See The Works Of Little-Known Cubist Female Artist Felicia Pacanowska
The exhibition, Autobiografia: Recluse of History, currently on display at Gallery Art & Soul, focuses on a pair of artists who fell through the cracks of history. The first, the Sri Lankan Justin Daraniyagala, who exhibited alongside the likes of Cubist greats Picasso and Braque, died of TB. Daraniyagala was better known in Europe than in his native country, where most of his luscious oils remain with his family. Here, they are reproduced as postcard-sized photos hung salon-style on the gallery walls. The second artist, Felicia Pacanowska was, like Picasso and Braque, a Cubist, and a female one at that at a time when women were considered either muses or mistresses. It’s Pacanowska works, 39 charcoal drawings and etchings of faces, factories and orchestras - found rather astonishingly by Clark House curator Sumesh Sharma at a flea market in Paris – that are the real lure here.
Pacanowska was no neophyte when it came to technique. Though much younger than other well-known Cubists of the time, the Jewish artist left her native Poland for Paris to study engraving techniques, eventually losing not only many of her works during World War II, but also her parents who were persecuted by the Nazis. Today, some of Pacanowska’s pieces can be seen in a few public collections – among them the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Centre Pompidou in Paris – but she is virtually unknown, even though she lived until her nineties, dying in Rome in 2002. The works here, some portraits and a few studies (of a factory floor, another of an orchestra, yet another of a couple with a baby) have much of the illusory deftness characteristic of Cubism. Faces are angled and sparse, or sinuous and abstract, but all distinct from the male Cubist’s penchant for at times grotesque deformation. Hung alongside the works of Indian artists like Prabhakar Barwe and Zarina Hashmi, it’s easy to see how Cubism’s early breaks away from representative form paved the way for the experimentation of artists who followed, even those living half a world away.