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Woman Combing her Hair

Władysław Ślewiński1909

The National Museum in Krakow

The National Museum in Krakow

Władysław Ślewiński was one of the first Polish artists who went to Paris to study painting, instead of Munich, which had been fashionable so far. There he developed his own way of depicting, referring to French art of the last decades of the 19th century – to the synthesis of Paul Gauguin and the circle of Pont Aven group.

In Ślewiński’s artistic output, a piece painted in Paris in 1897, depicting a woman combing her hair, is rather unique. It is intriguing and disturbing, combining Art Nouveau form with Young Poland’s sensuality, unparalleled in other, usually restrained works of the artist. In an intimate scene, the artist showed a half-naked model sitting on the bed, side to the viewer and a cascade of hair of intense copper color falling on her face that she combs with her hand. We do not know who the portrayed woman was. Perhaps it is the artist’s wife – Russian painter Eugenia Shevtsov, whom he met in Paris, and the composition is one of several of her portraits, in which Ślewiński showed the mysterious charm of seemingly ordinary and everyday situations. Or maybe, as Antoni Potocki noticed, the woman portrayed in the painting is an unknown copper-haired siren? Equally intriguing, apart from the identity of the model, is a mirror lying in front of her, in which someone’s face is reflected. It is not, however, a reflection of a woman’s face, but probably a portrait of the artist painting the portrait and staring at the woman.

Ślewiński has achieved extraordinary mastery in the painterly composition. It is based on his frequently used method of framing, showing a certain fragment or close-up of the scene taking place. Ślewiński’s synthetism, borrowed by Ślewiński from the artists from Gauguin’s circle, was expressed in the simplification of form and content, as well as the harmonization of colors dominated by the copper-brown hair color, the white-gold complexion of the model’s body and the shades of green of the fabric of the sofa and curtains. The artist also used very impressive, soft, Art Nouveau strokes, especially visible in the back, hair and hands of the model.

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  • Title: Woman Combing her Hair
  • Creator: Władysław Ślewiński
  • Date Created: 1909
  • Provenance: Gift of Teodor and Zeneida Dunin, 1909
  • Medium: oil, canvas

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