Self-Portrait with a Skull

Odo Dobrowolski

  • Self-Portrait with a Skull 2
Basic information
Odo Dobrowolski
Self-Portrait with a Skull
Date of creation
paper on cardboard watercolor
Dimensions (height x width, cm)
39.5 x 27.5
Information about author
Odo Dobrowolski
Artist's lifetime
Odo (Otton) Dobrowolski (1883, Chernivtsi – 1917, Kyiv) was a Lviv artist of Polish-German origin. He is mainly known as a graphic artist, in particular a watercolorist, a master of pastels and lithographs. His parents were Jozef Dobrowolski, the Austrian governor of Galicia-Lodomeria, and Eugenia Wittich. Apparently, the artist was named after Otto the Great, the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. He graduated from the gymnasium in Lviv. In the mid-1900s, Dobrowolski was in Krakow as a non-degree student of the Academy of Fine Arts. Between 1908 and 1909, thanks to the support of the artist Jan Styka, he was in Paris and then in Munich for a short while. After returning to Lviv between 1909 and 1910, the artist made an oil decorative panel for the confectionery of Gabriela Zapolska, a famous playwright, actress, and a bright representative of the Lviv elite. In 1911 and 1912, he was in Paris again. Then he was in Lviv, where during the Russian occupation he created a series of 10 lithographs, which were very popular. In June 1915, during the retreat of the Russians, the artist went to Kyiv, where he died under uncertain circumstances at the age of 34 in 1917. The artistic heritage of Odo Dobrowolski includes numerous cityscapes, particularly views of Lviv and Paris, as well as portraits, interior sketches, and images of nature. The works are stored in Borys Voznytskyi Lviv National Art Gallery, as well as in the National Museum in Krakow, the National Library in Warsaw, the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, and in private collections.
Object description
A similar self-portrait, which represents the artist wearing a shirt but not a sweater, dated June 14, 1908, was auctioned off in Desa (Poland) in 2006. It is probable that the work, as well as the Lviv one, was performed during the artist's first visit to Paris. In the portrait, the author (at the age of 26) is posing for himself, holding his left hand with a brush on the skull and supporting it with his right hand. The skull and wide cap on the head are the main features of the character. The author pays considerable attention to portraying the hands and face. Fingers are long and thin; face is self-confident and moody. The author achieves expressiveness due to the skillful performance of carnations in the technique of watercolor.
In the lower left part of the work there is an inscription “Autoportret” written in italics in red color. In the lower right part there is the author’s signature and date “Odo Dobrowolski 08” written in italics.