The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Sunday, February 25, 2018

Maria Malczewska-Bernhardt: Theater of life - painting and drawing at The Museum of Opolian Silesia
Theater of life I, 1989, Pastel, 100 x 140 cm.

By: Dr. Kai Artinger

SILESIA.- Pastel painting flourished during the 18th century, at which time specialists in this dry-painting technique were found, in particular, in France. The star among them, known and collected throughout Europe, was a woman, the Venetian painter Rosalba Carriera (1673-1857), whose use of pastel colours left its mark on Rococo painting.

During the late 19th century and throughout the 20th, the French further developed pastel techniques. Edgar Degas, for example, used this medium in the most radical manner, expanding the use of both instruments and techniques. Impressionists, Symbolists, the circle of Nabis, the avant- garde, all used dry pigment to create masterpieces.

Since then, few artists, one of whom is the German-Polish painter Maria Malczewska-Bernhardt, have used pastel colours with such intensity. Her work is currently on display at a retrospective in Opole, Poland, a Silesian city about 400 kilometres from Berlin and part of a region in which history has been influenced by both German and Polish culture. In the 19th century, Silesia gained notoriety throug the revolt of the weavers, an event which in 1844 shook the local textile industry. Both the play “The Weaver“ (1892), by the German dramatist Gerhart Hauptmann, and Käthe Kollwitz’ cycle of etchings, “The Weavers’ Revolt“ (1897), stand as monuments to that Silesian worker unrest. Malczewska-Bernhardt’s oeuvre, too, evokes memories of this historical event.

Malczewska-Bernhardt grew up in the city of Opole, Silesia, where, at the age of fourteen, she enrolled at a special “art gymnasium“ where highly talented students were trained in the fine arts. Later, from 1970 to 1977, she studied visual art and painting at the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts. Poland was at that time a communist people’s republic and when, in 1980, strikes organized by the liberation movement Solidarność shook the whole country and led to the declaration of martial law, Malczewska-Bernhardt, who has German roots, decided not to return from a visit to Germany. She settled, instead, in Düsseldorf, where she still lives and works.

It is the “haptic quality“ of pastel painting that is for Malczewska-Bernhardt most fascinating. No other technique deals so directly with pure pigment; in no other technique is the painter’s hand itself such an important tool. During the last three decades, Malczewska-Bernhardt has worked above all on a cycle of pastel paintings she has summarized under the strange title “From the Pantomine of Folds“. These form a unique body of work in the history of pastel.

A number of artists have created a series of pictures of the same or similar subjects. For Cézanne, for example, it was the Mont Sainte-Victoire that he painted again and again; for Malczewska-Bernhard, the theme to which she repeatedly returns is draped, iridescent cloth, which she painstakingly investigates, in close-up, in terms of the innumerable possible differences in the fall of its folds. In some works the folds themselves are the focus of her interest; in others, veiled corpses are suggested.

The thing we call ‘cloth’ presents itself in various ways. Textiles, for example, an achievement of civilization, play an important role in the history of mankind: they cover; they veil; they fit a person out; they are the stuff of fashion. Malczewska-Bernhard has an affinity for cloths; for pastel painting, paper is normally used, but she has, unusually, chosen linen as the image-carrier for some of her pastels. Pastel can depict surfaces in an astonishingly photorealistic manner; it is, moreover, since the painter feels the pigment on his or her skin, colour which has a dimension of haptics. Few living artists have mastered its use to the extent that Malczewska-Bernhard has done so: her paintings, distinguished as they are by refinement and surprise, and by their apparently hyperrealistic expressive mode, are perfect.

The romantic German poet Heinrich Heine penned in 1844 the lines of his renowned work “The Silesian Weavers“. One reads there: “Germany, we weave the cloth of the dead
/ Threefold be the curse we weave ’round your head
/ We’re weaving, we’re weaving.“ Malczewska-Bernhard’s cycle of pastels entitled “Theater of Life“, painted in 1989, depict, rather than a shroud, veiled corpses whose existence prior to death we know nothing about. Why they are covered? What is veiled? Is there hidden there, something which cannot be spoken of? Undue hardship? Misery? An untimely death? Cloth, like the interpretation of pictures, is ambiguous. Do we see in Malczewska-Bernhard’s “Theater of Life II“ pastel, for example, a pair of lovers or two corpses?

If it is possible to find in a work of art collective memories, then Malczewska-Bernhard’s pastels may well be influenced by Silesian history, an influence that would help explain her extraordinary research into the world and life of folds. For the exhibition of her paintings, the Muzeum of Opolian Silesia seems to have been the best choice.

The exhibition runs from 31st August to 7th October, 2012.

Maria Malczewska-Bernhardt, Theater of life – Painting and drawing, in The Muzeum of Opolian Silesia, Opole / Poland; Catalogue Maria Malczewska-Bernhardt. Painting from the pantomime of folds 1988-2012, Krakow 2012, 60 pages, 22 coloured illustrations.

Today's News

September 25, 2012

Van Gogh Museum moves masterworks to Hermitage Amsterdam for seven months

Monumental sculpture by Manolo Valdés at the New York Botanical Garden

Alberto Giacometti's unique "Torse de femme" featured in MOSS, an auction of art and design

Royal Collection Trust buys four famous Andy Warhol portraits of Queen Elizabeth II

Getty Center presents the photographs of Ray K. Metzker and the Institute of Design

Photography from A to Z: Christie's Photographs Sale at South Kensington in October

Exhibition presents new, familiar and never-before-seen works from the Sammlung Kunst der Westküste

San Francisco's beloved Museum of Craft and Folk Art closes its doors after 30 years

Major exhibition features computer animation, diagrams, plans, and models by Studio Gang Architects

Works from the extensive Martin Z. Margulies Collection on view at Kunsthal KAdE

Benjamin West: General Wolfe and the Art of Empire at the University of Michigan Museum of Art

1949 Triumph, rubies and gold add luster to Sept. 30 Government Auction sale

In the Spirit of Walser: Rodney Graham and Josiah McElheny at the Donald Young Gallery

Adlers endow curatorship and programs at the Princeton University Art Museum

Sotheby's Contemporary Art Sale totals $12,277,564 led by an Abstract Richter

A Selection of the new media collection, Musée national d'art moderne, on view at ZKM

Philippines: Marcos clothes have no historic value

Maria Malczewska-Bernhardt: Theater of life - painting and drawing at The Museum of Opolian Silesia

Cumbria County Council sells collection of old weights and measures estimated at £20,000 to £30,000

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- The Morgan explores the Medieval world's fascinating approach to the passage of time

2.- Experts discover hidden ancient Maya structures in Guatemala

3.- Egyptian archaeologists unveil tomb of Old Kingdom priestess Hetpet

4.- The Speed Art Museum and Italian Ministry reach loan agreement on ancient calyx-krater

5.- Major exhibition features artistic masterpieces from the glorious Church of the Gesù

6.- From Beowulf to Chaucer, the British Library makes 1,000 years of rich literary history freely available online

7.- Truck damages Peru's ancient Nazca lines

8.- Trish Duebber is new Coordinator of Youth Programs at Boca Raton Museum Art School

9.- Exhibition examines the way art, like language, was used to articulate a rhetoric of exclusion

10.- The Dallas Museum of Art announces gift of three major European works

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful