Born in Warsaw in 1857, Stefan Bakałowicz found himself immersed in the world of painting at a very early age thanks to his father Wladislaw, a genre painter.The son of art, his mother being the theatrical actress Wiktoryna Bakałowiczowa, he began his artistic training in 1874 with the landscape painter Wojciech Gerson, continuing in 1876 at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts.
Between 1876 and 1882, he attended the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, obtaining a scholarship that enabled him to move first to Paris, becoming a pupil of Jules Lefèvre, and then to Rome (unpublished manuscript heirs Bakalowicz).
Although his artistic career was punctuated by many journeys, it was in the Eternal City that he returned several times, until he chose to remain there for the rest of his life together with his wife Giuseppina Aloisi. In Rome, he joined the circle of Polish painters, including Henryk Siemiradzki, with whom he shared a fascination for Antiquity and a predilection for the Neo-Pompeian genre, set in the Rome of the Caesars.
The Exotic also stimulated the artist’s creative inspiration, undergoing an intense fascination with faraway places, as shown in the Indian-set work Morning Symphony so evocative that it seems to have been painted de visu. His first trip dates back to 1883 to Algeria, followed in 1903 by explorations in Egypt and Tripoli, from which a series of works such as Last Houses of Tripoli by the Sea, Under the Pyramid of Chephren, Head of a Sudanese, presented at the Paris Colonial Exhibition in 1931, were to receive considerable acclaim. Part of this distinctly Orientalist corpus are the five portraits on display in the exhibition: these are of young Egyptian men, as suggested by the inscription in the upper right-hand corner of the painting (Luqsor, or Luxor, a city on the east bank of the Nile). Attention to detail as well as an ethnographic interest guided the artist’s awareness to such an extent that it inspired his perception of the Egyptian universe (Humbert 1989). His production with both exotic themes and those inspired by ancient Rome always has a high formal quality that is highly appreciated on the international market, particularly in Russia where the artist continues to send works to his collectors over the years. After gaining significant success until the early 20th century, he slowly began to retire, which took place in 1936. He died in Rome in 1947 at the age of ninety.