Gallery of Polish Masters

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Gallery of Polish Masters – a permanent exhibition based on artworks from a private collection. The works presented in the Gallery are the property of Krzysztof Musiał, patron and art collector. Thanks to the collaboration of the Museum and this private collector, nearly 130 works have been exhibited – paintings, drawings and sculptures from the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. They were created by outstanding Polish artists, Masters who were successful in developing a recognisable style and who contributed to art new values of aestheticism and craftsmanship, hence the name of the exhibition: the Gallery of Polish Masters. These artworks are presented in 15 thematic groups, covering the most significant and interesting issues of the period and trends of creative exploration.
The Gallery of Polish Masters is located in that part of the Palace which at the height of the Poznanskis’ prosperity functioned as a storehouse for textiles produced in the nearby factory, which formed part, like the Palace and the workers’ housing estate, of Israel Poznanski’s empire. The tour can begin on a “go as you like” basis, with any room. Works which are discussed in detail are marked with a headphones symbol, shown next to the caption.

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1. About themselves – the artists’ self-portrait


The first section has been dedicated to artists’ self-portraits. Images of 11 different painters and illustrators can be found here, representing styles and trends originating from the 19th century Realism, sometimes foreshadowing avant-garde. The images are sometimes official and representational or intimate and personal.
A large scale painting in a decorative frame, hung on the right of the Gallery entrance, is the image of Wojciech Kossak. The artist portrayed himself in the lancer’s uniform of the Austrian-Hungarian army. At that time, he was 22 years old and he was just on the threshold of his painting career. It is worth paying attention to some attributes that appear in the painting. The sabre pommel, which the man portrayed holds in his right hand, is a symbol of the rank of lancer, the burning cigarette in his left hand is a symbolic of the elegance and style of that time. The following self-portraits are more personal. They present artists in their studios, with brushes and palette, standing next to an easel, relating to the painter’s occupation.
The second row includes two images of Wojciech Weiss – marked with the headphones symbol – originating from different periods of the artist’s changing style. The first painting, dating back to 1902, is representative of the Young Poland Modernism and the decadency of the turn of the 20th century. The second self-portrait by Weiss, painted 8 years later, is an example of the so-called white period, when the artist began his experimentation with colours.
The expressive image of Gustaw Gwozdecki – the next painting worth discussing – is hung below. The artist was a member the artistic bohemian circles living in the French capital in the first part of the 20th century and defined as the École de Paris (the School of Paris). The suggestive look of the portrayed man, looking directly into the viewer’s eyes, exasperates and confuses. The painting is regarded as a breakthrough in Gwozdecki’s work. It documents his transition from Expressionism to Fauvism which relied on a spontaneous play with splashes of colour, with a thick border around them.  
The works gathered in this part of the exhibition were intended for the decoration of private rooms: studios and living-rooms with studies of the family, their friends and the artists themselves. Let us bear this in mind when viewing self-portraits of other Masters.



2.  Man – that sounds stately! A portrait studium of a model


The portrait is one of the most frequent and popular themes in almost all of the fine arts. Numerous examples of images of a human face can also be found in Krzysztof Musiał’s collection. It would be best to start the review with a bust of a bearded man, an intimate profile of an old man in a purple hat – marked with a headphones symbol. The author of this mysterious work, perfect as far as the craftsmanship goes, is Henryk Siemiradzki, one of the most remarkable representatives of the 19th century Academism and Realism, a graduate from the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in Petersburg. The portrait was painted in 1875, five years after the artist had finished his studies, during his scholarship in Rome. At that time Siemiradzki was working on a monumental religious composition titled Nero’s Torches, and perhaps Bust of a Bearded Man at the Gallery of Polish Masters was created with that painting in mind.
The appearance of an aging man also fascinated Eugeniusz Zak, a representative of the École de Paris, active in the early 20th century. The realistic study of An Old Man’s Head was created by Zak during his second stay in the French capital, just before the outbreak of World War I. He must have valued the work highly as it appeared in a photo of the artist’s Parisian flat where he photographed himself with his works in the background.
The portrait, understood either as the image of a particular person or a study of an anonymous model, was also popular with sculptors. In front of the windows there are sculptures by Masters of that area of fine arts: Konstanty Laszczka, Xawery Dunikowski, Henryk Kuna and Alfons Karny.
An interesting tale is connected with the bronze-cast Head of a Liaison Officer Jola Korzybska created by Alfons Karny. The work was created in 1940, in Warsaw under the occupation of the Nazis and it presents Doctor Marian Korzybski’s daughter Jola, who later became a liaison officer during the Warsaw Uprising. Alfons Karny sculpted her image to express his gratitude to the doctor for treating and feeding him – the Korzybskis invited him to dinner every day when the artist was ill with anemia. The sculpture suffered damage during the war – there is the mark of a bullet on the left temple. However, the model for the work, Jola Korzybska luckily survived the war and lived to ripe old age.

 



3. The way to an ultimate concept. Sketches


Before a painting or a sculpture is created, it is usually preceded by sketches. This is the way in which the artist tries to examine a subject, searching for the best compositional solutions and measuring proportions. Sketches do not always translate to the value of the finished work. However, they are usually an interesting record of their process of creation. These processes can be traced in this section.
The first sketch placed on the left, opposite the column, was noted for interesting circumstances in which it was produced. It is a drawing with the background painted in the watercolour technique, created by Jacek Malczewski, Master of the Young Poland Modernism, who initiated an original variation of Symbolism in Polish art. The drawing was created as a project of the cover for the first edition of the album Polish Art – Painting, which appeared in Lviv at the beginning of the 20th century. It was a luxurious publication illustrated with colourful reproductions, the first graphically professional presentation of Polish painting. Designing the cover Malczewski proposed an allegorical scene with the Muse-Polonia observing naked children playing against a mountain background. It was a metaphor of the favourable conditions for the development of art in the period of Young Poland. Nevertheless, the publisher chose a project made by Józef Mehoffer, another Master of Polish Modernism. However a reproduction of the full version of Malczewski’s sketch can be admired in the album The Łódź Gallery of Polish Masters, published by the Museum of the City of Łódź.
An intriguing though as yet unexplained story is connected with a drawing by Leon Chwistek. Chwistek was an artist and art theoretician, yet professionally he was concerned with mathematical logics. He combined both passions in Nude of a naked woman in a daring pose – the drawing constructed with a geometrized line, whose reverse side contains a mathematical manuscript, accompanied by comments written in English, still awaiting final clarification. In this record the artist used what at that time was an innovation – a system of notation without brackets. The relationship of the manuscript to the nude has not yet been explained. The manuscript has been reproduced in the album The Łódź Gallery of Polish Masters – we encourage everybody to try and interpret it.
Gustaw Gwozdecki was another artist who made geometrized drawings of nudes. In his case, however, it was more a Cubist stylisation and a search for the „spiritual glow” of a model. Another kind of stylistics can found in sketches by Zygmunt Menkes, Elie Nadelman and Tadeusz Makowski. The examples of sketches that were finally realised are Two Studies of A Man’s Head for „the Corpse”, a painting by Jacek Mierzejewski, in the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw and the study for Crisis by Wojciech Weiss.

 



4. In the eyes of friends or recesses of the soul


For a long time the portrait performed the function of photography, which means it served as a record and documented the realities of the era and the presence of an individual. Only artists associated with the Young Poland Modernism tended to capture the individual character of a portrayed person, their traits, preferences and the psychical condition of the model. They wished to preserve their own image, the image of anonymous models as well as their family members, friends and acquaintances. It is worth mentioning a few interesting examples of artist-model relationships.
Let us start with an exceptionally beautiful painting by Olga Boznańska – Portrait of Franciszek Siedlecki. It is a most outstanding representation of Post-Impressionism in Polish art and the favourite artist of Krzysztof Musiał (the owner of the collection). Boznańska created her own style, defined as Intimism – her paintings are personal and atmospheric, as if their main intention was to inspire the viewer to intimate contemplation. And that is the way we perceive the image of Franciszek Siedlecki – a graphic artist and a painter-Symbolist, a decadent dandy – a portrait produced from warm saturated colours. He was the artist’s friend from the time of her stay in Munich. A deep in thought somewhat absent-minded model holds a burning cigarette in his right hand, which emphasises his reserve and the air of mystery. Krzysztof Musiał tried to purchase this painting for a long time and today he thinks that it is one of the most valuable works in his collection of prewar art.
Portrait of Xawery Dunikowski, a well-known sculptor depicted by Leopold Gottlieb, conveys another kind of expressive mood and internal anxiety. The artists were friends from the time of their studies at the Cracow academy, both were fascinated by Stanisław Przybyszewski. They made a journey to Jerusalem together in 1906, where this disturbing image of Dunikowski was painted. A year earlier Dunikowski had shot dead the painter Wacław Pawliszak at Lijewski’s cafe in Warsaw after the latter had slapped him on the face in public. Pawliszak, Jan Matejko’s pupil, was a troublemaker commonly regarded as violent and mentally unstable. Before this incident, he had plagued the sculptor because of a past dispute of honour between them. That is arguably why the murder was recognised to be a crime of passion. After long legal proceedings Dunikowski was released on bail of two thousand roubles – which was the equivalent of the salaries of two school inspectors. Karol Stryjeński was an interesting figure too. The picture of him, Portrait by Józef Mehoffer shows him as a self-confident man, looking into the future with hope and courage. Karol Stryjeński was an architect, sculptor and community worker. In the interwar period he held many significant positions, for example the director of the Institute of Art Promotion in Warsaw. The creation of Karol Stryjeński that is best known and has served the needs of ski jumpers up to the present day is Wielka Krokiew in Zakopane. The portrait from the Gallery of Polish Masters had been created 2 years before Stryjeński married a famous painter Zofia, a stormy marriage in which the architect turned out to be a tyrant and despot…



5. Muses – the artist’s inspiration


The study in which we are now helps us to reflect on the social and artistic status of a model spending time with a painter, sculptor or illustrator in a long-running session in the studio. They resulted in portraits featuring the beauty and internal life of Masters’ friends, muses and lovers, sometimes life partners.
A romantic story is connected with Self-Portrait with the Future Wife by Vlastimil Hofman. The painting was created in Prague where the artist stayed during World War I. Vlastimil was a Pole of Czech origin, an admirer and follower of Jacek Malczewski’s symbolism. The Hofmans lived in Cracow, however, in 1914 the artist together with his father moved to Prague in order to join the army. Soon released from the Austrian army because of an injury, he lived with his cousin Ludwik Hammer and his wife Adelina. They fell in love with each other. Ada left her husband and together with Vlastimil she first went to Cracow. In 1919 they left for Paris and got married there. Their double portrait is considered to be one of the most remarkable works painted by Vlastimil Hofman. We can find here both solid realistic craftsmanship and rich imagery: a wreath on Adela’s head, a prayer-book in her hands and the austere winter landscape refer to the models’ spiritual experience.
Some other stylistics and trends of artistic experimentation are represented by the succeeding images of muses.  The decorativeness of folk painting on glass can be observed, inspired by Renaissance portraits, experiments with colour and even humour or self-irony! That description fits the final watercolour sketch in this study titled A Painter and A Model by Zygmunt Waliszewski. Waliszewski was one of the most talented Polish Colourists. He liked experimenting and playing with painting conventions. On a small card, which at the same time was an invitation to an artists’ ball, he depicted a painter – perhaps himself? He embraces a naked girl − a model with his left arm; in his right hand he is holding a palette and brushes, a symbol of the painting profession. It is worth mentioning that Waliszewski created even more equally fine invitation cards to balls and cultural events, actively contributing to  Warsaw artistic life of the 1930s. Joking and a sense of detachment to art, but also to himself, deserve particular recognition in the context of the artist's serious health problems. Zygmunt Waliszewski suffered from the incurable Bürger disease and he had both legs amputated. He had also heart disease and died of a heart attack at the age of 39.

 



6. Body or passionate study of proportion. Nudes

The nude has been a key subject for the history of art, pursued in every epoch by representatives of different styles and trends. Krzysztof Musiał's collection comprises works presenting the way the human body was perceived by Polish sculptors, painters and illustrators at the beginning of the 20th century and in the interwar period.
The section begins with Nude of a Young Man, placed on the first stand on the right, created by Edward Wittig, a sculptor connected with Neo-Classicism. A slender naked man stands in contrapposto which is a body position in which his spine is curved into the shape of a letter S. Contrapposto had been in use since ancient times and this could be the inspiration for Wittig’s sculpture. Moreover, it is the only wooden sculpture in the preserved and known works of this author. Sharply carved geometrized shapes of this nude might be juxtaposed with the expressively modeled sculpture placed on the stand alongside, titled Despair. The creator of this composition, made of plaster of Paris, is Stanisław Popławski, the artist from Cracow, fascinated by the 19th century French sculpture. An anonymous naked man is presented in a squatting position, with his face buried in his hands, the body slightly distorted. The naturalism and dramatis of this representation identifies Popławski’s sculpture as an example of the Young Poland Symbolism, and its title implies that it personifies the whole of mankind in the depths of despair.
However, not all the nudes at the exposition are connected to that kind of extreme emotion. The Gallery of Polish Masters provides the viewer with sensual pleasure and aesthetic satisfaction as well. It provides a link to images of naked women, deep in thought or asleep, painted by Wojciech Weiss. Tymon Niesiołowski, in turn, painted Nude, placed to the left of them, which is an example of the decorative art inspired by the masterpieces of the old masters. It is worthwhile stopping for a while in front of this elegant painting, sophisticated in colour, where the nudity is subtle and mysterious. Nudes were a pretext to undertaking brave formal experiments inclined towards abstraction. A good example of this is two drawings by Joachim Weingart, a representative of the École de Paris, which finish the review of this section. Constructed by means of the expressive distinct line, the representation of naked women point to the inspirations by Cubism and Synthetism, which does not deprive them of their sensuality and finesse.    



7. Fire and water – fascinating elements

Nature, especially its four elements, has always intrigued the imagination of artists. For a long time painters, sculptors and illustrators have searched for appropriate forms of expression to capture the essence of earth, water, air and fire. In this sequence we can observe the way Polish artists of the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century viewed elements of nature.
The review starts with Cabin on a Palisade by Ferdynand Ruszczyc, an intimate miniature, having the character of an Impressionist sketch from nature. The artist often travelled to the north of Europe, to the coast of the Baltic Sea. That is probably the place where he painted the Cabin. The windy and cool climate of Scandinavia was conveyed by the striking contrast of warm and cool colours. The internal expression of the painting is emphasised by small vibrant patches of colour.
The image of another element – fire was presented by Wojciech Gerson, an academic and Realist strongly rooted in the tradition of Romanticism. Thus the ruins and ashes depicted in the painting Fire in Solec (Fire in a Steam Mill in Solec in Warsaw)  from 1868 are both realistic and romantic at the same time. The work was created for the Warsaw weekly „Tygodnik Ilustrowany”, which the artist worked for at that time. However, finally, another version of Fire was published. Gerson painted the one in Krzysztof Musiał’s collection for himself, probably because he had been fascinated by the view of smouldering ruins. The artist used colour to show the effects of the devastating power of fire.
Beneath Fire there is a sinister and disturbing painting Sea Landscape by Konrad Krzyżanowski. It is probably the result of the artist’s journey to Finland, where he painted gloomy and tense views of sea waves, capturing their ferocity and menace in a beautiful way.
The dramatic character of the struggle of man against rough seas can be observed in the subsequent painting titled Storm, painted by Leopold Gottlieb. Stylized silhouettes of fishermen fight to keep their boat afloat as it is battered by wild waves. The artist, a representative of the École de Paris, drew our attention to man’s helplessness and vulnerability when confronted with the power of nature. We should add that the theme of the storm often appeared in Gottlieb’s artwork, and Krzysztof Musiał bought the version included in the Gallery of Polish Masters at auction in New York.   



8. In search of harmony. The idyllic landscape


Idyll, or pastoral, is a literary genre – a poem inspired by shepherds’ songs, glorifying life close to nature. Idyll was associated with Arcady, a mythological land of eternal happiness and harmony. Both of these concepts have long inspired the imagination of poets, writers, musicians and painters. In the interwar period there was a return to the universal ideas of Classicism regarded as the antidote to the trauma of World War I and the crisis of Modernism. Wacław Borowski, who was based in Poland and came from Łódź, was a Master of Neo-Classicism. Two large-format pastels, Idyll and Family Happiness, marked with the headphones symbol, represent characteristic solutions in composition and colour, that can also be observed in the artist’s graphic works. They are stylized genre scenes, theatrical and decorative, despite their realistic technique. The figures of animals: donkeys, doves and rabbits and props: a jug of milk, a bowl with fruit or blooming flowers, refer to harmony and order, prosperity and abundance. The serene ambience of both representations is emphasised by the saturated colours and soft value transitions characteristic of the pastel technique.
Jerzy Fedkowicz, one of the leading Polish Colourists, came up with another interpretation of Idyll. Fascinated by Paul Cézanne’s artwork, he referred to the compositional arrangement of the renowned The Bathers, painting a bucolic scene with naked women relaxing after a bath in the bosom of nature. Like Post-Impressionists, Fedkowicz resigned from value contrasts, unifying the structure of naked bodies, trees, the sky and mountains. The painting is kept in similar strongly dirtied colouration, and the artist dynamised the representation using vibrating dots of colour.
Dynamism and expression tinged with eroticism cannot be denied to Idyll by Zygmunt Waliszewski, which is hung above. Referring to the mediaeval chanson about a troubadour wandering around the world in search of the perfect lover the artist featured a daring and provocative scene. The wanderer resting in a forest has a vision of his beloved – naked and voluptuous, in a pose encouraging the start of intimate actions… Perhaps it is an apparition from the spirit world, an erotic dream, which could be confirmed by the unnatural whiteness of her body contrasting with the intensive colouration of the painting.



9. Everyone can tell a horse from a dog – portrait of fauna

Representations of fauna often appear in Polish art and they play different roles. Artists are fascinated by animals’ simplicity and spontaneity, their proportions and original shapes, painterly characteristic features and imagery. A Woman with A Rabbit by Eugeniusz Zak, introducing this section, is a forerunner of decorative art or art déco, continuing the aesthetics of Neo-Classicism. A stylized pose, a theatrical gesture, elongated shapes of both the woman and the rabbit in her hands, combined with the black background, introduce an atmosphere of mystery. It is deepened by the ambiguous imagery of the rabbit, appealing to fertility, sexuality, magic, and even minor deceit. It is one of the most interesting works painted by Zak, a representative of the École de Paris, as far as technique and the subject matter are concerned and at the same time one of the favourite works of Krzysztof Musiał, the owner of the collection.
Everybody can tell a horse from a dog. A slightly playful definition of the horse, originating from the late-Baroque encyclopaedia written by Benedykt Chmielowski, is referred to in the title of this room. Nowadays the saying functions as a popular catchphrase, summing up some obvious facts. The choice of this title for the section dedicated to representations of fauna is a hint about the significant presence of the horse in Polish art, especially in the period of Romanticism. The most remarkable painter of Romanticism was Piotr Michałowski, who dedicated a great number of paintings and sketches to them. We present two of these in the Gallery of Polish Masters. The former hangs under the title plate of this study. Painted in watercolour and drawn in pencil, the studies of horses reveal how much Michałowski sensed the temperament and anatomy of these vital animals. He is said to have studied the anatomy of horses in a Paris abattoir. Moreover he had contact with living examples of the species on his estate. Michałowski’s second drawing that is hung  further along in this study, on the other side of the partition is particularly interesting. It is a double work, hiding on the reverse side an expressive sketch of a galloping herd of horses, reproduced in the album The Łódź Gallery of Polish Masters.
An expressive painterly sketch Actaeon by Zygmunt Waliszewski is an example of the use of the animals’ image to illustrate a myth. While hunting, the Greek hero Actaeon watched the naked goddess Diana while she was bathing. As a punishment for that bold act Diana turned him into a stag, which was torn to pieces by his hounds. Waliszewski depicted the dramatic moment of the attempted escape of Actaeon-stag chased by the dogs. The momentum of the animals is emphasised by the dynamic composition and expressive line. It is one of numerous sketches on the road to the final version of the painting titled Diana and Actaeon, which is in the collection of the National Museum in Poznań.



10. In the fetters of familiarity. The native landscape

Landscapes constitute the next most numerous group of works from Krzysztof Musiał’s collection. Polish artists working in the second half of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century set great store by it. Poland partitioned by three foreign powers was not an independent country at that time. Therefore the native landscape conveyed a certain message.
A perfect example of that function is a panoramic composition by Józef Brandt, titled Cossacks’ Camp. Evening, which opens the study. It was painted in Munich where the artist set up a studio in 1870 and he ran an informal school of painting, teaching there a generation of painters called the Munich School of Polish painters Thus the caption Warsaw in the right bottom corner of the canvas might be surprising here. It was a manifestation of his connection with the Polish nation, stressing his cultural individuality, also in art. It is also an expression of his fascination with the lush vegetation of the borderlands, exceptionally picturesque and in a way exotic. The painting is produced in a range of browns and ochres characteristic of the Munich School.
Another outstanding landscapist and teacher was Jan Stanisławski, master of Polish Modernism. Born in the Ukraine, the artist was keen to paint views of his native land, most often in the miniature format. Three of them are presented in the cabinet, so we can admire their poetic and intimate mood. They are confronted with other landscapes made by Władysław Podkowiński, Konrad Krzyżanowski, Stanisław Czajkowski, Czesław Rzepiński or the master of winter landscapes – Julian Fałat.
A genuine rarity in this group is an intimate composition By the Bonfire, painted by  Witold Wojtkiewicz. The prematurely-deceased master of the Young Poland Symbolism and Expressionism did not specialize in landscapes. The nocturnal scene from the Gallery of Polish Masters was probably created during Wojtkiewicz’s stay in Petersburg. The 21-year-old artist went there, at the invitation of his uncle, and began studies at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts. Perhaps this intimate scene by the bonfire, having no counterparts in his later artwork, was created at school in Petersburg.    



11. Paris – artists’ Mecca. Views of the city


We have entered the section of the Gallery of Polish Masters with the smallest number of exhibits. It records a period that was really important for Polish art, namely the fascination of Polish artists with the capital of France in the first half of the 20th century. At that time Paris was the unquestionable capital of European art. A great number of artists from Poland and other countries of the world came here to get education, inspiration, success, to meet with other artists. For some of them Paris was a brief episode, others stayed there for good.
Jan Stanisławski, a remarkable landscapist, spent 10 years by the Seine. This period is documented by an opening intimate city verdure Pont Neuf in Paris. We should add that at that time it was a popular meeting place for bohemians. The artist depicted the view of the Seine seen from an unusual perspective. He skillfully captured the light reflected in the flowing water, and later on he used this experience in his numerous views of the Dnieper River.
Two other Parisian landscapes were painted by women artists who stayed in France for the rest of their lives. Olga Boznańska spent over 40 years in Paris, and the painting titled Before Entering the House was probably the view from the artist’s studio. In that moving miniature we can find all characteristic features of Boznańska’s painting: the inspirations of Japanese aesthetics, broken blue and grey colours, and an intimacy that prompts the viewer to contemplate every detail. There are few city views of that kind in the artwork of this exceptional Polish artist.
A totally different method of painting can be found in a work entitled Rue Mouffetard by Mela Muter, actually Maria Melania Mutermilch, associated with the École de Paris. Based on the Neo-Impressionist technique of Pointillism the artist developed her own expressive style, an example of which can be admired in the Gallery of Polish Masters. This study finishes with a city landscape by Zygmunt Waliszewski, who, using wide brush strokes, depicted a street going downhill steeply in Montmarte, a quarter of the city very popular with the Parisian bohemia. It should be mentioned here that Waliszewski’s stay together with the Paris Committee by the Seine in the period between 1924-1931 finally cemented his Post-Impressionist style, which made him one of the most original Polish Colourists.   



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.    



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.



14. Chamber situations. Interiors

This small section, as far as the number of works is concerned, is an introduction to the exposition of still life. It includes both genre scenes, set in specific interiors, and interesting framed fragments of mysterious flats, probably the artists’ studios. All the works exhibited here have a very personal, intimate atmosphere, often with a certain imagery or message.
The review of this room starts with a genre composition painted by Stanisław Lentz, ambiguously titled Misunderstanding or Scene at Dawn. The painting was created in the period when this popular illustrator and caricaturist was working for the Warsaw magazines “Kłosy”, “Tygodnik Ilustrowany” and “Kurier Codzienny” in the 1880’s. He drew for them some scenes from the lives of Warsaw residents, and perhaps one of these observed stories was a pretext to the creation of the oil painting which we can see today in the Gallery of Polish Masters. The work is characterised by an honest and realistic technique. It also reveals the influence of the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich from which the artist had graduated shortly before this painting was created.
The mood of mysticism and contemplation permeates the subsequent view of an interior, which this time is a church. The painting titled Altar with a Crucifix - Queen Jadwiga at the Wawel Cathedral by Leon Wyczółkowski is a colouristically sophisticated pastel showing the author’s fascination with Cracow’s historical monuments. The choice of this particular interior had a patriotic character – in the Young Poland period the Wawel hill rose to the rank of the national Acropolis, a place which was special for Poles, where history is inextricably linked with religion.
It is impossible to remain indifferent when facing another painting presented in this section, a large-format composition Dancers Resting, painted by Irena Jasińska-Dybowska. Although it was created in 1929, this work rather indicates the inspiration of the Baroque era. The artist used strong light and shade contrasts and monumentalised the composition. It should also be noted that that Dancers Resting is another genuine rarity for collectors, as oil paintings by this artist, popular for her graphic works in the interwar period, are very rare on the art market today.
Some other interesting painting and compositional effects can be observed in the two works bringing this section to a close: the Post-Impressionist Interior of a Room painted by Zygmunt Schreter and an enchanting miniature by Alfons Karpiński. Fragment of an Elegant Room with a Still Life combines two artistic genres: a genre scene in an interior and a still life.    



15. The remains of the day. Still lifes

Still lifes account for the largest number of works out of almost 130 exhibits displayed in the Gallery of Polish Masters. 15 works in this section show a wide spectrum of techniques and the thematic potential of this extremely popular artistic genre in Polish art. Still lifes are not only a pretext for formal experimentation, but also an encouragement for reflection on existential, spiritual and mystical issues.
Still Life with Roses and Apples, hung under the name plate of this section, painted by Józef Pankiewicz, a master of Polish Modernism and Post-Impressionism, is an example of colour experiments in the pastel technique. The influence of still lives by Paul Cézanne, the outstanding French Post-Impressionist, can be observed here as well.  
Mela Muter, in turn, in her expressive Still Life with Crabs, intrigues us with garish colours and the daring way she framed the table with the crustaceans.
Thematically anti-aesthetic Nature Morte au gibier (Still Life with Game) by Henryk Epstein, placed next to the title plate for this section, is an example of Post-Impressionism from the circle of the École de Paris. The Great Bittern, one of the species of migratory heron might have been familiar to the artist from time spent hunting in Eperney in France. Epstein had a cottage there and he often went there from Paris, where he had lived since 1913. This painting was Krzysztof Musiał’s gift to the Museum of the City of Łódź just before the opening of the Gallery, in autumn 2010. This is how our museum, as one of few such institutions in Poland, comes to be the possessor of a work painted by Henryk Epstein, who was born in Łódź.
Four still lifes in this collection were painted by Olga Boznańska. They are hung on a separate partition wall, to the right of Epstein’s painting. Boznańska was a prominent portrait artist, and still lifes were her second favourite painting subject. She achieved total mastery in this area. Flowers and objects of everyday life, such as dishes or fabrics, in the artist’s paintings grow to the position of a symbol of human existence. Flowers were the theme which especially referred to the different phases of human life, from the cradle to the grave.
It is not feasible to discuss all the artistic offerings in this study. Each still life creates its own microcosm, telling an unique story. Therefore, we would highly recommend their discerning contemplation, revelling in their nuances and discovering ideas and meanings.

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