Léon Ostrowski – Portrait of Louise Ackermann – 1882 - Winckelmann Gallery

Léon Ostrowski – Portrait of Louise Ackermann – 1882

Portrait of the French poetess Louise Ackermann by Léon Ostrowski. Charcoal on paper, signed and dated by the artist on August 24, 1882, set in a beautiful gilded wood and plaster palmette motif frame. This portrait was exhibited at the Exposition Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1883, where it drew plenty of attention. The portrait was subsequently reproduced in engraving by several artists in the publication of her published works.

Léon Ostrowski was a French painter and draughtsman. Born to Polish parents, he was born in Marseille on 28 October 1858, where his father, an engineer and head of the control of the railway from Paris to Lyon and the Mediterranean, was stationed. In 1864, the family moved to Paris, where the young Léon studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, where he was a student of Jean-Léon Gérôme, Léon Bonnat, Ernest Hébert and Gabriel Ferrier. He exhibited for the first time at the Salon in 1880. During his short artistic career, his work consisted mainly of charcoal portraits, the most famous being the portraits of Mrs. Ackermann and Miss Read.

It is not known why Léon Ostrowski joined the French Foreign Legion and, more specifically, the French military expedition to Tonkin (now Hanoi, Vietnam), where he died of malaria at an undetermined date in 1889.

Louise-Victorine Ackermann, née Choquet, was born in Paris on 30 November 1813, and spent a solitary childhood in the countryside, between a free-thinking father and a more traditional and embittered mother. Educated by her father in the philosophy of the Encyclopedists, she went to Berlin in 1838 to study German and married (1843) Paul Ackermann, a philologist from Alsace. Two years later, her husband died and she left to live with her sister in Nice.

In 1855 Louise Ackermann published "Contes", followed by "Contes et poésies" in 1862, but her real reputation rests on "Poésies, premières poésies, poésies philosophiques" (1874), a volume of dark and powerful verses, expressing her revolt against human suffering, drawing on faith in the human spirit and its independence. Her early publications attracted little interest but did attract the attention of literary critics.

Her brief autobiography "My Life" reveals lucid thinking, a love of study and solitude, and a concern for humanity. In 1883, she gave a collection of poetry "Pensées d'une solitaire", condensed by her pessimistic impressions. She is a very singular figure in the literary landscape of the 19th century. This poetess, who was often described as a "male genius", remained largely misunderstood by her contemporaries, as her way of life, her style and her ideas went against the accepted ideas of her time about women and female poetry.

Louise Ackermann died in Nice on 2 August 1890, aged 76.

Sources: Benezit; Dictionnaire général des artistes de l'école française, 1885; Gallica; Encyclopaedia Britannica; Archives de France.

Artist: Léon Ostrowski (1858-1889).
Signed and dated upper left.
Medium : Charcoal on paper.
Condition : Very good condition.
Dimensions: 50 x 41 cm. / 19 ¾ x 16 in.
Frame: 73 x 66 cm. / 28 ¾ x 26 in. Wood and stucco, very good condition.
Origin : France.

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