The Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków was founded in 1818. It is Poland's oldest art school. It was established by two Kraków painters: Józef Brodowski and Józef Peszka. At its inception it was not an independent institution. It formed part of the Literature Unit at Jagiellonian University's Faculty of Philosophy up to 1926.
The curriculum covered the "pure arts", or painting, drawing, and sculpture. These subjects were taught within three departments: Painting (Józef Brodowski), Drawing (Józef Peszka), and Sculpture (Józef Reidlinger). Brodowski requested that departments of Architecture, Lithography and Etching be set up as well, but to no avail.
Very briefly in 1831, Józef Peszka was the school's director. Next, until 1833, Józef Brodowski took over. This artist was educated in Paris. His French experience was a source of many of his ideas when founding the Kraków school. During his term, mandatory classes included copying paintings by old masters e.g. Raphael, studies of plaster heads and ancient sculptures. These were subjects typical of academic teaching in Europe in the mid-19th century.
Wojciech Korneli Stattler, who had studied at the Academy of St. Luke in Rome and who succeeded Brodowski as director, wanted to make changes to Brodowski's system of teaching. Innovations were to include copying from a live model and painting from nature. Stattler never managed to put these ideas into practice. However, they still contributed to changing the awareness of Kraków's artistic community. After the November Uprising, in 1833, the Kraków academy was made part of the Technical Institute. Its name was changed to the School of Drawing and Painting.
New subjects were added after 1843, including lithography. The Lithography School was founded, which operated within the School of Drawing and Painting. Course classes still featured works by old masters. The school's collections provided extremely helpful teaching aids. The Academy Gallery included paintings, drawings and casts of ancient sculptures. The first graduates who became familiar names in the history of Polish art appeared in the years 1854-60: Artur Grottger, Aleksander Kotsis and Jan Matejko. All of them were students of Władysław Łuszczkiewicz, a painter and from 1850 a teacher of drawing and perspective. Łuszczkiewicz initiated student trips to historical sites. In addition, the Kraków school taught classes in landscape painting ("landviews"). The first plein-air workshops were organized in the Tatra Mountains.
"The year was 1873, Jan Matejko took over as director of the School of Fine Arts (SSP). He was already a recognized painter abroad and at home. Awarded medals at salons, made a member of the Academy and the Institut de France, and tempted with the post of director of the Czech Academy of Fine Arts in Prague - he chose Kraków." (references)
In the same year as Matejko became the director of the SSP, the School of Painting and Drawing was renamed the School of Fine Arts. It had its own statute, and became an independent institution for the first time in its history. Jan Matejko, the famous historical painter, headed the school for twenty years, until 1893. His students remembered him as an inspiring and admired teacher who stuck fast to his own vision of painting, but who did not destroy the individuality of his students. The most famous of Matejko's students included: Stanisław Wyspiański, Jacek Malczewski, Józef Mehoffer, Leon Wyczółkowski, Wojciech Weiss, Maurycy Gottlieb, Ludwik de Laveaux, Witold Pruszkowski and Franciszek Żmurko. The list of his students is very long. The students studied in "master studios", where teaching took place through a close master-pupil relationship. Jan Matejko's studio was one such "Meisterschule" (from 1879).
"Matejko was the organizer of the School of Fine Arts, which by then had become autonomous, and its director in 1873-1893. Its administrative status was much higher compared to Warsaw's Drawing Class. Under Jan Matejko's management, the School aspired to the importance of an academy, with variable success, and tried to run an academic curriculum, though this was already being modified everywhere else at the time. No specialist classes of genre painting were established, except Matejko's famous composition Meisterschule. Moreover, the only specialist subject of genre painting, which had been available throughout the school's existence as part of the Technical Institute - "landviews" - was abolished. This lack of landscape painting in the teaching of the Krakow school, which Matejko's opponents over the past quarter of a century identified unequivocally with plein-air painting, became one of the most serious accusations against his programme concepts". ("Polskie szkolnictwo artystyczne" / "Polish Artistic Education")
After Matejko's death, Julian Fałat was appointed the SSP's director on 26 March 1895. He had studied at the Kraków school, but also in Zurich and Munich. Once Fałat took over as director, the school's image changed dramatically. Though painting was still the dominating discipline, academic teaching was abandoned. The new director invited modernist painters to work with him. Teodor Axentowicz and Leon Wyczółkowski began working at the school in 1895. Jacek Malczewski joined them a year later. In 1900 Józef Mehoffer became a member of the faculty, soon followed by Stanisław Wyspiański. This group also included Józef Pankiewicz, Ferdynand Ruszczyc (both joined in 1906), and Wojciech Weiss (1907).
"In the work of Fałat himself, the search for beauty makes way for emotional sensation and accuracy of observation. In teaching, both he and his colleagues wanted to open students' hearts to the primeval power concealed in the people. Matejko had been interested in the nation at momentous points in history, for Fałat's team 'the people' were the most important. They wanted the people's power to be portrayed in pictures and to serve everyone." (references)
Thanks to Julian Fałat's endeavours, on 1 October 1900 the School of Fine Arts received the status of an Academy. Credit is also due to Fałat for developing graphic art. Graphic techniques were very fashionable among artists of the Young Poland period. Lithography was pioneered by Leon Wyczółkowski, a student of Wojciech Gerson and Jan Matejko. Stanisław Wyspiański devoted a lot of attention to graphic art in his work, using it mainly to decorate books. The Kraków school lacked graphic art workshops. The Graphic Arts Special School was established in 1909, headed by Józef Pankiewicz. However, it was not until 1923 that a separate Graphic Arts Department was formed. Its chair was offered to Wyczółkowski, who was 71 at the time. He turned it down. The department was chaired by his student, Jan Wojnarski.
After Julian Fałat left in 1909, the Kraków academy was headed in turn by Leon Wyczółkowski, Teodor Axentowicz, Konstanty Laszczka, Jacek Malczewski, Józef Mehoffer and other artists whose output belongs to the Young Poland era. Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, in 1931, Fryderyk Pautsch became head of the school.
Students and teachers of the academy formed a strong artistic centre in Kraków at the turn of the century. Several artistic groups emerged in the inter-war years.
"... All this seemed to elude the teachers, but it did not elude the students. Before and after the war, successive student oppositions appeared: linked to expressionism, psychologism, Young Poland, near the end of the war - to formism, which was described as expressionism to begin with; the Kapists came, who found some remnants of Young Poland in place - these were now the 1920's, and finally, in the 1930's there was the first Kraków Group. Every time, the professors were accused of conservatism - they still are today." (references)
The first exhibition of Polish Expressionists, a group founded by Tytus Czyżewski, Andrzej and Zbigniew Pronaszko, opened in 1917. The group was joined by Stanisław Witkiewicz, Romuald Karol Witkowski, Leon Chwistek.
Another group closely linked to the school was the PARIS COMMITTEE. It was founded in 1924 at the initiative of students affiliated to the studio of Józef Pankiewicz. They continued the postimpressionist tradition. The COMMITTEE included Hanna Rudzka-Cybisowa, Jan Cybis, Józef Czapski, Artur Nacht-Samborski, Tadeusz Piotr Potworowski, Zygmunt Waliszewski. They established a branch of Kraków's Academy of Fine Arts in Paris, headed by Pankiewicz himself.
The KRAKOW GROUP came into being in 1930. It was founded by avant-garde artists: Sasza Blonder, Maria Jarema, Leopold Lewicki, Adam Marczyński, Erna Rosenstein, Jonasz Stern and others. During the war, they centred around the theatre of Tadeusz Kantor.
When World War II broke out, the Nazis closed down the Kraków school. As a result of Sonderaktion Krakau, most university professors were sent to the concentration camps of Sachsen-Oranienburg and Dachau. In 1940-43 the School of Handicrafts (Staadtliche Kunstgewerbeschule) existed in place of the Academy of Fine Arts. Its director was the sculptor Heerde. Polish lecturers on the staff included Fryderyk Pautsch, Władysław Jarocki and Stanisław Kamocki. Students included Tadeusz Brzozowski, Adam Hoffmann, Jerzy Kujawski, Kazimierz Mikulski, Jerzy Nowosielski, Mieczysław Porębski and Marek Rostworowski. The school was closed down as soon as underground activity was discovered there.
In 1945, when work began on rebuilding the academy as soon as Kraków was liberated, not many of the former faculty returned to the school. Many artists had died in concentration camps or had been executed, to mention Ludwik Puget and Jan Burczak. Survivors included Józef Mehoffer and Xawery Dunikowski.
The first post-war rector was Eugeniusz Eibisch, a painter linked to the colourists. He fulfilled the rector's duties from February 1945 until 1950, when he moved to Warsaw. Artists he invited to work with him included Zbigniew Pronaszko, Hanna Rudzka-Cybisowa, Xawery Dunikowski, Władysław Jarocki, Fryderyk Pautsch, Czesław Rzepiński and Wojciech Weiss. The faculty was dominated by colourists from the pre-war PARIS COMMITTEE.
"It was believed that Eibisch revolutionized the Academy. Stanisław Teisseyre thought that this revolution consisted in focusing on developing an artistic awareness, and thus on a subjectivization of artistic issues; according to Jacek Puget, because it did not have academic traditions similar to the Paris Academy, the Krakow Academy was in need of a reform of spirit, not a reform of its structures". (references)
New teachers appeared in the late 1940's. In 1947, Wacław Taranczewski became head of the Decorative Painting Department. The Faculty of Sculpture was formed two years later, with the following professors: Xawery Dunikowski, Jacek Puget, Jerzy Bandura and Wanda Śledzińska. At the 1949 Congress of the Association of Polish Artists (ZPAP) in Katowice, socialist realism became the officially binding trend in Poland. Strong pressure from the state did not bypass the Kraków school. Many young artists succumbed to ideological indoctrination.
A Self-learning Group was founded at the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts by one of its students - Andrzej Wróblewski. He was joined by Andrzej Strumiłło, Andrzej Wajda, Jan Tarasin, and others.
In 1948, the 1ST EXHIBITION OF MODERN ART opened at the Palace of Arts in Kraków. The exhibition featured modern artists who opposed the restrictions imposed by the authorities. The 2ND KRAKOW GROUP was formed in 1957. Apart from Jarema, Marczyński and Stern from pre-war days, it included some new artists: Tadeusz Brzozowski, Tadeusz Kantor, Alfred Lenica, Daniel Mróz, Jerzy Nowosielski, Kazimierz Mikulski.
The activities of avant-garde artists were inconvenient for the authorities. That is why the Minister of Culture and Art of the time, Włodzimierz Sokorski, who wanted to win over as many students as possible, said:
"If you don't like any of the professors, then come to me at any time of day or night, and we will get rid of such professors. Today I want to tell you all that professor Tadeusz Kantor is no longer a professor. We don't need professors like him." (Stanisław Dawski, "Tamte czasy" / "Those Times")
The school structures were reorganized in the 1950's. In 1950, the Academy of Fine Arts was merged with the State Higher School of Visual Arts (PWSSP). The name was changed to Academy of Visual Arts. Thanks to the merger with the PWSSP, the Academy gained new specializations in interior design, textile studies, printing design, and art conservation. Its character changed. Beside the pure arts, classes in applied arts started being taught as well. In 1952 the Faculty of Graphic Art in Katowice became a branch of the Kraków school. After 1953, in the years of political thaw, the Graphic Arts Department was formed. Its head was Prof. Mieczysław Wejman. The name Academy of Fine Arts was reinstated in 1957.
The WPROST GROUP, or WPROSTOWCY, appeared in Krakow in 1966: Jacek Waltoś, Maciej Bieniasz, Zbylut Grzywacz, Barbara Skąpska, Leszek Sobocki. They were connected with the studio of Emil Krcha. Art historian Piotr Piotrowski wrote about their principles:
"... opposition to academic, salon art alienated from everyday problems and common experience, was what interested the artists who wanted to speak 'directly' ['wprost'- hence the name-ed.]. 'We want to speak directly, not ignoring the manifold possibilities in visual arts: themes, symbols, meaningful forms, material appropriate for the content', the group's members wrote in 1966 (Piotr Piotrowski, "Znaczenia modernizmu" / "Meanings of Modernism")
The post-war teachers of painting included Jonasz Stern, Jerzy Nowosielski, Konrad Srzednicki, Adam Marczyński, Wacław Taranczewski, Janina Kraupe, Włodzimierz Kunz.
One important figure was Jerzy Nowosielski, who took over as head of the painting department in 1960. With no connection to the colourists, he enriched the Kraków school, sharing new values with the students. Many memories remain of his studio and his teaching methods:
"Jerzy Nowosielski not so much taught painting as instructed in it, and more - he built a view of the world. If one can say of some teachers that they shaped their students like masters of spiritual life, this certainly applies to Nowosielski, because he also taught things 'next to' painting; apart from correcting, in his studio he lectured on fundamental matters of art, and discussed artistic trends closest to his heart - his lecture on cubism is famous. He touched on theological issues. He opened students' awareness in fields other than painting, but also linked to painting and having a profound influence on it". (references)
Invoking its long tradition, on 28 September 1979 the Kraków school took on the name of Jan Matejko. Its most famous graduates, whose work has influenced the image of the Polish art scene, include Louis Marcousis, Mojżesz Kisling, Tadeusz Makowski, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Jerzy Nowosielski, Andrzej Wajda, Tadeusz Kantor, and many others.
Today the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow has six faculties: Painting, Sculpture, Graphic Arts, Interior Design, Art Conservation and Restoration, Industrial Design. In addition, there is the Interfaculty Department of Intermedia, the Interfaculty Department of Art History and Theory, and the Foreign Languages Department.
The School's Chancellors
1873-1893 Jan Matejko,
1893-1895 Władysław Łuszczkiewicz,
1895-1900 Julian Fałat, Dyrektor,
1900-1905 Julian Fałat,
1905-1909 Julian Fałat,
1909/1910 Leon Wyczółkowski,
1910/1911 Teodor Axentowicz,
1911/12 Konstanty Laszczka,
1912/13 - 1913/14 Jacek Malczewski,
1914/15 - 1917/18 Józef Mehoffer,
1918/19 Wojciech Weiss,
1919/20 - 1921/22 Józef Gałęziowski
1922/23 - 1926/27 Adolf Szyszko-Bogusz,
1927/28 Teodor Axentowicz,
1928/29 Adolf Szyszko-Bogusz,
1929/30 - 1930/31 Konstanty Laszczka,
1931/32 Fryderyk Pautsch,
1932/33 Jozef Mehoffer,
1933/34 - 1935/36 Wojciech Weiss,
1936/37 - 1939 Fryderyk Pautsch,
1945 - 1946/47 Eugeniusz Eibisch,
1947/48 - 1948/49 Eugeniusz Eibisch,
1949/50 Zbigniew Pronaszko,
1950/51 Zygmunt Radnicki,
1951/52 Konrad Srzednicki,
1952/53 - 1953/54 Mieczysław Wejman,
1954/55 - 1966/67 Czesław Rzepiński,
1967/68 - 1971/72 Mieczysław Wejman,
1972/73 - XII 1980 Marian Konieczny,
XII 1980 - 1986/87 Włodzimierz Kunz,
1987/88 - 1992/93 Jan Szancenbach,
1993/94-1996 Włodzimierz Kunz,
1996-2002 Stanisław Rodziński,
2002-2008 Jan Pamula. Compiled from:
"175 lat nauczania malarstwa, rzeźby i grafiki w krakowskiej Akademii Sztuk Pięknych" / "175 Years of Teaching Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Arts at the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts", Kraków 1994;
Piotr Piotrowski, "Znaczenia modernizmu. W stronę historii sztuki polskiej po 1945 roku" / "Meanings of Modernism. Towards a History of Polish Art After 1945", Poznań 1999.
Akademia Sztuk Pięknych im. Jana Matejki w Krakowie
Plac Matejki 13
Phone: (+48 12) 29 92 000, 29 06 800
Fax: (+48 12) 42 26 566