Sunday, January 25, 2015

Stanislaw Witkiewicz, Sunset at Sea

Stanislaw Witkiewicz, Sunset at Sea, 1887

I have posted a lot of seascapes and a lot of sunsets on this blog, and several that are both, but they continue to engage and amaze me.  Today's selection is another fine example of the genre. Stanislaw Witkiewicz (1851-1915) was a Polish painter, as well as an architect, writer, and theorist of art and philosophy.  Witkiewicz was born in a village in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but now sits in Lithuania, and attended school in St. Petersburg and Munich. However, he came to oppose formal education, writing that "school is completely at odds with the psychological makeup of human beings." He became a leading member of the Warsaw Positivists.  Much of his art fits firmly into Realism, but some of his landscapes have a more Romantic tone in their explorations of nature.  Sunset at Sea exhibits elements of both styles, but tends more toward Realism.  We see this fisherman rowing his boat, presumably heading back to shore for the night.  Although he is small himself, his outstretched oars span most of the canvas and his red scarf marks him prominently.  The glassy water is portrayed quite skillfully, while two other boats appear in the distance.  In the middle ground is another rowboat, perhaps another pair of fishermen or laborers, but in the far background is a steamship.  It is tiny, but its influence is palpable.  The black smoke cuts across the sky, disrupting the sunset and upsetting the tranquil scene.  This represents the industry that was overtaking these fishermen with their rowboats. Nevertheless, the sunset is quite beautiful.  It is a simpler sunset than some of the others I've written about, merely the deep orange orb against a pale and fading sky.  The deftness of Witkiewicz's use of color in the sky is remarkable, for he evokes the sunset with very few colors, but shaped and shaded to perfectly reflect evening sky.

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