Leon, I have more arts for you.
If you really want to see Kraków for real, you should come to visit me – once more. Now, after you wrote such thing as… Oh, wait, you wrote it on Juanjo’s reference! That thing about me of knowing every corner of Madrid and now of Kraków, you know; now I feel compelled to live up to such words. And then Mehoffer in Friburg and Matejko i tak dalej…
So, shoulders to the wheel!
After Poniatowski, the king with the worst job ever, tried to update the Polish School of Arts with Bacciarelli – Wikipedia picture reference of that king is a painting from that painter, of which there are plenty of copies all over Poland – and the academics, just boring paintings of nobles and so on, but at least settled a beginning; and after the partitions – I told you Poniatowski had an awful job – and the romantic upheaval of those three Bards roughly attempted to be classified as “Mickiewicz, the master of the epic and lyric, may be called the poet of the present; Krasiński, the prophet and seer, the poet through whom the future spoke; while Słowacki, the dramatist, was the panegyrist of the past [*]”; the plastic arts came up, Matejko setting the precedent, and a whole generation to come after him.
That Młoda Polska of young people, of symbolism and decadence, got me hooked. Those unique windows from Mehoffer and Wyspiański, first, then those paintings at the Sukiennice Gallery of Arts. A building with the dubious honour of being the first shopping mall in history, now holds three things at its three floors: in the underground, an archaeological museum I still haven’t visited. At the ground floor, the biggest tourist trap in Kraków – Do not try to buy souvenirs there! – and at the upper floor, quite unknown, a small gallery that it’s just damn perfect. An entranced guarded by the Rapt of the Sabines and the A Slav Breaking Free from His Bonds, it’s just four rooms, called after the artist who stars such, filled with a very well ordered collection, chronologically and thematically: Bacciarelli, Michałowski, Siemiradzki, and Chełmoński (check this guy out!) A collection that started with a gift from Siemiradzki, this wonderful masterpiece, that deserves a whole study of the dark and light parts of the painting, the faces and emotions, and the whole problem with Nero:
A second museum was the Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie. My visit took place on the 11th of November, Polish national holiday, as Independence Day – remember those partitions I mention a lot? They got Poland back on the 11th-11th 1918, aftermath of WWI. At such a day, the museum held some especial exhibitions about the art of the soldiers and about military garments in the lower floors, but the rooms I was looking for were upstairs. Starting with modern stuff, nothing I knew but one thing I was craving to see, in a room called „… A to Polska właśnie…”. To my surprise, just in front of Mehoffer sketches, I saw these beauties:
And I was like who the hell is that genius!? So, delving into the painter, I discovered a whole generation of artists to fall in love with. Following Matejko’s precedent, there where many more genius apart from the already known Mehoffer and Wyspiański. That Młoda Polska of young people, of symbolism and decadence, who grew up under complicated circumstances, raised by the three Bards and Matejko, a generation that witnessed the outrage of WWI and the independence of Poland, who came to live at the beginning of globalization, when such a thing as styles were not local any more but a quick and continuous swap of ideas. While in Spain we had something we called “La Generación del 98”, as a reference to the people who gathered in 1898, here in Poland you got the turn-of-the-century geniuses, long list, as Wyczółkowski, Fałat, Weiss, the million-times-mentioned Mehoffer and Wyspiański, and a guy who gave the name to the train I took a week after.
Being fixated with the topic, I already had a plan to visit some close friends in Poznań, when I decided why not checking out Poznań’s muzeum as well. I saw somewhere on the internet there were some nice paintings from those I was discovering, so it was an easy choice, even better being free on Saturday.
We entered, some of us deeply looking forward for the paintings, some others earning heaven for their patience. We wanted to do some old-school chronological order tour, but, weirdly, the structure of the museum did not allow us to get to the middle ages; instead, we encounter the best from the beginning.
The collection was huge and it would take me a lot of memory recalling and plenty of space in the blog to talk about everything, even worse considering I’m not any art expert, just a new guy in the fields, so I will stay to whom pleased me the most: Malczewski.
If there are stereotypes of how artists are, this guy surely fits many. Quite self-confident, prolific, who likes to experiment and no-one know what’s going on in their heads. This is a guy who, «In spite of differences in understanding the idea of artistic form and expression, Matejko’s art, filled with historiosophical conceptions, left a stamp on Malczewski’s imagination. Together with the poetry of the Romantics, Matejko’s paintings stimulated the patriotic and historical trend in Malczewski’s oeuvre».
He’s a guy who depicted topics from the past, with the techniques from the future: a representative of the modern European Symbolism. He was a big patriot, probably so much he was a prick, but the way he depicts topics of the Polish literature and history are just unique. And to bring up more coincidence, when I was in Wrocław for just one morning on my way back from Rome and I visit their Muzeum Narodowe, there was one painting I absolutely liked back then, to which I just didn’t pay any attention to the author, but to my surprise, it turned out to be Malczewski as well. How delicious to discover that was. You know that feeling, of discovering it was an important thing before someone else tells you.
And one topic that obsessed him, and that also snagged me, was the drama of inspiration. What, on earth, does inspire the artist. Plenty of depictions, of young painters struggling in their thoughts, of an unstoppable stream of ideas, of that of the Muse. My favourite along with the two surprises I mentioned above.
But so much museum-ing got our brains lacking some sugar, so, to keep the style, we just visited a museum about Croissants, or better called, Rogal świętomarciński.
Next… what’s next? Oh yeah, perhaps some travelling. Leon, how is your so called “travel” passport going?
More about Polish Arts:
A very nice digital pinacothèque on Polish arts, here.
And a wonderful post about my so far favourite gallery, here. There are just too many paintings in that museum I’m not mentioning I feel horrible about it, so please read more about them, come here and visit it, call me when you’re there and I come along. Please 😀
And a slideshow with some of the stuff I have on my phone from these museums. Not intended to be comprehensive. Just random stuff.