January Suchodolski
Retreat from the Environs of Moscow, an Episode from the Year 1812, 1854
Gift of the officers of the former 8th Prince J. Poniatowski Uhlans Regiment, donated by the

material: oil on canvas

dimensions: 76,5 x 103 cm

description: The painting refers to Napoleon’s invasion of Russia which started in June 1812 and ended in a resounding defeat for the Grande Armée a few months later. The retreat of the French in wintertime turned into a nightmare due to lack of food and accommodation as a result of the Russian tactics of the “burnt soil” and continuous Cossack assaults. Suchodolski, a bard of the Napoleonic epic and the Polish involvement in it, depicted a historical fact of the defeat by portraying a glorified episode. The central theme is the surrounding of a Cossack by officers of Napoleon’s army. The scene shows one of numerous encounters with Cossacks which took place during the retreat, like the one near Borovsk where Polish soldiers became famous for their valour and effectiveness. The scene is rendered against the background of a vast flatland covered by snow, filled with a number of decimated units of Napoleon’s army. In Polish Romantic painting, the oeuvre of Suchodolski, a pupil of the French battle scene painter Horace Vernet, represented the academic movement, which was different from the innovative style of Piotr Michałowski. However, it was his works, popular and valued by his contemporaries, by contrast with almost unknown paintings by Michałowski, that influenced the further development of history and battle scene painting in Polish art. Wacława Milewska

exposition: The Gallery of 19th Century Polish Art in Sukiennice,
The Cloth Hall, 1, Main Market Square

key: Romanticism. Towards national art >>>

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