The Great Painters

Olga Boznańska

- eminent painter in skirt 😉

Olga Boznańska
Olga Boznańska in 1930, Wikipedia

Olga Boznańska


A "lyrical" painter - she painted flowers, landscapes, portraits. At a time when women were forbidden to enter higher schools of fine arts, she was able to master her painting craft to perfection, develop her own personal style and gain widespread recognition. She was among Polish artists the closest to impressionism, although she did not belong to any school, group, direction or current. She was pursuing her own vision of art. She offered intellectual and spiritual painting, based on refined and subtle colours. Her paintings are bright, luminous, very atmospheric. She is one of the greatest painters in history.









Olga Boznańska


On April 15 in Cracow Olga Boznańska was born, daughter of Adam Nowina Boznański (a talented engineer) and Eugenia Mondant (a Frenchwoman), who was drawing herself and she wanted her daughters (Olga older and Izabela younger by 2 years) to practice arts. Olga's parents owned a tenement house at 21 Wolska Street (today Piłsudskiego Street).


she went with her family to Paris for the World Exhibition


drawing lessons with Kazimierz Pochwalski. There was no question of studying at the School of Fine Arts, where under no circumstances were women accepted.


Olga Boznańska attended A. Baraniecki's courses, where she received a solid background in the workshop.


At the age of 21, Olga Boznańska began her studies in Munich - as a woman she was not admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts, so she studied in K. Kricheldorf's studio. That year she had her first exhibition in Cracow


She gave up her studies with the professors and rented her own studio in Munich. This year her exhibition was also held in Warsaw


exhibitions in Berlin and Warsaw, this year also the mother died


exhibitions in Berlin, Prague and Munich, where she received a gold medal. Whereas in Krakow the jury of the Society of Friends of Fine Arts rejected her painting


For "Portrait of painter Paweł Nauen" Olga Boznańska received a gold medal and distinction in London for "Portrait of Miss Mary Breme" in Vienna from the hands of Archduke Karol Ludwik. Henryk Rodakowski (1823-1894) wrote a congratulatory letter to her: "The great success that the portrait painted by the Lady at the Vienna exhibition has caused me to wish you to please the Cracovians with your work - You want to give us, gracious Lady, an opportunity to admire your work and enjoy your talent"


at the request of Prof. T. Hummel, he was replaced by the head of the Painting School in Munich


Julian Fałat (1853-1929) offered her a professorship at the School of Fine Arts, which she couldn't have been a student of 10 years earlier. However, Olga Boznańska decided to stay in Munich. That year the jury of the Société des Beaux-Arts accepted the artist's paintings for the exhibition, which was a great success


moved to Paris; exhibited in Warsaw, Lviv, Berlin and Paris


exhibitions at the New Gallery in London (gold medal) and at the World Exhibition in Paris (distinction). Unfortunately, this year is also a year of breaking off with Józef Czajkowski. For the artist time stood still - for the rest of her life she dressed according to the 1900s fashion...


Paris quickly appreciated her talent - the French government bought "Brittany" for the state art collection. This year also sees the first exhibition of Olga Boznañska overseas - in Pittsburgh (USA).


the artist's father died in Paris, leaving her an inheritance of a family tenement house in Krakow, whose rent provided her with a modest living in Paris


Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh awarded her a silver medal

Olga Boznańska
Girl with chrysanthemums, 1894, Wikipedia


At the exhibition in Pittsburgh Olga Boznańska represented France together with C. Monet and A. Renoir and in Amsterdam she won a silver medal at the international exhibition. That year Olga Boznańska became president of the Association of Polish Artists "Art".


Once again, her paintings represented French art in Pittsburgh and were exhibited by: P. Bonnard, M. Denis, X. Roussel, C. Monet, P. Signac.


she came to Krakow for the last time

Olga Boznańska

On Good Friday, about 1890, Wikipedia


Olga Boznańska was awarded the Polish state prize, which for some time repaired the artist's budget. Unfortunately, this year the artist's sister Iza committed suicide. A Committee to Aid Olga Boznańska was established in the country and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Museum in Warsaw purchased her paintings.

Olga Boznańska

Boznańska Autoportrait, Wikipedia


at the World Exhibition in Paris Olga Boznańska won the Grand Prix


was successful at the Venice Biennale, where Olga Boznańska sold 5 paintings, including "Portrait of Mr. Dygatowa", which was bought by the Italian king


The artist struggling with sclerosis and facial eczema, causing eye pains, worked for the rest of her life and only with easels did she regain strength and serenity. Olga Boznańska died on October 26 in Paris.

Interesting facts:


On the wall of Olga Boznańska's studio there was a portrait of the former fiancé of painter Józef Czajkowski, also a painter. The artist never parted with this portrait, she even took it with her on travels. Józef Czajkowski broke off his fiancé after many years of waiting. His letters from an earlier period testify to his fervent love: " (...) I would have given my whole life to sweeten your way..." He called his beloved "baby".


Thanks to "Portrait of Paweł Nauen" the beginner painter Olga Boznańska has become famous. The painting was created by a few coincidences. The painter Pawel Nauen paid attention to the self-portrait of Olga Boznańska in mourning after her mother's death. He asked the artist to pose for him. Olga agreed and the painting was made by Nauen's brush, which we know only from photographs. The acquaintance of both of them resulted in a different portrait, where the roles of model and painter were reversed. "I remember, it was on Wednesday morning. The rain was still alive (...). The door opens and the exquisite Nauen enters with his collar raised. This was my painting! "Stay that way." I planted it on the couch with flowers, put a cup in his hand and started painting" - recalled Olga Boznańska years later


For each portrait Olga Boznańska needed about a month and many posing sessions. She said: "When taking a portrait, the artist should realize the idea of a color model. She said: "It happened that after a few posing sessions, without finding the harmony she mentioned, she demanded to change the color of the dress and start the painting again.

5 years

Olga Boznańska did not admit her age, consistently postponing her date of birth by 5 years.


Despite several admirers, Olga Boznańska did not get married. A wealthy Viennese man, Victor von Back, was even baptized in Cracow in the hope of getting married.


The artist liked animals, she had 2 dogs, birds and many mice. The menagerie running freely around the studio is responsible for destroying many of her paintings.

Olga Boznańska

Bretonka, 1889, Wikipedia

About the art of Olga Boznańska:

Olga Boznańska's beloved color was inconspicuous, seemingly even "colorless" - gray. All her life she explored the mysteries of gray and found in it an incredible wealth of shades and tones: cold and warm, rotten and refined, muted and expansive.

"My images (...) are true, they are honest, sir, there is no pettiness, no manners, no blaze. They are quiet and alive..." 

Olga Boznańska

Olga Boznańska realized that by using all shades of gray and dark brown she had to take great care that her palette did not look "dirty". That is why she never painted wet. She applied colors with small brush touches and waited for them to dry. Only then did she often scrape the paint with a knife before applying another color or shade. This method proved to be effective but time consuming.

"We consider Boznańska (...) to be the greatest Polish painter and one of the greatest European painters. And there is no exaggeration in that" 

Ignacy Witz

"Portrait of Paul Nauen" was often called a portrait of a decadent. A stylized young man, aware of his beauty, looks at us with an indifferent gaze. He looks, not being present, as he sits in a studied pose, but the raised collar of his jacket indicates that he is ready to leave at any time. Olga Boznańska already knew how to portrait souls. The painting brought the artist a gold medal. "I am proud that you, as a Pole, received this international award" said the Emperor's brother, Archduke Karol Ludwik, giving her the award.

"Whether a race contains character and that is the right beauty. In it sits a soul thinking, working, warm, tired or tired. Nothing can be changed from such features. Anyway, I cannot improve nature - I paint what I see...". 

Olga Boznańska

Olga Boznańska
View from the studio window, c. 1912, Wikipedia

Two well-known critics Roger Marx and Louis Vauxcelles have spoken respectfully about the work of Olga Boznańska many times, emphasizing the psychological depth, sense of color and subtlety of color harmony.

What an artist! The famous Polish woman haunts us, leads us to obsession, enchants us..." 

Louis Vauxcelles

The chronicler "La Nouvelle Revue" did not fail to note that Empress Eugenia, while visiting the Salon, stopped a long time before the portrait of Olga Boznańska's brush.

"The artist brings such a personal concept of the portrait that the most perspicacious critics do not know to which school to assign it". 

Clotilde Mismeart critic

However, the artist herself kept a certain distance from all the reviews.

"All criticism writes that (images) sad, what will I do that sad? I can't be any different than I am... In any case, you don't mind that sadness is really the best portraits from the whole Salon. And I think it's even sadder." 

Olga Boznańska

Olga Boznańska in the Museums:

Olga Boznańska
Terrace flowers, 1903, Wikipedia
galeria marzeń

Cracow: National Museum - Jagiellonian University Museum - St. Mary's Church in Cracow. You can admire there, among others..:

  • „Pejzaż nocny” namalowany w 1875
  • „Portret kobiety (Cyganka)” namalowany w 1888
  • „Kwiaciarki” namalowany w 1889
  • „Bretonka: namalowany w 1890
  • W Wielki Piątek (Zakonnica, Zakonnica modląca się w kościele)” namalowany w 1890
  • „Portret kobiety w białej sukni” namalowany w 1890
  • „Portret malarza Pawła Nauena” namalowany w 1893
  • „Dziewczynka z chryzantemami” namalowany w 1894
  • „Portret Józefa Czajkowskiego” namalowany w 1894
  • „Złote róże” namalowany w 1896
  • „Studium wnętrza pracowni artystki w Krakowie” namalowany w 1896
  • „Portret Gertrudy Dziewickiej” namalowany w 1897
  • „Widok z okna w Krakowie” namalowany w 1900
  • „Portret Adama Nowiny-Boznańskiego” namalowany w 1903
  • „Motyw z Paryża” namalowany w 1903
  • „Katedra w Pizie” namalowany ok. 1905
  • Portret Bohdana Faleńskiego” namalowany w 1905
  • „Autoportret” namalowany w 1906
  • Kompozycja z nasturcjami” namalowany w 1906
  • „Wnętrze paryskiej pracowni, 1906
  • „Portret Feliksa Jasieńskiego” namalowany w 1907
  • Wnętrze paryskiej pracowni” namalowany w 1908
  • „Portret pani Horainowej” namalowany w 1908
  • „Autoportret z kwiatami” namalowany w 1909
  • „Portret Zygmunta Pusłowskiego” namalowany w 1912
  • Portret francuskiej pisarki Gabrieli Reval” namalowany w 1912
  • „Portret Henryka Sienkiewicza” namalowany w 1913
  • Portret Łucji Dettloff” namalowany w 1917
  • Kwiaty” namalowany w 1920
  • „Martwa natura” namalowany w 1920
  • „Martwa natura z kwiatami” namalowany ok. 1930
  • „Portret malarza Jana Rubczaka” namalowany w 1930
  • „Kiki, piesek artystki” namalowany ok. 1930


galeria marzeń


  • Paris: Orsay Museum - Polish Library. You can admire there, among others..:
    • „Portret panny Dygat” namalowany w 1903
    • „Portret młodej kobiety w bieli” namalowany w 1912
    • „Portret Pani D.” namalowany w 1913


Jacek Malczewski


  • Pittsburgh: Carnegie Institute. Można tam podziwiać m. in.:
    • „Portret damy w czarnej sukni” namalowany w 1919
jan matejko


  • Wenecja: Galleria d’Arte Moderna
galeria marzeń

Warsaw: National Museum. You can admire there, among others..:

  • „W oranżerii” namalowany w 1890
  • Portret chłopca w gimnazjalnym mundurku” namalowany ok. 1890
  • „Dziewczynka z koszem jarzyn w ogrodzie” namalowany w 1891
  • „Studium kobiety z dziewczynką” namalowany w 1893
  • „Autoportret” namalowany w 1893
  • „Dziewczynka w ogrodzie” namalowany w 1896
  • „Imieniny babuni” namalowany w 1888-1889
  • „Portret Franciszka Mączyńskiego” namalowany w 1900
  • „Anemony” namalowany w 1901
  • „Portret Franciszka Mączyńskiego” namalowany w 1901
  • „Plac de Ternes w Paryżu” namalowany w 1903
  • „Katedra w Pizie” namalowany w 1905
  • „Portret Kazimierza Wizego” namalowany ok. 1905-1909
  • „Portret Heleny i Władysławy Chmielarczyk” namalowany w 1906
  • „Autoportret” namalowany w 1913
  • „Kwiaty” namalowany w 1913
  • W mojej pracowni” namalowany w 1913
  • „Martwa natura z wazą” namalowany w 1918


galeria marzeń

Other Polish cities:

  • Katowice: Silesian Museum. You can admire there, among others..:
    • „Portret dwóch dziewczynek” namalowany w 1896
    • „Portret rzeźbiarza Jana Szczepkowskiego” namalowany ok. 1906
    • „Portret pani w białym kapeluszu” namalowany w 1906
    • „Portret Heleny Chmielarczykowej” namalowany w 1909
  • Poznań: National Museum. You can admire there, among others..:
    • Dwoje dzieci na schodach” namalowany w 1899
    • „Ulica w Paryżu” namalowany w 1906
    • „Portret filozofa Wincentego Lutosławskiego” namalowany w 1909
    • „Portret Róży Raczyńskiej” namalowany w 1912
  • Wrocław: National Museum. You can admire there, among others..:
    • Autoportret z japońską parasolką” namalowany w 1892
  • Bytom: Muzeum Górnośląskie
  • Łódź: Muzeum Sztuki.
  • Szczecin: Muzeum Narodowe

Olga Boznańska (1865-1940)

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