Orlowski, Aleksander

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Orłowski, Aleksander


Born Mar. 9, 1777, in Warsaw; died Mar. 1 (13), 1832, in St. Petersburg. Polish-Russian romantic painter and graphic artist.

Orłowski was infuenced by J. P. Norblin, under whom he studied and worked in Warsaw from roughly 1793 to 1802. His works produced in Poland included a number of expressive, sometimes crude, genre and humorous sketches and paintings (for example, Tavern Scene, 1795–96, National Museum, Warsaw). He also painted portraits and scenes of the Polish Uprising of 1794, in which he was a participant (for example, The Battle of Racławice, ink and brush, 1798 or c. 1801, National Museum, Kraków).

In 1802, Orłowski moved to St. Petersburg, where he became a member of the Academy of Arts in 1809. An artist with a stormy, romantic temperament, Orłowski produced a large number of battle and genre scenes, representations of horsemen and soldiers, and landscapes (with nocturnal lighting and depictions of shipwrecks). These works are marked by affected images and by a free, painterly technique (for example, Polish Horseman, 1809; Four Soldiers Sleeping Under a Cliff, 1829; both in the Tret’iakov Gallery).

Orłowski’s precisely drawn cartoon-portraits and caricatures have earned him recognition as one of the founders of the satirical genre in Russia (for example, the cartoon-portrait of I. S. Bryzgalov, sepia, 1820’s, Russian Museum, Leningrad). Authenticity and, at the same time, a heroic loftiness characterize his depictions of heroes of the Patriotic War of 1812 (for example, the portrait of M. I. Platov, watercolor, 1812–13, Historical Museum, Moscow). The democratic quality of Orłowski’s work and the artist’s extraordinary powers of observation are clearly reflected in drawings, watercolors, and guaches depicting scenes from the daily life of the common people, various social and ethnic types in Russia, and life in St. Petersburg and the Russian village (for example, Resting Prisoners, pencil, 1815, Russian Museum).

One of the first artists to employ the technique of lithography, Orłowski executed a number of individual sheets in this medium, along with album-series that gained wide renown among his contemporaries (for example, Notebooks on the Theme of Russian Folk Life, 1825–26).


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Cękalska-Zborowska, H. Aleksander Orłowski. Warsaw, 1962.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.