Ewa Juszkiewicz gazed at a portrait of Katarzyna Starzenska, a prominent Polish aristocrat from 1804. Juszkiewicz, a surrealist painter, admired Starzenska’s extravagant lifestyle and influence, comparing her to a modern-day influencer. Starzenska was known for her impeccable fashion sense, with other women aspiring to dress like her. The painting, created by François Gérard, was on display at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, now a museum.
Juszkiewicz, fascinated by Starzenska’s life, studied her before creating her own version of the portrait. However, Juszkiewicz’s rendition deviates from the original. Her painting, titled “In a Shady Valley, Near a Running Water (after François Gérard),” stands nearly 10 feet tall and portrays Starzenska’s head wrapped in white, black, and red fabrics, with a sprig of leaves protruding from the top.
This painting is one of nine new oil paintings by Juszkiewicz, featured in her solo exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills. Most of her paintings are re-creations of portraits of women from the 18th and 19th centuries. While Juszkiewicz meticulously reproduces the clothing depicted in the original paintings, she purposely obscures the women’s faces. Some are covered in fabrics, while others are adorned with elaborate hairstyles inspired by the fashion of that era.
Juszkiewicz’s intention is to highlight what she perceives as the absurdity of traditional portraiture of women. She believes that these paintings often portrayed women with similar features, reinforcing a mask of uniformity rather than celebrating their individuality. By covering the women’s heads with various objects, Juszkiewicz prompts viewers to consider women beyond their physical appearances.
Derek Blasberg, the executive editor of Gagosian Quarterly, described Juszkiewicz’s paintings as highly stylized and praised their unique approach. Collectors of her work include Giancarlo Giametti, a founder of Valentino. Blasberg drew comparisons between Juszkiewicz’s portraits and other reinterpretations of historical eras, such as Sofia Coppola’s film “Marie Antoinette” and the Netflix series “Bridgerton.”
Juszkiewicz’s process involves examining fashion across different time periods. She incorporates contemporary elements into her paintings, incorporating details from recent runway shows and referencing fashion books and exhibitions. Juszkiewicz’s work has attracted attention outside the art world, with Louis Vuitton releasing a bag featuring one of her paintings.
As a young girl, Juszkiewicz always knew she wanted to be a painter. She has a master’s degree in painting and a Ph.D. in painting, focusing her studies on Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, a renowned French portrait artist. Juszkiewicz found inspiration in Vigée Le Brun’s ability to capture her subjects’ personalities through their facial expressions, clothing, and accessories. Juszkiewicz’s own series of paintings based on previous works began with a self-portrait of Vigée Le Brun.
Juszkiewicz’s unique approach and thought-provoking style have gained recognition. Her paintings have been featured on book covers, such as Regan Penaluna’s “How to Think Like a Woman.” These portraits captivate viewers by presenting women in a different light and challenging conventional notions of female beauty.