March 14, 2015

Henryk Siemiradzki - A forgotten master of academicism

Siemiradzki was a Polish 19th-century painter known for his depictions of scenes from the ancient Graeco-Roman world and the New Testament. He was born in 1843 to a Polish noble family near the city of Kharkiv in the Russian Empire (now Ukraine).

He entered the Physics-Mathematics School of Kharkov University and studied natural sciences there with great interest, but also continued to paint. After graduating from the University with the degree of Kandidat he abandoned his scientific career and moved to Saint Petersburg to study painting at the Imperial Academy of Arts in the years 1864–1870. Upon his graduation he was awarded a gold medal. In 1870–1871 he studied under Karl von Piloty in Munich on a grant from the Academy. In 1872 he moved to Rome and with time, built a studio there on Via Gaeta.

At one point his paintings were loved through most of the western world. He even received the French National Order of the Legion of Honour in 1878, but today he has been largely forgotten. Most likely because all his work is on display in the national museums of Poland, Russia and Ukraine which draw relatively small crowds when compared to museums like the Louvre or the Metropolitan.

Siemiradzki died in 1902 and was buried originally in Warsaw, but later his remains were moved to the national Pantheon on Skałka in Kraków.

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