Polish Modern Arts

19th Century

In architecture (“Great Theater” in Warsaw), historicism tied in with classicist models, and since around 1830 also with neo-Gothic. A national development became more apparent in painting than in architecture. The main master of Romanticism was P. Michałowski with horse, battle and genre scenes as well as portraits in a loose, sketchy style. J. Matejko’s monumental historical pictures (“Rejtan”, 1866, “Battle of Grunewald”, 1878; both Warsaw, Muzeum Narodowe) had great significance for the Polish historical consciousness. Realistic-romantic history painting was also represented by A. Grottger and Henryk Hector Siemiradzki (* 1843, † 1902). According to computerannals, Poland’s landscape and folk life J. Kossak, J. Chełmoński and A. and M. Gierymski. H. Rodakowski was one of the most important portraitists of his time. W. Podkowiński and J. Fałat advocated Impressionism based on the French model. In addition, a rich folk art developed thatremained aliveinto the 20th century (Nikifor).

Modern and present

Architecture: Monumental neoclassical representative buildings such as the National Museum in Krakow have been built since 1918. Styles of modern architecture were mainly used in private buildings. After 1945, the reconstruction of the destroyed cities was a main task (especially intensive housing and industrial construction). While Polish architecture was initially oriented towards that of the USSR, while at the same time reflecting on national forms, modern industrial construction began to establish itself in the mid-1950s. The reconstruction of historical buildings and entire city centers (e.g. in Wroclaw, Danzig, Krakow, Warsaw) was exemplary. Since the 1990s, there has been a return to the expressive, factual style elements of the architecture of the 1920s (based on B. Taut). In addition to Polish architects such as Marek Budzynsky (* 1939; including the new building of the university library in Warsaw, 1995-99), architecture in Poland is gradually being influenced by the international architecture scene (e.g. N. Foster’s office and commercial complex »Metropolitan« in Warsaw, 2001 –03). The Lodz-born representative of deconstructivism D. Libeskind has hardly made an appearance in Poland so far.

Fine arts before 1945: symbolist and decorative tendencies in the sense of Art Nouveau became effective around 1900 (movement “Young Poland”: J. Malczewski, J. Mehoffer, S. Wyspiański). Among other things, they formed the starting point for X. Dunikowski, the most important Polish sculptor of the first half of the 20th century, and for S. I. Witkiewicz, in whose painting elements of Expressionism and Surrealism flowed. The Polish avant-garde, whose pioneering T. Czyżewski emerged, organized itself in the 1920s under the leadership of W. Strzemiński in the groups »Blok« and »a. r. «. It opened up in particular to Russian constructivism (K. Kobro; H. Berlewi; H. Stażewski). The work of L. Marcoussis developed under the spell of Cubism. The group of colorists »K. P. “(” Komitet Paryski “) to J. Cybis. The »Grupa Krakowska«, which was founded in 1930 and in which T. Kantor was an active participant, was revived after 1945.

Fine arts after 1945: Post-avant-garde painting and sculpture after the Second World War were open to new western trends (T. Kantor; Andrzej Wróblewski, * 1927, † 1957; T. Brzozowski; W. Hasior; M. Abakanowicz; R. Opałka; Kazimierz Mikulski (* 1918, † 1998); Janusz Przybylski (* 1937, † 1998); Zdzisław Jurkiewicz, * 1931, † 2012; Zbigniew Gostomski, * 1932). Artists such as Mirosław Bałka (* 1958), Lukas Korolkiewicz (* 1948), Jarosław Modzelewski (* 1955), Edward Dwurnik (* 1943) and Anna Beller (* 1960) deal with the reality of social disorientation. Artists such as Tomasz Ciecierski (* 1945), Andrzej Szewczyk (* 1950, † 2001), Hanna Luczak (* 1959), Piotr Kurka (* 1958) and Kolo Klipsa (* 1960) worked and still work on a more symbolic level. The constructivist tradition, which became increasingly apparent in Poland in the late 1960s and 1970s in the form of serial art (including H. Stażewski), is still very much alive and is being used by artists such as Leon Tarasewicz (* 1957), Marek Chlanda (* 1954) and Zuzanna Baranowska (* 1961). In addition, mail art was picked up as a new art movement (including Pawel Petasz, * 1951; Andrzej Partum, * 1938, † 2002).

Since the late 1980s, various artistic strategies of the retro avant-garde (pop art, concept art, futurism and others) have been analyzing the situation of post-communist Polish society in an ironic, critical and playful way. With the means of the classic genres of painting and sculpture, but also with the help of photography and video as well as performances and installations, some topics are preferentially implemented, including the critical discourse of the value society of the industrial and post-industrial age (Zbigniew Libera, * 1959), social taboos and stereotypes respectively norms (Artur Żmijewskij, * 1966; Katarzyna Kozyra, * 1963), religion and ideology (Robert Rumas, * 1966), totalitarian systems (Zofia Kulik, * 1947). Multi-faceted positions dealing with the personal and / or recent national history of Poland as well as with the national and international development of art are shown by artists such as Pawel Althammer (* 1967), Katarzyna Józefowicz (* 1959), Zuzanna Janin (* 1964) and Mariusz Maciejewski (* 1972) as well as the group founded in 1995 »C. U. K. T. «(Centralny Urzad Kultury Technicznej, German Central Office for Technical Culture).

Graphics: Polish graphics gained international recognition primarily with posters and reached a high point in the 1950s and 60s with style-forming works by the so-called Polish School (including Tadeusz Trepkowski (* 1914, † 1954), Henryk Tomaszewski (* 1914, † 2005), J. Lenica, Waldemar Świerzy, * 1931, † 2013). International stylistic elements such as Pop Art and Neo-Art Nouveau have been added to the Polish visual language since the mid-1960s (including R. Cieślewicz; Franciszek Starowieyski, * 1930, † 2009; Maciej Urbaniec, * 1925, † 2004). Since 1989 Leszek Zebrowski (* 1950), Wieslaw Walkuski (* 1956), Kuba Sowiński (* 1973) and others increasingly with the inclusion of new reproduction processes as well as computer and video art.

Polish Modern Arts