Friday, July 17, 2009

Landowska leads me to Emil Orlik

Emil Orlik is yet another artist I discovered while researching Wanda Landowska. Of the 6,030 results a Google image search for WL yields, most are photographs, but a few illustrations and paintings are out there too. Clicking on the image shown at right took me to

The artist was an Austrian citizen, born in Prague on July 21, 1870, when the city was still the capital of a province in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Orlik's career spanned more than 50 years, but the English-speaking knows almost nothing of him, as nearly all of the biographical and critical scholarship on him has been done in German. I learned this on the Essay Page at and then spent more than an hour trolling around the fabulous collection of images on the site.

I wondered how Orlik had come to do the portrait of Wanda, whether it was commissioned or if the two of them had known each other. I got my answer from Alan Wolman, who runs a specialty print dealership in London and maintains as "a labour of love."

"Amongst the musicans with whom EO were friendly were Fürtwängler, Hubermann, Willem Mengelberg (a close friend), Konrad Ansorge, Alexander Zemlinsky et al, including the subject of your interest, Wanda Landowska," Wolman wrote to me by e-mail. "She performed throughout Europe as you know and they must have come into contact frequently. The very formal portrait etching of her might well have been commissioned by her as a promotional aide. It was considered prestigious to be portrayed by Orlik. A less formal sketch of her appears in Orlik's first book of portrait sketches 95 Köpfe."

Wolman sent me that less formal sketch, shown at right, and also recounted that as a child in the late 1940s, he went to hear Landowska play recitals of Bach at Wigmore Hall. He described her performances in a single word: "Memorable."

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