Witold Pruszkowski
Water Nymphs, 1877
Gift of the artist, 1883

material: oil on canvas

dimensions: 250 × 161 cm


The painting entitled “Rusałki” (“Nymphs”) reflects Pruszkowski’s fascination with Slavic mythology and the afterlife, accompanied by his idealistic, far from rational, view of the world. The artist touches upon a popular theme of temptation of young men by imaginary nymphs. In time, nymphs became the embodiment of a romantic, unattainable ideal and a polysematic symbol of the metaphysical mystery of nature. Here, we can see three water nymphs, pictured as spirited maidens in Ukrainian outfits. Their irresistible charm allures a young boy, visible in the distance, who is completely unaware of the threat. In the foreground, we can see the body of the nymphs’ previous victim. The landscape, painted in subdued colours, is very dark, while moonlight highlights only the colourful clothing of the nymphs. The painting triggered many comments and controversies, mainly due to its excessive realism and literality resulting from the presentation of fantastic dreamlike beings as lively peasant girls.

Aleksandra Krypczyk

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

key: Realism, polish impressionism, beginnings of symbolism >>>

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design & concept: creator.pl