KUCHARSKI, Aleksander
(b. 1741, Warszawa, d. 1819, Paris)


Polish painter, active in France. After training in Warsaw, he studied under Joseph-Marie Vien and Carle van Loo at the Académie Royale in Paris, 1760-69. He enjoyed the patronage of Stanislaw II Poniatowski, King of Poland, who wanted him to train as a historical painter and withdrew his support when Kucharski instead specialized in portraiture. He generally painted half-lengths in oval frames, in oil, pastel or gouache or in miniature; his compositions were simple: figures set against neutral backgrounds, straightforward in gesture and pose, strongly characterized and yet decorative. He portrayed mainly young French aristocrats and visiting Polish nobles. Among his finest portraits is that of Louise de Polastron (1789; Versailles, Château), displaying animated and expressive features, grace and elegance in pose and costume.

From 1780 Kucharski executed several portraits and miniatures of Marie-Antoinette of Austria, Queen of France. Most notable among them is a pastel (Versailles, Château) on which he was still working when on 21 June 1791 the royal family fled Paris; when a mob entered the Tuileries, destroying portraits of the Bourbons, this one survived, but it still bears the marks of two thrusts of a pike. Later, when the then widowed Queen was imprisoned, Kucharski painted her final portrait (1793; Versailles, Château). Throughout the Revolution he remained faithful to the ancien régime, producing copies of his earlier works for its surviving supporters.

He spent his last years in retirement in Sainte-Perine, living on a pension provided by Louis XVIII, King of France.

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