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Gallery of Polish Masters - 12. Sacrum, or the track of the Absolute – religious stands

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12. Sacrum, or the track of the Absolute – religious stands

Works assembled in this section are varied as far as the form and technique is concerned. They perfectly illustrate how broad the sphere of the sacred was thematically and aesthetically for the artists of the first half of the 20th century. The paintings and sculptures presented here document their emotions, reflections and spiritual experience.
Church Fete in Brittany by Władysław Ślewiński, placed beneath the introductory name plate, was created in a period that was really special for the artist. The Master of Synthetism and the only Slavic member of the very famous Pont-Aven group settled down in Brittany 8 years before his death and he painted the Breton landscape. The canvas from Krzysztof Musiał’s collection presents the moment of entering the temple, most probably a church of Saint Joseph in Pont Aven, by a group of women wearing the traditional Breton clothes. The scene is being watched from an untypical perspective, which slightly distorts the sense of the painting’s space. At that period the artist lightened his colour palette, extremely simplifying and stylizing shapes, which made his paintings lavishly decorative. That is the way we perceive Church Fete, a work that is extremely beautiful, having no counterparts in Poland with regard to its iconographic value.
The genre scene titled Torah – Father and Son by Zygmunt Menkes is exceptional and intriguing, also in view of the French frame from the epoch. Born in Lviv, Menkes was an artist of Jewish descent. He was a representative of the École de Paris, although the painting presented in the Gallery of Polish Masters was probably created during his stay in Berlin during 1928. There are a lot of figurative props there referring to Judaism, such as: The Pentateuch, a menorah, a crown for Torah or tallits on the shoulders of some figures. The composition of the painting seems to imply the preparations for a Bar Mitzvah, a 13-year-old boys’ first reading of the Torah in the synagogue. The work can also be interpreted more personally. The theme of father and son often appeared in Menkes’s artwork, as the artist was brought up in a traditional Jewish family and he could remember that kind of scene from his period in Lviv.
Another kind of approach to religion can be found in two sculptures made by Bolesław Biegas: In a Prayer and A Sleeping God, placed on stands. They were created just after the artist’s arrival in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century, after he had dropped out of his studies at the Academy in Cracow. Simplified and geometrized shapes, especially in In a Prayer, bring to mind figures of pagan deities. Its direct inspiration was the figure of the Zbruch Idol, which Biegas could see in the Museum of Archeology in Cracow.    

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