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The Gallery of Polish Painting

On display in nine large rooms and nine annexes is a selection of four hundred paintings by the foremost Polish artists from a collection of almost seven thousand items.The choice evidences the stylistic transformations of Polish art between the 16th c. and the outbreak of World War II. The structure of the Gallery, in which 19th-century works prevail, reflects both the rapid development in that particular period and the composition of the collection depleted after most of the Enlightenment paintings had been returned to the rebuilt Royal Castle in Warsaw.

Portrait of King Stanislaus Augustus Marcello Bacciarelli, Portrait of King Stanislaus Augustus in a Plumed Hat, after 1780

The exhibition opens with a panorama of old-Polish painting (created between the 16th and the first half od the 18th c., Room I) by anonymous artists, painters of representational portraits for family galleries of ancestors, plus a set of old-Polish coffin portraits and examples of portraiture at the Vasa court. A unique 16th-century work, the Battle of Orsza, marks the beginning of the painting of battle-pieces. The survey is complemented by a set of paintings by the brothers Teodor and Krzysztof Lubieniecki, whose oeuvre remained under the influence of Dutch painting (Annexe 1).

Jan Matejko, Stanczyk Jan Matejko, Stanczyk, 1862

The Enlightenment (Room I I) is represented by works created under the patrongae of King Stanislaus Augustus, a distinguished arts sponsor, and the Polish aristocracy. Here the visitor will see, among other works, portraits of the King and court personages by Marcello Bacciarelli and Jan Chrzciciel Lampi in addition to decorative paintings of the fete galante type by Jean-Pierre Norblin and townscapes by Bernardo Bellotto known as Canaletto in Poland. Also on display here are paintings by the first Polish graduates of the painting class operating at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, e.g. Kazimierz Wojniakowski. The survey is complemented by paintings of Vilna artists (Annexe 2).

Miniature Collection Miniature Collection

Among works created after the loss of independence, during the period of Classicism, mention is due to monumental scenes stylized after the manner of antiquity, Antoni Brodowski's portraits and Wincenty Kasprzycki's picturesque lendscapes with architectural motifs. Miniature painting, in a separate annexe (3). On show here are 336 miniatures divided into European schools, in that 117 Polish ones, selected from a set of 1100.

Realism. View of the room Realism. View of the room

In the survey of Polish Romantic painting (Room III and Annexe 5), Piotr Michalowski's portraits and battle scenes are remarkable for their Europen class whereas January Suchodolski's paintings and Artur Grottger's history and genre scenes represent the native variation of Romanticism. Aleksander Kotsis's oeuvre is an example of an idealistic trend in genre painting. In the mid 19th c. a tendency to combine Academic form with Romantic content is evident in Jozef Simmler's works, e.g. the Death of Barbara Radziwill. A set of Henryk Rodakowski's paintings exemplifies the utmost achievements in the portraiture of the period. The beginnings of realism may be traced in Marcin Zaleski's townscapes and interiors, Franciszek Kostrzewski's genre scenes and Jozef Szermentowski's pictures deriving from the tradition of French painting (Annex 4).

History painting, a dominant trend in 19th-century Polish art, is represented by Jan Matejko's monumental works with the Battle of Grunwald and Wojciech Gerson's paintings (Room VI ). The rich and meaningful trend of Academic painting, characterized by a variety of subjets and motifs, is represented by works of such well-known artists as Aleksander Kokular, Wladyslaw Czachorski and Henryk Siemiradzki (Room V).
Realistic tendencies, intensifying in the second half of the 19th c., are evident in the output of many artists educated at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, including Jozef Brandt, Maksymilian Gierymski, Adam Chmielowski, Jozef Chelmonski, Julian Falat and Aleksander Gierymski, a painter continually in search of his self-identity (Rooms VI and VII).
Late 19th-century Polish painting is characterized by a wealth of trends and artistic attitudes. The Polish variety of Impressionism is represented by the paintings of Wladyslaw Podkowinski, Jozef Pankiewicz and Leon Wyczolkowski (Room VIII), shown alongside other works by the same artists painted when Symbolism was the dominant influence on their oeuvre. The stylistic decorativeness of Art Nouveau may be seen in Jozef Mehoffer's paintings (e.g. the Strange Garden) and designs for stained glass. In the colourful period of the Young Poland (Annexe 6), besides Jan Stanislawski's Impressionistic-Symbolist landscapes, the painting of Wladyslaw Slewinski, the only Polish representative of the French Pont-Aven shool, is conspicuous. Symbolism (Room IX) with references to Polish Romanticism dominates in the ample set of Jacek Malczewski's paintings while it has a rich texture of atmosphere in Ferdynand Ruszczyc's landscapes and Konrad Krzyzanowski's portraits. Symbolism differing in expression, subjected to Art Nouveau stylization, singles out Kazimierz Stabrowski's and Edward Okun's composition.

Mehoffer Jozef Mehoffer, The Strange Garden

Remarkable artistic personalities evading straightforward classification, each with a representative set of works in the Museum collection, have been allotted a special place in the survey of late 19th /early 20th-century Polish art. The artists in question are: Stanislaw Wyspianski (Annexe 7), Olga Boznanska (Annexe 8) and Witold Wojtkiewicz who stood at the threshold of the modern (Annexe 9).
Polish sculptures and decorative objects, selected from the rich collection of the Museum, complement the survey of Polish painting from between the 16th and early 20th c.

(E.Ch.)

(1st floor)


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