Kotarbinsky Wilgelm (Vasiliy) Aleksandrovich

Wilgelm Kotarbinsky - portrait


November 30, 1849, the town of Neborov, the province of Warsaw. - September 4, 1921 Kiev
The artist of the Polish origin. Received education in the Warsaw school of art (1867-1871), at the age of twenty years he went to Rome at the expense of the Warsaw Fine Arts Society, he graduated from the Saint Luke Academy with great success under the direction of Podesti (1872-1875); in 1882 he graduated from the Academy of Arts in Petersburg, in 1905 obtained the title of the Member of the Academy of Sciences.  

He constantly lived in Rome till 1987, there he stroke up an acquaintance with the brothers Svedomskij, who taught him the Russian Language, and who later invited him to Kiev to participate in the painting (fresco) of the Saint Vladimir Cathedral.

Studies in Rome and life in Italy after the graduation from the University, certainly, influenced on the pictorial creation of Wilgelm Kotarbinsky. Probably it is the reason to explain external beauty of his pictures and sentimentality of his pictures which have mythological and Biblical plots. The artist also was fond of canvases full of symbols, mysticism, fantastic dreams.

Since 1887 he lived and worked in Kiev. He created his own style in the spirit of a modernized elegant school, which had been of a great popularity. A title of the leading Russian symbolist was associated with Wilgelm Kotarbinsky due to "recognition" of incomprehensibility of the things which have been drawn in his pictures. Some of his pictures are available to us now due to the following: they have been edited as post cards in olden times: The grave of suicider, The fog refuge, After the death, Dragonfly, the Martyr.

He was the author of some easel canvases which have been distributed all over the world, in Italy, in the collections of the Polish collectors, his works had been bought by famous collectors Soldatenkov, Tereshchenko, the canvas "The orgy" has been bought by the museum of the Emperor Aleksander the III rd.

Kotarbinsky was very fruitful, he worked easily and much. He was very successful commercially, he was in fashion. Except great number of sepias devoted to mystical plots he created a great number of small works mostly devoted to historical, religious and mythological plots; he also decorated interiors of magnates palaces.  

Vladimir Dedlov in (1) writes:
"The pole Kotarbinsky is a great dreamer. He likes to dream of important and insignificant things seriously and in joke. After the dinner. During the short rest after incessant work he is not averse to meditate that everything happens due to electric currents, that is why people should wear glass shoes; that everything in the world has been determined since the beginning of centuries, that is why all worries are nonsense; that there is something infinitely great and infinitely little, so why not the planetary system to be as the little finger of his left hand and to seem the solar system, and why not to be the Earth in the planet system, and why not to be the Saint Vladimir Cathedral in Kiev, and why not Kotarbinsky, Svedomskij and Vasnetsov to sit in the temple right here?"

And further there is a very interesting remark concerning national spirit:
"The Russian man would not be able to dream by order. The Russian mind is precise, the Polish mind is spreading. The Russian imagination needs a real backing; the Polish imagination is up in the clouds. The Russian artist can be an idealist, but he will never become a fantastic artist as many Polish artists are. Svedomskij is working when draws. Kotarbinsky is dreaming, he dreams everywhere, without turning a hair, at the same time when he works and at the same time when he rests."

Kotarbinsky worked at frescos of the Saint Vladimir Cathedral in 1887-1895. He worked together with Pavel Svedomskij, together they created 18 enormous pictures and 84 separate figures,  in particular the pictures "The Last Supper" and "Entrance to Jerusalem" in the south sanctuary of the temple. In the north sanctuary there are pictures: "The Crucifixion" and "The Judgment of Pilate". The works by Kotarbinsky have not been signed, that is why they are identified with reference to the testimony by V. Dedlov and by using the method of exclusion. The images of seraphims on the lending leading to the choir and in the choir have been certainly drawn by him. In general there is a certain confusion in respect of authorship determination of this couple, namely "The days of the Creation" are determined by different sources to be drawn either by Pavel Svedomskij or by their mutual collaboration. V. Dedlov by himself, in spite of the authority of the contemporary, who is a witness and a personal friend of the artist, indicates the wrong date of birth of Kotarbinsky.

In general, the tandem of Svedomskij and Kotarbinsky is very curious due to the fact of its existence. As Dedlov witnesses, the artists "...have got next one to another insofar that they permitted themselves to share even painting without prejudice, it happens very frequently. Classic examples: Erckmann and Chatrian, the brothers Goncourt. I could not name another case like this."

The personality of Kotarbinsky is extremely interesting. Being the Polish, he lived in his estate near Minsk(?), he received education in Italy, he was extraordinarily fruitful, he made friendship with the Russian artists in Rome, he learnt Russian, he came to Kiev by the invitation and there he created images in the Saint Vladimir Cathedral which were shockingly beautiful, how precious are enormous, full of pain and wisdom eyes of seraphims. But he did not sign his images. He was extremely popular either as mystic or as decorator of houses of the Kievan new-rich people. In 1905 he was honored with the title of the Member of the Academy of Sciences by the Emperors Academy of Arts "for fame in the artistic field". He was the unique of the creators of the Vladimir Cathedral who died and was buried in Kiev, in the Baykovoye cemetery, on the 1-st Polish section of the new part of the cemetery; his grave is to the left from the alley.
1. Vladimir Lyudvigovich Dedlov (Kign) "The Kievan Saint Vladimir Cathedral" Moscow 2007


Works of artist:
Ressurection of Lazarus
Pilat judgment
Agony in the Garden
God - Creator
Last Supper
Entering Ierusalem
St Paphnuti
Small dome - Seraphs
Construction of the Cross
Tomb of suicide
After death - Kotarbinsky
Sun ray
Angel of sadness
Angel - Protector