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Szembek, Stanisław Feliks

Circassian/Czerkies, probably Munich, 1871. Oil on canvas, 154 x 114 cm, Muzeum Lubuskie Jana Dekerta w Gorzowie Wielkopolskim
Circassian/Czerkies, probably Munich, 1871. Oil on canvas, 154 x 114 cm, Muzeum Lubuskie Jana Dekerta w Gorzowie Wielkopolskim

Szembek, Stanisław Feliks (Stanisław Feliks hr. Szembek ze Słupowa, Stanislaus Graf Szembek), Polish painter, member of the "Munich School". From 1868-71, he was in Munich at the Academy of Fine Arts and in the circle of artists surrounding Józef Brandt. *5 August 1849 in Siemianice/Siemianice (województwo wielkopolskie), District of Ostrzeszów, †28 May 1891 in Wysocko, District of Ostrowo/Wysocko Wielkie, Powiat ostrowski. Son of lord of the manor Aleksander hr. Szembek ze Słupowa (1814-1884) and his wife Felicja Wierusz-Niemojowska (1822-1878), grandson of a Major General in the Polish army, Piotr Szembek (1788-1866). On his mother’s side, he was the grandson of the lawyer and politician Bonawentura Niemojowski (1787-1835); he had three brothers. Like his brothers, he tried to join the troops of General Edmund Taczanowski (1822-1879) during the January Uprising of 1863 but was rejected because of his young age. From 1864, he attended the St. Matthew Grammar School/Katolickie gimnazjum św. Macieja in Wrocław. After finishing his school-leaving exam, he went to Munich to study. On 15 November 1868, he started studying in the antiquity class at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich at the same time as Ludomir Benedyktowicz (1844-1926), Witold Pruszkowski (1846-1896), Ksawery Pillati (1843-1902) and Aleksander Gierymski (1850-1901, all members of the "Munich School"). He studied under Alexander Strähuber (1814-1882) and from 1869-70 under the illustrator, genre and landscape painter Wilhelm Diez (1839-1907). He frequented the group of Polish artists surrounding the horse and battle painter Józef Brandt (1841-1915) and was friends, in particular, with the painter Adam Chmielowski (1845-1916), who ran an atelier with Aleksander Gierymski and his brother Maksymilian (1846-1874, all members of the "Munich School"). He was awarded a silver medal for his painting of a "Cicassian" (see cover image). In 1871, he became a member of the Kunstvereins München. Soon afterwards, he returned to Poland. He inherited the Bonarka estate near Kraków, where he settled and established contact with the group of painters in Kraków surrounding Jan Matejko (1838-1983), in particular, Pruszkowski and Tadeusz Ajdukiewicz (1852-1916, member of the "Munich School"). In 1878, he met Augusta Czarna-Zawisza z Soboty (1856-1936) in Zoppot, whom he married in July 1879. They had two children. He subsequently acquired the Sadowie and Wysocko estates in the district of Ostrowo/Ostrów Wielkopolski from his father. He settled in Wysocko, rebuilt the manor house, added an atelier annexe and created a park with game reserve and orchard. He collected Gdansk art and porcelain. In 1882, he went to Bellagio and Bad Reichenhall for convalescent care because of his tuberculosis. In 1883 and 1885, he travelled to Italy. In the years that followed, his progressive tuberculosis led to severe disabilities. The influence of Józef Brandt on his early work from the Munich period is still clear to see. His enthusiasm for the old Slavic national costumes at the time of the Cossack wars and Tartar invasions of the 17th century is again evident in Szembek’s painting of a "Circassian" (see Title image). However, this picture also had a contemporary reference, namely the Caucasus War 1817-64 which Russia led against the Circassians and Chechens. The painter Theodor Horschelt (1829-1871) brought motifs back with him to Munich from his expeditions to the Caucaus 1858-62, which also influenced the Polish painters of the "Munich School". It was not until ten years after Szembek that Alfred Wierusz-Kowalski (1849-1915, in Munich from 1873) and the painter Franz Roubaud (1856-1928, in Munich from 1877), who came from Odessa, painted motifs from the Circassian Wars again. Szembek was not interested in Brandt’s battle and horse motifs, but concentrated instead on the human image, certainly influenced by his teacher Wilhelm Diez. His sketch books, which were created ca. 1870 (owned by the family), mainly show portraits of friends and relatives. His paintings show figure paintings ("Young man"; "Old man seated"; "Female portrait"). After he settled in Wysocko, he continued to paint portraits of relatives and self-portraits. He brought back landscape studies and views of Naples from his travels to Italy. Later, he mainly created landscapes and villagescapes from Greater Poland (Agra Art auction house) in small formats and in bright colours. His works can be found in the National Museum, Kraków/Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie, in the City Museum, Ostrów Wielkopolski/Muzeum Miasta Ostrowa Wielkopolskiego, in the Cultural Centre, Odolanów/Odolanowski Dom Kultury and in the Lubuskie Museum in Gorzów Wielkopolski.

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  • Circassian/Czerkies, probably Munich, 1871

    Circassian/Czerkies, probably Munich, 1871. Oil on canvas, 154 x 114 cm