The painting is considered as one of the best examples of Chełmoński's animalist work. Contrary to the realistic trends, he expressed here his pantheistic beliefs that surrounding world composes an all-encompassing, immanent God. The scene was observed one winter morning of 1891.
Precise study of the birds and almost monochrome background of the endless field adds to the harmony and artistry of the image. "White snowy plain and a flock of quietly scurrying, anxious partridges in the foreground - nothing more!", as described the work Zenon Przesmycki-Miriam in 1901 in his review published in "Chimera". "Chełmoński created herein, as nature itself creates", he added and emphasized "wonderful intuition" in depicting the nature.
Inspiration by Japanese art, with its fine watercolor studies of birds, is clearly visible in the composition and tones. The snow covering the field is pearl-gray, with a slight glare of pink. The birds, masterly observed in a variety of poses, lose their readability in floating snow dust. They are succumbed to the to the power of nature, and yet they are an integral part of it. Their Latin name Perdix perdix is similar to the word perditus signifying lost, hence interpreted sometimes as a symbol of human's fate or as an allegory of the nation after Partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Alternatively just as mythological Perdix, an ingenious inventor turned into a bird by goddes Athena, who mindful of his fall avoids high places, as an incentive to bold acts against oppressors.
The composition was created in Kuklówka, near Grodzisk Mazowiecki in Mazovia, where the artist retreated at the height of his fame in 1887. It was awarded with honorary diploma at the International Art Exhibition in Berlin in 1891 and in Vienna at the exhibition of the Society of Polish Artists in 1902. Reception was very enthusiastic and Chełmoński was compared with the famous Swedish animalist Bruno Liljefors. In 1902 the Partridges were also exhibited in Zachęta in Warsaw.
The piece was donated to the National Museum in Warsaw in 1946 by Józef Jasiński and included in the collection under the number 128112. The canvas was signed and dated by the artist in lower right corner - Józef Chełmoński / 1891.
oil on canvas, 1891, 123 × 199 cm (48.4 × 78.3 in), inventory number MP 424, on permanent display in the Gallery of 19th century art, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie (MNW)
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