Olga Boznańska was one of the most renowned painters of the Young Poland movement. Her art was greatly influenced by the refined paintings of James McNeill Whistler and the free method of painting by Edouard Manet and Wilhelm Leibl, artists combining realism with impressionism. Boznańska’s themes included still lifes and interiors, an odd landscape and – predominantly – portraits, many of them true masterpieces.
Boznańska’s portraits focus on the models' faces, conveying both their emotions, the mood of the moment and their traits of character. As her style matured, she painted dress and interior with looser paints, emphasizing the spirituality of her models. Boznańska's portraits include images of both adults and children, people solemnly posing or lost in thought. A special place is taken by the artist's self-portraits, revealing the passage of time and its impact on Boznańska's facial features.
Józef Mehoffer, a leading artist of the Young Poland movement, is best recognised by his ornamental style. His easel and monumental painting was an excellent manifestation of the rich symbolism and decorative trends in Polish modernism and of the artist's masterly technique. His art was influenced by Symbolism and post-Impressionism. Intense expression, typical of the moods of Young Poland, can be found in the landscapes Wisła pod Niepołomicami (The Vistula near Niepołomice, 1894) and Zachód Słońca. Park Jordana - Zapisy Zmierzchu (Sunset: The Jordan Park – the Impression of the Dusk).
Mehoffer's fascination with the decorativeness of elegant dress, the shape of stylish hats, the noble, patterned fabrics and the intricate design of stained glass was at its best when he painted his wife, Jadwiga née Janakowska. He depicted her often against an ornamental backdrop or inside interiors filled with precious things: Portret Żony. Na Letnim Mieszkaniu (Portrait of Wife in the Summer House, 1904); Portret Żony Artysty na Żółtym Tle (Portrait of the Artist's Wife against a Yellow Backdrop, 1907); Portret Żony na Tle Pegaza (Portrait of Wife With Pegasus, 1913).
Witold Wojtkiewicz was a painter and illustrator who distinguished himself from the other artists of the Young Poland movement with his originality, imagination and whimsy. Many also view the artist as a precursor of the various trends that appeared in Polish art of the 20th century – from grotesque art coloured by irony through Expressionism that penetrated the human soul and Surrealism that examined the subconscious using a refined aestheticism.
Wojtkiewicz began his career with drawings, but later turned to painting. Initially working in oils, he later shifted to tempera, a type of paint that allowed him to achieve specific, matte colour tones. These muted, powdery colours added to the nostalgic mood of the scenes the artists imagined and painted. His works explored a sphere where the real world and the world of art meet: at the circus, theatre and marketplace, as well as the fanciful world of children.
Leon Wyczółkowski’s work is a fantastic example of the neo-Romanticism of the Young Poland movement. Wyczółkowski was heavily influenced by the French Impressionists. He became deeply interested in matters of light and colour and he shifted his focus to seeking out the lighting effects he could achieve in his paintings. Some of his best works in this style include Orka na Ukrainie (Plowing in Ukraine, 1892), Kopanie Buraków (Digging for Beats, 1893) and Gra w Krokieta (A Game of Croquet, 1895).
Wyczółkowski's style changed after 1900. He began to paint vast numbers of landscapes (including monumental views of the Tatra Mountains), portraits, genre scenes, still lifes, flowers, cityscapes, and views of artistic and historical monuments. His paintings additionally manifest a highly emotional attitude towards nature and the theme of the family.
Jacek Malczewski was a painter and illustrator who introduced the Symbolism movement into the Young Poland school of painting and stimulated the rebirth of the Romantic tradition. He had a strong sense of being Polish, sensitivity to the beauty of his country’s landscape and a knowledge of national folklore, which all factored greatly in his artwork. Many of his paintings address the themes of patriotism and martyrdom, honouring the sacrifice and suffering of revolutionaries, exiles and Poland herself.
Malczewski drew symbols for his painting from various sources, including the Bible, Classical mythology, and Polish literature. He was very inspired by Juliusz Słowacki’s poem Anhelli (1837) and often depicted the figures of Ellenai and Eloe to represent the pain and hope of partitioned Poland. Religious figures such as Christ and the prophet Ezekiel also appear, symbolizing the immense suffering leading to freedom. Chimeras were also characteristic of Malczewski, representing temptation, cruelty and ruthlessness.
A painter-playwright like Wyspiański, Stanisław Witkiewicz’s career spanned the eras of Positivism and the Young Poland movement. Although he had a complicated relationship with Romanticism, as shown in his art criticism writings, he was a steadfast patriot who loved to portray and examine both the people and landscapes of Poland. He was well known and highly regarded as a moralist, undertaking issues connected with religion, ethics and national identity.
Witkiewicz is most known for his interest and advocacy of the ‘Zakopane style.’ He was fascinated by the nature in the Tatra mountains, the highlanders and their architectural and decorative art. In Zakopane’s architecture and decorations, Witkiewicz perceived a national style, worthy of universalisation among all social classes. He regarded the discovery of this style by artists as a climacteric moment: the saving of elements of Polish culture from extermination and its resurrection for the good of the whole nation.