With such a robust reputation in the European art community as the portraitist of aristocratic woman, it seems natural that Carolus Duran would be approached to paint the portrait of the acclaimed Polish actress, Helena Modjeska Bozenta Chlapowski (1840-1909). Following her second marriage to Count Bozenta Chlapowski, a renowned Polish politician and critic, Helena made her Warsaw stage debut in 1868. After nearly ten years of unprecedented theater success in Poland, the Count and Countess moved to California in 1876. A year later she debuted on stage in San Francisco. For the next twenty years she traveled, most frequently playing roles in Shakespearean plays, for nine months out of the year stopping in California, New York, London, Warsaw and in small rural American communities. By her side, always her husband and her theater company.
The Portrait of Helena Modjeska Bozenta Chlapowski is not only representative of Carolus-Duran's innovative use of bold brushstrokes to turn dramatic colors into sumptuous fabrics, as seen in the velvety sheen of her blue robe, but also of his social savoir-fair. For, Helena Modjeska Bozenta Chlapowski is an icon of pre-Hollywood international theater, hailed on both sides of the Atlantic.
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