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Słomkowy Kapelusz (wg Louise Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun) (Straw Hat (After Louise Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun))

Slomkowy Kapelusz (wg Louise Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun) (Straw Hat (After Louise Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun))
signed, titled and dated ‘E. Juszkiewicz Straw Hat/Slomkowy Kapelusz 2012r.’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
170 x 125 cm. (66 7⁄8 x 49 1⁄4 in.)
Painted in 2012
Lokal_30, Warsaw
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2015
Galeria Miejska we Wroclawiu, Derealizm, exh. cat., Wrocław, 2013 (illustrated, front cover).
K. Beers, 100 Painters of Tomorrow, London, 2014 (illustrated, p. 140).
Galeria Bielska, Ewa Juszkiewicz, The Descent Beckons, exh. cat., Bielsko-Biala, 2015 (illustrated, p. 27).
Katowice, Centrum Kultury Katowice, Rosamunda, The Princess of Cyprus, 2012.
Wroclaw, Galeria Miejska we Wroclawiu, Derealizm, 2013.
Elblag, Centrum Sztuki Galeria EL, Damage has been done, 2013.
Poznan, Galeria Miejska Arsenal, O wlos (About Hair), 2015.
Bielsko-Biala, Galeria Bielska, Ewa Juszkiewicz, The Descent Beckons, 2015.
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Jacky Ho (何善衡)
Jacky Ho (何善衡) Senior Vice President, Deputy Head of Department

Lot Essay

“I analyzed classical portraits and I believe that many of them embody the conventions that were imposed on women at the time…In this context, I am most interested in vitality, in reviving the images from the past. I search for the sensuality hidden in them. I think that there is a lot of sensual tension in the weaves of hair and the thicket of plants.” — Ewa Juszkiewicz

Painted in 2012, Słomkowy Kapelusz (wg Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun) (Straw Hat (After Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun)) is a monumental example of Polish painter Ewa Juszkiewicz’s acclaimed female portraits, which have launched her career onto the global art scene. Challenging the conventional standards of appearance and behaviour for women, Juszkiewicz analyses classical portraits and interrogates art historical cannons of female muses. As one of the most exciting young female artists working today, Juszkiewicz has been honoured with sell-out shows at Almine Rech and Gagosian.

Widely exhibited across several art institutions and galleries in Poland, Straw Hat is an early example of Juszkiewicz’s mature body of work. This series began in 2012 and draws inspiration from centuries of European painting to early-Flemish still life to contemporary fashion designers including Rei Kawakubo. In Straw Hat, Juszkiewicz presents a near exact rendering of Elizabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun’s seminal 1782 painting Self Portrait in a Straw Hat, where the original painting is currently held in the collection of baronne Edmond de Rothschild and the artist’s copy in The National Gallery, London. Interestingly, Le Brun had modelled her own self-portrait after Rubens’ Portrait of Susanna Lunden in a defiant act of associating herself with a great artist and his female subject. Through this act of imitation and subversion of both Le Brun and Rubens, Juszkiewicz situates herself amongst a lineage of traditional European portraitists, yet also highlights the history of effacement and erasure of women that runs throughout the Western canon.

In Straw Hat, Juszkiewicz strips away the identity of the female sitter, whose face is completely concealed by her own hair. The open and defiant expression in Le Brun’s original work is replaced by Juszkiewicz’s delicate strands of golden brown brushstrokes forming a neat parting at the center. The subject is no longer the fashionable portrait painter Elizabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, but an unrecognisable woman holding an empty palette created by Juszkiewicz. The central focus of this portrait becomes the woman’s hairstyle, which is fundamentally a costume for the face in the way that it embellishes, conceals and frames one’s identity. Whilst Le Brun and Rubens used the painted face as a way to express principles of decorum, Juszkiewicz undermines this and creates an alternative and freely-imagined portrayal of a new woman, story and future history.

When discussing her fascination with European portraiture, Juszkiewicz explains that she “noticed that many of them present women according to a particular formula or convention. For example, in 18th- and 19th-century European painting, women were very often portrayed in a uniform way. Their poses, gestures, and facial expressions were very similar and showed no deep emotion or individuality. As a result, I developed a strong need to reference those portraits, and to establish a dialogue with them. I was driven by a desire to revitalize history, or rather to create my own story on the basis of it.”

Straw Hat is a striking example of Ewa Juszkiewicz’s reconfiguration of traditional European portraiture for a contemporary audience. Challenging the cultural expectations of the female muse, the women in the artist’s surrealist paintings are taking back control of their own images.

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