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In the Bower

Aleksander Gierymski1882

The National Museum in Warsaw

The National Museum in Warsaw

This genre-type costume scene and a group of plein air studies the artist made while working on the painting, are considered to be some of the best works in Aleksander Gierymski’s oeuvre. They were the artist’s first deliberate attempts to harness his technical craft for the sake of transporting onto canvas his impressions gathered through observing nature.

Particularly interesting is Study with a Cylinder, shown opposite, in which we can discern a finesse in the use colour, a consistent painterly approach, and an exquisite rendering of the effects of light as it diffuses through the leaf-covered latticework of the bower.

Such a refreshing effect and spontaneity in applying the patches of colour is missing however from the final version of the painting, produced in the studio on the basis of the plein air sketches and re-painted many times. This process undoubtedly had much to do with the final look of In the Arbour. It must have been difficult to create a work with a uniform colour and light structure by laboriously reproducing individual parts which had been first painted outdoors independently of each other, and without the whole picture in mind. Despite the challenges, the artists managed to combine the motifs he had observed in nature into a single cohesive vision abounding in vibrant light and colour. The shapes emerge through the use of dense, highly-textured patches of paint, which obscure and drown out any lines of contour. The refracted sunlight enlivens the colours of the silk and brings out the translucent airiness of the lace in the figures’ rococo clothing, while the deep green of the plants and the shimmering water in the fountain create an almost palpable impression of a hot summer day.

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