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Exhibitions and Projects
16 April–7 June 2009

Polish Painting circa 1900

Impressionism and Symbolism

The exhibition has been prepared in cooperation with National Museum in Warsaw and Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Ljubljana.

Polish art will be presented to the Slovenian public for the first time in such scope – seventy-seven paintings by twenty-three Polish painters, the contemporaries of the Slovenian Impressionists, who left an indelible mark on the Polish art scene at around 1900 – Teodor Axentowicz, Olga Boznańska, Jozef Chełmoński, Jan Ciągliński, Julian Fałat, Stefan Filipkiewicz, Aleksander Gierymski, Stanisław Kamocki, Konrad Krzyżanowski, Ludwik de Laveaux, Jacek Malczewski, Józef Mehoffer, Edward Okuń, Józef Pankiewicz, Władisław Podkowiński, Ferdynand Ruszczyc, Kazimierz Stabrowski, Jan Stanisławski, Władisław Ślewiński, Wojciech Weiss, Witold Wojtkiewicz, Leon Wyczółkowski in Stanisław Wyspiański.

The exhibition Polish Painting circa 1900. Impressionism and Symbolism, prepared by the National Gallery in Ljubljana and the National Museum in Warsaw, is the first presentation of Polish art of this period in Slovenia. The result of an unusual combination of circumstances, the idea for this exhibition was born in 2008, almost exactly one hundred years after the first exhibition of Slovene painting in Poland was held in March 1908 at the gallery of the Towarzystwo Zachęty Sztuk Pięknych (Society for the Encouragement of the Arts). On that occasion the people of Warsaw had the opportunity to view the works of the most notable Slovene Impressionists – Rihard Jakopič, Matej Sternen, Matija Jama, Ivan Grohar and Peter Žmitek. These artists were not only trying to realise their own interests and creative ambitions, they were endeavouring to form a national school in Slovene painting that would distinguish itself from other European artistic achievements in the period around the turn of the 20th century. An expression of just such an attitude was the initiative that led to the founding of the Towarzystwo Artystów Polskich "Sztuka" ("Sztuka" Society of Polish Artists) in Kraków in 1897, which was also striving to raise the general level of national art and to manifest its difference in the international arena. The group of its founders and later members included most of the artists responsible for the works in the present exhibition.

The exhibition opens with the late works of Józef Chełmoński and Aleksander Gierymski, which approach the moodiness of Symbolist painting. The next group includes paintings by Władysław Podkowiński and Józef Pankiewicz, who are considered by Polish art history to be the first representatives of Impressionism in the artistic milieu of Warsaw, and the landscape studies filled with light and colour by Julian Fałat and Leon Wyczółkowski, representatives of the Kraków milieu. The subsequent creative development of these artists was in the direction of Symbolism. This change is reflected in the exhibition by their later works, which differ considerably in form and content. The decorative-Symbolist current from the turn of the last century is represented by the paintings of Józef Mehoffer, an artist with links to Kraków. This was also where Jacek Malczewski developed his Symbolist creativity. His enigmatic compositions contain symbolic elements relating to the spheres of religion, mythology, eschatology, the history of the nation and the condition of the human being and the artist in the modern world. An excellent illustration of the innovative achievements in landscape painting in this period is provided by the small paintings of Jan Stanisławski, the founder of the chair of landscape art at the Szkoła Sztuk Pięknych (School of Fine Arts) in Kraków, and the paintings of his pupils Stanisław Kamocki and Stefan Filipkiewicz. The Symbolist tendencies that began to appear in the paintings of Warsaw artists in around 1900 can be seen in the works of the founders and first professors of the city's Szkoła Sztuk Pięknych (School of Fine Arts) – the mysterious, gloomy portraits and interiors of Konrad Krzyżanowski, the compositions of Kazimierz Stabrowski, featuring decorative elements characteristic of the Vienna Secession, and the monumental, Symbolist landscapes of Ferdynand Ruszczyc. The decorative-Symbolist current of painting with the stylistic characteristics of the Vienna Secession is expressed by the impressive canvases of Edward Okuń. The bright plein air studies by Jan Ciągliński, the fruits of his travels through southern Europe and the Middle East, form a group of their own. Another artist who, before his early death, would develop his talent in full within the context of French art was Ludwik De Laveaux, the creator of moody landscapes and gloomy, mysterious Symbolist compositions. France was also chosen as a second homeland by the refined Intimist painter Olga Boznańska and by Władysław Ślewiński, an exponent of Synthetism and the only Pole in the Pont-Aven group that formed around Paul Gauguin. The overview of the currents present in Polish painting in around 1900 ends with a presentation of works by two artists of the following generation, Wojciech Weiss and Witold Wojtkiewicz. Their extremely subjective creativity, which appealed to the mysteries of the human psyche, already wore an Expressionist tinge.

We firmly believe that this "return visit" by Polish painters to Ljubljana after an interval of a hundred years will help awaken dialogue between Polish and Slovene art and reveal the similarity in the artistic attitudes, endeavours and achievements present in the two countries in an extremely period for European culture – the transition from the 19th century to the 20th century.

Project leaders
Ewa Micke-Broniarek, Alenka Simončič

Author of the Exhibition
Ewa Micke-Broniarek

Exhibition set-up
Meta Hočevar

Graphic Design
Sašo Urukalo

Works of Art lent by
National Museum in Warsaw; Masovian Museum in Płock; Museum of Art in Łódź ; private owners

The Exhibition was supported by
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia; Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Ljubljana; National Museum in Warsaw

16 April–7 June 2009
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana