Alfred von Wierusz-Kowalski was born on October 16, 1849 in Suwalken, Poland. He is considered one of the main exponents of nineteenth-century Polish painting.
His motives are captivating, luminous and spirited. His style is realistic and rich in detail, sometimes shocking and cruel. His main topics include: folk life in Poland, wolves, snow, hunting scenes, horse and sleigh rides. The wolves became his favorite motifs and have a strong recognition value in his oeuvre.
The connection with wolves arose in the childhood of the painter. Alfred von Wierusz-Kowalski was on a sleigh ride with his family when they were attacked by wolves. Luckily, they were able to escape. But this experience left a lasting mark on the artist. But many other motifs are inspired by Wierusz-Kowalski's childhood. For example, when the family moved to Kalisch (in the center of Poland) and drove across the country, the artist was fascinated by the winter landscapes and people on this journey.
The Pole was a masterpiece of snowy landscapes. Thanks to light reflections and special techniques he could capture the texture of snow in a perfect way.
The small town of Kalisz, in which he grew up, lay between lakes and forests. The rural life was rather poor, but in this place the little Wierusz-Kowalski developed his talent.
In Kalisz he studied at a high school and showed a special inclination to subjects like drawing and calligraphy. In 1868, Alfred von Wierusz-Kowalski moved to Warsaw, where he attended the drawing class. He also entered the studio of the painter Wojciech Gerson. In 1869 Wierusz-Kowalski went to the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden. There he got access to the most important works by Rubens, Rembrandt and Dürer. He admired the works of the masters and was deeply inspired.
In 1872 Wierusz-Kowalski moved with his fellow artist Vaclav Brožik to Prague, where he worked as a freelance artist. The following year, 1873, the two men decided to move to Munich. Alfred von Wierusz-Kowalski enrolled at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts as a pupil of the Hungarian painter Alexander von Wagner. In Munich, where he later founded his own studio, Wierusz-Kowalski settled down for a long time.
Wierusz-Kowalski's first success in 1873 was "Powrót kwestarza" (" The Return of the Gathering Collector ") displayed at the Vienna Art Exhibition.
The masterpiece" Raiding Wolves "- 10 m wide and 5 m high and today a famous monumental work - was displayed in old city hall in Munich and received a great response from the press and even from members of the Royal family.
Alfred von Wierusz-Kowalski attended many exhibitions in Munich, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Brussels, Prague, Poland and the United States. In 1892 he finished his painting " Wilki. W lutym na litwie " (" In February "). But over time, he felt the declining interest in his work. In search of artistic inspiration, he undertook a trip to North Africa in 1903. His style got a whole new impetus and he created new works representing Arabic-exotic scenes with Bedouin and mosques.
In addition to his artistic crisis, there were financial difficulties and the illness of his wife Jadwiga. Alfred von Wierusz-Kowalski died on 15 February 1915 at the age of 65 in Munich. Many of his pictures were sold in 1917 at auction and the rest of the artistic heritage was brought to Poland.