In the first of these two articles looking at the career and paintings of Kazimierz Sichulski (1879–1942), I explained how he was born in the city of Lviv, in modern Ukraine, trained there and in Poland, and returned to the Carpathian Mountains to paint the Hutsul peoples there. In 1909, he painted another of his mixed media triptychs, this time titled The Hutsul Madonna.
Painted using a combination of tempera and pastel, this triptych is remarkable for its passages which appear to be mosaics, others looking more like stained glass, and its luminous Art Nouveau style.
Above is the left panel, and below is its centre panel.
Frightened Horses (1911) shows a pair of runaway horses drawing a cart along a muddy country road, into the half-light.
Sichulski’s painting of an Angel from 1911 may have been intended as part of another triptych, and continues in Art Nouveau style.
In 1913, he painted another mixed media triptych, this time showing the Adoration of the Magi. The centre panel is a fairly conventional Nativity, complete with the Holy Family and a standard ox. The left panel has two of the Magi and the ass, and the right completes the set of three Magi.
During the First World War, Sichulski served first in the Polish Legions, which were raised by Józef Piłsudski across Galicia and the Carpathians and fought against the Russians. Later, after their disbandment in 1916, he served in the Austrian Army.
Before the end of the war, in about 1917, he painted this richly coloured view of a tree in Autumn.
Also in 1917, he painted this Portrait of Józef Piłsudski with Wernyhora and Stańczyk in pastels. Piłsudski was a major Polish statesman who was to become Chief of State after the war. Stańczyk (left) was a Polish court jester who was symbolic of Poland’s struggle for independence. Wernyhora (right) is a legendary Cossack bard who apparently told of the fall of Poland and its subsequent rebirth as a great nation. Both Piłsudski and Wernyhora feature in contemporary paintings by Jacek Malczewski.
Sichulski’s Portrait of Maria Sobolewska dates from 1918. I’m afraid that I’ve been unable to discover anything about its subject or location.
Following the war, Sichulski settled in Lviv, where he taught at the State Industrial School until 1930. The city had suffered greatly during the war, being captured by Russians early on, then re-taken by Austro-Hungarians. After the war it had been at the centre of the Polish-Ukrainian War, then in August 1920 it was attacked unsuccessfully by the Red Army. As part of the Galician state, Lviv was declared to be outside the Polish state, only to be incorporated back into Polish territory in 1923.
His Bacchanal from 1924 shows three naked bacchantes cavorting with Bacchus. This is set during the grape harvest, with bowls of the fruit and a couple of donkeys laden with buckets for the crop.
In 1930, Sichulski moved back to Poland, and taught at his alma mater in Kraków until 1939.
My Studio (Still Life) from 1933 shows some of the objects he had gathered in his studio, including peacock feathers, an oil lamp, and vases of flowers.
I presume that his late Zofijówka (Lviv) II from 1934 shows a small village in the hills not far from Lviv.
Adoration of the Shepherds is a triptych which he painted late, in 1938, using oils. It shows the story of the Nativity, this time in freer style, and possibly set among the Hutsul.
In 1939, with the invasion and occupation of Poland, Sichulski lost his post as professor in Kraków, so moved back to Lviv, where his health started to deteriorate. As part of Polish territory, the city of Lviv was surrounded by German forces by 14 September 1939, but three days later the Russians invaded and the city surrendered to the Red Army on 22 September. German forces recaptured the city during the early stages of their attack on Russia in June 1941, and committed many atrocities there, including the notorious Janowska concentration camp where almost all of the city’s Jewish population were slaughtered.
My final painting by Sichulski is undated, and is remarkable for being one of very few which show the most ancient epic of Gilgamesh.
Symbolic Scene, Ishtar with Gilgamesh, painted in watercolour and crayon, shows Inanna (or Ishtar), the ancient Mesopotamian goddess of love, sex and war, and putative ancestor of the Greek goddess Aphrodite. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, she asks the hero to become her consort. When he refuses her, she unleashes the Bull of Heaven, leading to the death of Enkidu and making Gilgamesh fear for his life, and embark on an unsuccessful quest for immortality.
Sichulski died in Lviv, the city of his birth, in 1942. Russian forces captured the city on 27 July 1944, and it was formally ceded to the Soviet Union in 1946. In 1991, when Ukraine finally achieved independence, Lviv became Ukrainian.