Polish History in Paintings (Part 2)
small, Polish History in Paintings
(Part 2), An allegorical representation of Poland by Artur Grottger from his 'Polonia' series. The figure of Polonia, hooded and shackled, is being liberated by, full_polonia_grottger_770.jpg
The second part of our visual guide to Polish history spans the period when Poland was off the map... but it was still going strong in paintings! We'll follow Polish history through these images all the way to the present.
The Kościuszko Uprising (1794)
Even before the third partition took place, the first Polish national uprising broke out. The Uprising of 1794 (or Insurrection, as it is also called), led by Taduesz Kościuszko, a Polish general of Belarusian descent, embraced the majority of the old territories of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Polish History in Paintings (Part 1)
The biggest military success of the insurgent army came in April with the Battle of Racławice. The battle was won thanks to an attack by the kosynierzy (scythe-bearers or scythemen) – mostly members of a peasant militia, armed with war scythes. Kosynierzy quickly became one of the symbols of the struggle for Polish independence, but the uprising fell the same year.
Polish Soldiers in Haiti (1802)
From 1797, in an attempt to regain independence, Polish soldiers formed so-called Legions, and joined the army of Napoleon to fight in Italy and Egypt – but also Haiti. There, in an ironic twist of fate, Poles who volunteered for the army inspired by the the Napoleonic ideals of freedom and equality were now tasked with suppressing the rebellion of the people of Haiti against French colonial rule.
Haitians Liberated Polish Peasants from Serfdom – An Interview with Magdalena Moskalewicz
Poland as Prometheus (1831)
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'Polish Prometheus' by Horace Vernet, 1831, oil on canvas, photo: CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia
The November Uprising of 1830 started in Warsaw and was soon to cover huge parts of the territories that after 1795 where part of Russia. In many Western countries, the suppression of the uprising, which took place a year later, was met with dismay, in Poland it started a new period marked by intense emigration to France and England. This painting by Horace Vernet symbolizes the crushing of the uprising, with the eagle symbolizing Russia.
Poland’s Road to Independence in 10 Paintings
'Galician Slaughter' (1846)
The next Polish uprising erupted in Kraków in 1846 but lasted only for nine days. Led by members of Polish nobility and directed against Austrian Empire, it was very soon suppressed by a much larger social protest, that of the Galician peasants. The peasants, led by Jakub Szela, revolted against the oppression of serfdom and corvée labour.
6 Must-Know Painters of the Young Poland Movement
In the aftermath of the Galician slaughter (also called the Peasant Uprising of 1846) about 1,000 Polish noblemen were killed and 500 manors were destroyed. The incidents were famous for their brutality, and to some extent inspired by the Austrian administration. The painting shows peasants coming to the representatives of the Austrian administration with the heads of Polish noblemen, for which they were paid a reward.
January Uprising (1863)
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'Battle' from the 'Polonia' series by Artur Grottger, photo: CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia
Artur Grottger's Polonia features a series of nine black-and-white drawings, representing scenes from the January Uprising of 1863, the third of the national uprisings, and just like the two previous ones, also unsuccessful. Grottger’s style was essential to developing a representation of the Polish patriotic identity.
Poland the Woman: How the Polonia Allegory Weaved Her Way into Art History
The Polish drive to freedom, which manifested in national uprisings, as well as many milder forms of resistance, was met with severe repercussions. Throughout the 19th century, thousands of Polish patriots who opposed Russian rule were deported to Siberia. Death on the Stage by the symbolist painter Jacek Malczewski depicts the death of one of the deportees along the way to the point of destination, a journey that could often take several months.
Melancholia - Jacek Malczewski
Revolution of 1905
The Revolution of 1905 brought workers’ protests across the whole country. A demonstration in Warsaw which ended in bloodshed is portrayed here by the expressionist artist Witold Wojtkiewicz.
Kraków’s Street Art: A Walk Through History, Creativity & Profound Thought
The Miracle on the Vistula (1921)
Considered to be one of the most important battles in the history of the world, the Battle of Warsaw in 1920 effectively halted the communist march towards Western Europe. In Poland, it affirmed the position and legend of Marshall Józef Piłsudski. Called (at first with ironic intent) the 'Miracle at the Vistula', the term became a common reference of the battle in Poland. Traces of this quasi-religious perspective can be seen in this painting, with Mother Mary surrounded by belligerent choirs stepping down from Heaven.
New Forms in Painting and the Resulting Misunderstandings / Aesthetic Sketches - Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz
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'Execution VIII (Surrealist)' by Andrzej Wróblewski, 1949, oil on canvas, 130 x 199 cm, photo: National Museum in Warsaw
Aнджей Врублевский, "Сюрреалистический расстрел" (Расстрел VIII, Экзекуция), холст, масло, 1949, фото Нацонального музея в Варшаве
One of the most iconic painterly representations of the Polish experience of World War II came from Andrzej Wróblewski. Born in 1927, Wróblewski painted his Executions series in 1949, the year socialist realism was introduced in Polish art. Arguably the most famous of the series, the surrealist Execution (VIII) seems to portray a group of men being executed. In fact, it is rather a depiction of one person, represented in different stages of death.
Selected works by Andrzej Wróblewski - Image Gallery
Communists rebuilding the country
More than any other work, Pass Me a Brick by Aleksander Kobzdej came to symbolise the art of Polish socialist realism. Painted in 1949, this large canvas shows a team of three bricklayers (the so-called trójka murarska) in the process of building a house. The trójka method – in which one person prepares the brick, a second passes it on and a third lays it in the wall – was developed after the Second World War as the most effective and quick way of building. The reconstruction effort practised at numerous construction sites of devastated Warsaw, like Mariensztat or MDM, was essential in raising the capital from the ruins.
How Warsaw Came Close to Never Being Rebuilt
Martial Law (1981)
Painted in 1982 by Łukasz Korolkiewicz, 13 December 1981 – Early is a photo-realist take on one of the most familiar motifs in recent Polish history. On this day, early in the morning, General Wojciech Jaruzelski announced on national TV the introduction of Martial Law in Poland. This clamped down on democratic opposition and introduced a whole array of restrictions and repercussions, with key opposition leaders like Wałęsa and Mazowiecki being interned. For many young Poles, Martial Law became a formative experience.
The Day Poland Stood Still: Memories from the Introduction of Martial Law
Polish art continues to keep up with the country's history. One of the most controversial contemporary Polish paintings is the work Smoleńsk by Zbigniew Dowgiałło. Inspired by the tragedy of the Polish plane crash on 10th April 2010 near Smolensk, Russia – in which 96 people were killed, including President Lech Kaczyński and his wife – the painting features victims of the crash, with their hearts ripped from their chests, at the moment of the explosion. The painting was a key piece in an exhibition dedicated to new national art shown in Warsaw’s Museum of Modern Art (MSN) in 2014.
Architectures of Gender: Women and Contemporary Art in Poland
Written by Mikołaj Gliński, 16 Jun 2015
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smolensk air crash
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