Stephan Wladislawowitsch Bakalowicz (Polish, 1857-1947)
Arranging flowers signed in Latin, inscribed 'Pinxit. Rome' and dated '1891' (lower right) oil on panel 32 x 16cm (12 5/8 x 6 5/16in).
Stefan-Aleksandr (Stephan) Bakalowicz's work was rather unfairly overlooked by the academic world. Born in Poland and educated in the Imperial Academy of Arts, St. Petersburg, he was fascinated by, and aligned his life with, Italy.
Arranging bouquets was a popular theme in the arts of antiquity and it enjoyed a revival in the second part of 19th century, with the representation of Greek and Roman history playing a key role in the development of academic painting. Painters such as G. Semradskiy, F. Bronnikov, V. Smirnoff, and the brothers A. and P. Svedmoskiy were often inspired by antiquity. While admiring the offered lot which depicts a Roman woman gathering flowers, one can see how the artist envisioned and even noticeably idealised the everyday life of that period. In this painting, Bakalowicz exhibits great skill when dealing with light and colour, depicting reflections of sunlight on leaves, draped clothing, hair, gold jewellery and marble surfaces. The picture is permeated with the poetry of the past, beauty and grace. 'One of the most important subjects of my studies is Graeco-Roman archaeology and art, as well as ancient literature and history', explained the artist.
Arranging Flowers was painted in 1891 and at that time the artist was travelling in Italy, visiting Naples as well as the picturesque neighbouring regions of Pompey, Ischia and Capri. The classical brushwork, small and highly textured brush strokes, the glazing, as well as the mandatory preparatory drawing was characteristic of Bakalowicz's works. The artist was widely known as the Russian Alma-Tadema and the offered lot is indicative of such an accolade.
Arranging Flowers will be included in a monograph on the artist being prepared for publication in 2012.