Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz (1854–1893) was the first Polish female artist to gain international recognition. Her works were presented at the most important European exhibitions and appreciated by critics from many countries. Even today her paintings and fascinating life raise considerable interest among the public, while many of her works have become part of the canon of Polish art. However the artist’s entire oeuvre and life story have yet to be thoroughly analysed and described.
The exhibition will gather together as many of Bilińska’s paintings and drawings (including hitherto unknown works) as possible, from Polish and foreign museums and private collections. It will follow Bilińska’s artistic career: from her first attempts at painting in Warsaw, through her studies at the Académie Julian in Paris, to participation in international art exhibitions.
The display will approach artistic topics, such as academicism in Bilińska’s oeuvre, the portrait as her preferred painting subject, a sketchy treatment of landscape (pochade) or the pastel technique, which she would use just as often as oil painting. Other questions we intend to raise are of Bilińska’s self-awareness and her thoughts on the artist’s position in the world, which manifested itself in, among others, the representation of her own image in self-portraits. Bilińska’s biography is also extremely interesting, both in terms of how she overcame financial and personal problems along the path to professional success, and of her social and emotional relationships. Her oeuvre cannot be presented without outlining the limitations facing women in the 19th century within the framework of art institutions and education, as well as in the context of social norms and expectations.