Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All Souls' Day

Title: All Souls' Day

Artist: Witold Pruszkowski

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Size: tbd

Date: 1888

Location: National Museum, Warsaw.


In Western Christianity, All Souls’ Day commemorates the faithful departed. The Roman Catholic celebration is associated with the doctrine that the souls of the faithful who at death had not yet attained full sanctification and moral perfection, a requirement for entrance into Heaven, may be helped to do so by prayer and by the sacrifice of the Mass. Traditionally, those observing All Souls’ day would attend the cemetery to visit, bless and decorate the graves. Loved ones often offer a spray of flowers or lighted candles. The lighted candles signify that the love, hope and joy they shared with departed shall be kept forever burning.


Pruszkowski’s haunting painting captures the both the ethereal otherworldliness of the cemetery, and the plaintive loss depicted on the young woman’s face. Rendered as though the viewer has interrupted a private moment of reflection, her eyes – wide - speak to us even through the diffuse light of the scene. Only a single candle burns. Faint, but resolute.


Witold Pruszkowski (1846 РOctober 10, 1896) was a Polish painter and draughtsman. He lived his youth in Odessa and Kiev, but later went to Paris where he served an apprenticeship under the renowned portrait painter Tadeusz Gorecki. He continued his studies in Munich and then Kraków under Jan Matejko. Though starting his career as a portrait painter, Pruszkowski later moved to painting subject matter with legend, fable, of folk-tale themes. The visionary element in these works draw their inspiration from the writings of the great Polish Romantic poets, in particular Juliusz Slowacki and Zygmunt Krasinski, and constitute a compelling link between Pruszkowski and the painters of the Young Poland (Mloda Polska) group.

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