GEORGES VON SWETLIK, "PARIS".
Sign. Tempera on cardboard 51x61 cm.
Wear due to age and use.
A tergo painting.
Georges von Swetlik is a distinctive figure in the European 20-century scene. With family roots in 11th-century Bohemia and later in Lithuania and Poland, Georges von Swetlik was born in Saint Petersburg in 1912. After leaving Russia under the revolution, he spent his childhood in Constantinople and later in Finland. Here this precocious and gifted artist was about to become a pupil of the great Russian painter llya Repin and also of the master of the Golden Age of Finnish Art, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, but both passed away before the education was started. In the 1930s he was sent to Paris by patron of arts Gösta Serlachius. Instead of staying at the academy, he studied the old masters, especially Rembrandt, Tizian and Velasquez, at the Louvre. After dramatic events under the war and an attempt to migrate to Sweden and the United States, his fate was to live in Finland in artistic isolation, without nationality and, to a great extent, misunderstood. He managed to support himself with art, however, and his pieces of art are mostly found in collections in Finland and Sweden, but also in France and Italy. He died in Ekenäs in 1991.
Far away from his sources of inspiration, the Byzantine and the classical European art, he developed an exceptional systematic way of working through the different eras of art history, finally reaching the language that became characteristic to him. He began with realism and a style strikingly resembling that of Picasso’s. Later on, he would only touch upon modernism, assuming certain features of it in his own work. He developed a technique and a design language of his own during his abstract period in the 1950s and then adopted the classical thematic which he varied during the rest of his life. He created a synthesis of the Eastern and the Western European cultural traditions more than anyone else.
This unique piece influenced by Paris is possibly a commentary, perhaps a playfully ironic one, to modernism, while keeping up with the artist’s high standard. The signature with a ‘w’, together with the technique, indicate that the oeuvre was created in or after the 1950s. The unfinished model study on the painting's back side, however, was probably painted in Paris in the 1930s.
Georges von Swetliks student
and exhibition curator
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