Olga Boznańska – Self-Portrait (1908). National Museum, Warsaw. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
By Nina Heyn – Your Culture Scout
Even casual museumgoers are familiar with such female artists as Georgia O’Keeffe or Mary Cassatt—celebrated painters whose art is prominently displayed in major Western galleries. Fewer art lovers are familiar with someone like Olga Boznańska, even though she was very active in the early 20th century, working not only in her native Kraków but also in Munich and then for over 40 years in Paris. In her native Poland, she has been famous for a long time—but, typically, more appreciated after her death in 1940 (she died alone, forgotten, in German-occupied Paris) than during her lifetime. Though her painting style echoes the Impressionists’ loose brushwork, she was disdainful of landscapes: “You cannot sit the landscape down on a sofa and ask it to come back to the studio for a dozen sittings,” she would say. So, she was a portraitist, mostly painting portraits and flowers. One of her early portraits of her favorite subject—a child—has been considered a masterpiece ever since she painted it in 1894 in Munich, the city of her greatest artistic achievements.