissioned for a Maharaja’s palace in Morvi where it adorns one of the chambers. Referencing Hindu mythology, the image shows a lavish gathering including Apsaras and Yakshinis, respectively celestial nymphs and patrons of fertility. Saraswati, the goddess of science, literature, music and fine arts, is about to provide accompaniment by playing the vina, a traditional string instrument. The piece’s unique style shows the artist’s fondness both for Indian art with its richness and recurring floral motives, as well as for European Art Deco.
Tamara Łempicka – The Dream (1927)
Last but not least we have a 1927 piece by Tamara Łempicka, one of Poland’s most recognisable Art Deco painters. Titled The Dream (Rafaela on a Green Backround), the oil painting shows a model the artist met in the Parisian Bois de Boulogne, who inspired her to create a number of works. The Dream is the best-known of them all, and went on to become Łempicka’s most high-priced work, valued at nearly $8.5 million – it placed the Pole amongst the world’s most expensive female painters. The periodical La Pologne once wrote that ‘Łempicka’s models are modern women. They’re neither hypocritical nor shy as understood by bourgeois morality’.
Author: Marek Kępa, Feb 2017