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Gallery of Polish Masters - 13. From Brittany to Provence – the French landscape

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13. From Brittany to Provence – the French landscape

This section presents the potential of the Polish art that was created in France in the first half of the 20th century. At that time a number of Polish artists went there, succumbing to the influences of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, Synthetism of the Pont-Aven School, Expressionism and Cubism. Apart from Paris they also discovered rural areas: The Breton Peninsula, the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and the Strait of La Manche.
Reefs at Low Tide is one of numerous marine landscapes painted by Władysław Ślewiński in Brittany. The Polish artist was attracted by the atmosphere of that place thanks to Paul Gauguin, the leader and theoretician of the Pont-Aven School. Since the 1880s of the little village had been the meeting-place for a group of painter-landscapists. On the grounds of their experiences with Impressionism, they developed the style called Synthetism. It was based on the use of a pure palette of colours, inspired by stained-glass with its lines bordering particular patches of colour, ending the use of the light and shade effect and perspective, simplifying details and endowing them with symbolic meanings. Ślewiński’s painting exhibits all of these features. Using simple means of expression, the artist manages to convey the severe inaccessibility of the ocean, its dynamism and vastness.
French Impressionism produced other results in the form of the work of Józef Pankiewicz, considered to be one of the leading promoters of that style in Polish painting. His marine landscape Boats in the Port of Concarneau, was painted in 1908. It is placed above Ślewiński’s painting, to the right. It was at a time when Pankiewicz went there with his young wife Wanda on their honeymoon, enjoying the charm of the small seaside town Concarneau. Filled with a shiny, slightly whitened range of colours, the view of sailing boats reflects the atmosphere of a warm summer and captures the mood of the moment perfectly well. The painting can be defined as an impressionistic and spontaneous sketch from nature.
This study closes with the idyllic composition titled Rabbits, painted by Tadeusz Makowski. Makowski is one of the most original Polish painters of the first half of the 20th century, living permanently in Paris after 1909. That is where he came into contact with the  Synthetism of the Pont-Aven School and Cubism. Combining it with the inspirations of grotesque and naïve art he developed a style which did not fit any classifications, similar to the artwork of Marcel Gromaire, a French painter. An example of such works might be the cycle of four compositions with the theme of playing children, being a part of the study The way to the ultimate concept. Sketches. The Rabbits are definitely different, both in terms of colour range, form and mood. They are a record of the earlier stage of Makowski’s creative journey.

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