This type of genre realism was greatly out of favor when we attended the Layton School of Art in the mid-60s. They are still not held in high regard by the art establishment. Their social-realism and folksy genre scenes tend toward Rockwellism and contain too much illustrative narrative to be taken very seriously.
What can be taken seriously here is the nature of procedure many Munich School painters. These are aligned linearly with the French Impressionist and Impressionism in general. These painters really got it and followed in the footsteps of presumably the first impressionist painters Velasques, Vermeer, and Chardin.
In 1849 the painter Alfred von Wierusz-Kowalski (also: Alfred Kowalski-Wierusz) was born in Suwalki, a town in northeast Poland near the Lithuanian border. He spent his childhood there on an estate. In 1868 he began to study at the Warsaw Art Academy, in 1869 he transferred to the academy in Dresden and then to Prague. In 1873 he changed his place of education again and eventually completed his studies at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts in 1876. He studied with the Hungarian painter Alexander von Wagner and afterward at the studio of Jozef Brandt, another historical painter with Polish roots.
In Munich Alfred von Wierusz-Kowalski became active as a freelance artist in a circle of Polish artists who had settled in Munich after fleeing their home country from Russian reign in the 19th century. Alfred von soon became one of the most important representatives of the Polish artists in Munich. In 1890 he was appointed professor at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts.
Alfred von Wierusz-Kowalskis agile painting style and his bright colors were met with approval by the art traders and collectors of his times. In dramatic and very lively scenes Alfred von Wierusz-Kowalski predominantly depicted folklife in Poland and Galicia, often with horse-drawn carriages or swift sleigh rides through snow-covered landscapes.
Later in his career, he delved into historical and romantic subjects, most notably the Cossacks, an East Slavic, semi-military people with deep roots in Poland. In the eighteenth century, Poland was conquered and partitioned by the imperial powers of Russia, Prussia, and Austria. During Wierusz-Kowalski’s lifetime the Polish people were under constant duress, a state reflected in many of his paintings. His works often suggested the struggles of Polish people in those lands that became Russian territory.
Such paintings illustrated the vast class divide that existed between the gentry and the peasants but also spoke to a deep sense of national pride among the Polish people. Subtle details of Wierusz-Kowalski’s paintings of Poland reveal his critique of the social and political issues that confronted the nation.
Alfred von Wierusz-Kowalski received numerous prizes and honors for his paintings, for instance the gold medal at the International Art Exhibition in Berlin in 1896. Alfred von Wierusz-Kowalski died in Munich in 1915.