Et tenebrae lūcem non conprehenderunt

Nero's Torches - Henryk Siemiradzki - Sukiennice w Krakowie

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.

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Vita – Somnium Breve – Wytraż by Józef Mehoffer – Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie

Młoda Polska

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:

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Nero’s Torches – Henryk Siemiradzki – Sukiennice w Krakowie

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.

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Rogal świętomarciński

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.

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Jacek Malczewski – Autoportret z pis­anka – Muzeum Narodowe w Poznaniu

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».

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Polonia – Jacek Malczewski – Muzeum Narodowe we Wroclawiu

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.

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Artysta i Muza – Jacek Malczewski – Muzeum Narodowe w Poznaniu

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.

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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.

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