Bernardo Bellotto (Canaletto) “View of Warsaw from the terrace of the Royal Castle”
Before entering the hall of Polish art on the second floor of the Warsaw National Museum, an impressive canvas of the famous Canaletto hangs. We asked Wojciech Glowacki, one of the museum’s researchers, to tell us more about this amazing picture:
“Year 1773, in the foreground is the courtyard behind the Royal Castle, on the left you can see the Palace“ Under the Plaque ”(“ Under the Copper Roof ”), in the distance the city, and on the right are the buildings lined along the Cracow Suburb. Why is this painting exhibited in such an important place? The Canaletto painting was hanged here for several reasons. Firstly, we are in Warsaw, and the picture shows the city before the devastation of World War II. Canaletto canvases served as an important source of information during the reconstruction of Warsaw, architects recreated old buildings, including from this picture.
Jan Matejko “Battle of Grunwald”
Here is another picture with a rich historical context, but this time its author could not see what he depicted with his own eyes. Jan Matejko, recognized as the main historical painter of Poland, lived in the 19th century, and the Battle of Grunwald took place in 1410. In this battle, one of the largest in the history of medieval Europe, the troops of the Commonwealth defeated the Teutonic Order. Victory in the Battle of Grunwald occupies a key place in Polish history.
It is worth looking at the Matejko painting not only in order to find out about an episode of Polish history that influenced the formation of Polish national identity. This canvas of 1878 should be seen with my own eyes, if only because of its size. The dimensions of this truly grandiose picture are striking: almost ten meters in length and five in height. In addition, the brilliant Mateiko demonstrated incredible skill when writing the picture, and it is a real pleasure to study its countless details.
Unknown artist “Tombstone of Marianna Pstrokonskaya (nee Dzyalynskaya)”
Another Polish exhibit at the Warsaw National Museum is a tombstone portrait of Marianna Pstrokonskaya (nee Dzyalynska), made by an unknown artist at the end of the 17th century.
“In the XVII – XVIII centuries, in the era of the gentry republic, a unique genre flourished in Poland – the grave portrait genre. (…) It was then that a special funeral ceremony became widespread. The coffin, surrounded by shields with the coat of arms, was hoisted onto the so-called castrum doloris (bed of pain) – a pedestal in the shape of a coffin. A painted portrait was attached to the end wall of the coffin in the heads of the deceased. Such a portrait was supposed to be very clear, sometimes facial features were deliberately simplified so that the image could be seen during the funeral ceremony from a distance of a dozen meters. The portrait, distinguished by candlelight and through the thick smoke of incense, symbolized the spiritual presence of the deceased, the connection between the earthly and spiritual worlds. “
After the ceremony, portraits were often hung in churches. A tombstone portrait of Marianna Pstrokonskaya, as well as several other similar works are exhibited at the National Museum, which allows visitors to carefully familiarize themselves with the features of this unusual genre.
Sandro Botticelli “Madonna and Child, St. John the Baptist and the Angel”
Next to the tombstone portraits on the third floor is a painting of the Italian Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli, the author of the famous painting “The Birth of Venus”. The collection of the National Museum contains his painting “Madonna and Child, St. John the Baptist and the Angel”, painted at the turn of the 16th century. In the halls of the museum we managed to overhear that one of the guides was telling a group of nuns about this outstanding painting:
“A rose without thorns is considered a symbol of the Virgin Mary, a symbol of perfect love. St. John is dressed in a camel’s skin, a symbol of his seclusion. Its traditional attribute – the cross – can be seen above the head of the Baby, which hints at the harsh fate awaiting the Savior. This, in turn, explains the sadness on the face of the Madonna, who (possibly) anticipates the future. “
The picture captivates not only with its symbolism, but also with impeccable execution and unusual format: the canvas has the shape of a circle. The discreet nuns clearly liked Botticelli’s painting.
Stanislav Vyspiansky “Caritas (Madonna and Child)”
Let’s go back to the second floor. A completely different, more modern version of the Madonna and Child hangs there. Here is what Wojciech Głowacki writes about this most beautiful painting, written in 1904:
“You might think that the picture is painted in oil, but, as usual with Vyspiansky, this is pastel on paper. The artist wrote only a few works in oil. This is one of the many sketches of stained-glass windows he created. Vyspiansky participated in many competitions of church decoration (for example, the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Krakow), and “Caritas” is a sketch (by the way, unrealized) for the Lviv Cathedral. Bright pastel colors, as well as bold sonorous color combinations, are admirable: light yellow next to light green, and blue on top.
Leon Vychulkovsky “Still Life”
Another modernist work with an exceptionally interesting color scheme is on display in the museum – it is “Still Life” by the famous artist Leon Vychulkovsky. Over the course of his many years of career, the Polish artist painted in various styles: modernism, symbolism, realism … In this work, also known as “Still Life with a Vase” or “Still Life with a Vase and a Chinese Screen”, the artist’s interest in the aesthetics of the East was reflected. The color scheme This work is truly mesmerizing. There is something in it that makes you stop in front of the picture and look at it for a long time. Then you can notice a rough texture, which, coupled with a non-obvious composition adds to the picture of sophistication. This marvelous still life allows you to understand why Vychulkovsky is considered one of the most important Polish artists.
Józef Helmonski Kuropatki
The painting “Partridges” of 1891 is one of the most famous exhibits of the museum. We asked Wojciech Głowacki to tell us more about her:
“This is one of the most famous works of Jozef Helmonsky, an outstanding Polish academic artist who was educated in Germany in the second half of the 19th century. Typical of his work with the Polish landscape. Helmonsky painted his landscapes mainly in the countryside in the region of Mazovia.
In the foreground of the winter landscape we see partridges, the ones closest to us are drawn very accurately, all the details are very clear, every feather, every beak. The horizon line is barely drawn, barely noticeable. Everything is white, whitish, beige, white has a whole range of shades. In addition, the picture is framed in a white and gilded frame, which visually expands its space even more.
In my opinion, this picture so often falls into various selections of the most interesting works of our museum, because it has an amazing ability to impress the viewer. Approaching her, you almost feel the weather. You are almost permeated by the cold. Of course, the touching theme of the picture, its infinity and masterful vision of nature are also attracted. ”
Konrad Krzhizhanovsky “Verka near Vilno”
Another beautiful landscape in the museum’s collection is “Verki near Vilno”, painted in 1907 by the Polish expressionist artist Konrad Krzyzhanowski. The painting shows the picturesque area of Verka (Värkiai) in Vilna. The painting was painted during an excursion that Krzhizhanovsky made with his students – he was not only a recognized artist, but also an enthusiastic teacher of art, a professor at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts from 1904 to 1909. The color scheme captures the viewer’s eyes, making him linger. A wide brush stroke creates a dream atmosphere enhanced by a dynamic composition, which seems to set the water and the whole scene in motion.
Zofia Stryenskaya “July-August”
In the hall of modern art there is a striking picture – “July-August” by Zofya Stryenskaya. Strynska, one of the most important artists of the interwar period, was passionately carried away by Polish folklore. The painting, written in 1925, was part of a cycle called The Seasons (Pory Roku), which won four grand prizes at the International Exhibition of Contemporary Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris in 1925. Cereals remind of the harvest, which takes place at the end of summer, and the couple’s dance – of merry festivities during the harvest.
Rafal Malchevsky “Car on the background of a winter landscape”
Near the summer “July-August” hangs a “snowy” painting by Rafal Malchevsky “A car against the backdrop of a winter landscape.” “Here you see a fascination with high-speed cars, these are late – futuristic influences, bold predictions of the future. Indeed, in the 1930s no one had suspected that the Second World War would break out.
The main thing in this picture is the beautiful color scheme. Someone will say that winter landscapes were beautifully painted, for example, by Julian Falat, a true snow artist. But his works are completely different, his landscapes are realistic, even if they are filled with emotions. Here the landscape is shown synthetically, snow primarily serves as the background on which the car rushes. “
Wojciech Fangor “E 10” and “E 19”
Wojciech Fangor is sometimes called “one of the last great masters of the twentieth century” and “a classic of Polish art of the twentieth century.” During his long career, which began shortly after the end of World War II, he created various works that relate to such trends as socialist realism, minimalism and critical art. Among his most memorable works are works in the style of op-art (the artistic movement of the second half of the 20th century, based on the use of various optical illusions). The museum displays two of his works, both of 1966: “E 10” and “E 19” hang next to each other. They are very similar in size, both depict large rings on a flat background, however, a different color scheme gives them individuality.
In conclusion, let me remind you that all the pictures in this list exist offline, in reality, not on the screen. Even the best photo or reproduction is half as good as the original. Just for the sake of this – and maybe just for the sake of this – we strongly recommend visiting the Warsaw National Museum.