Portraits of 19th-century Warsaw, captured by three pioneers of Polish photography – Karol Beyer, Maksymilian Fajans and Konrad Brandel – are to be exhibited at Ks. Jan Twardowski square until 18th October, 2015.
The exhibition will showcase the oldest photographs of Warsaw, primarily showing the Royal Route – from Three Crosses Square up to Castle Square and the area of Piłsudski Square along with the no longer existing, or rather, currently different buildings. The photographs also captured new developments on both sides of the Vistula which changed Warsaw’s character. These include the All Saints Church on Grzybowski Square; Aleksander Newski’s monumental church council, which is hated by residents, on Saski Square; construction of the Warsaw-Terespol railway station; and the iron bridge designed by Stanisław Kierbedź, which was the first fixed crossing across the Vistula.
The exhibition includes the famous panorama of Warsaw and the first bird’s-eye view image of Warsaw captured from a hot air balloon. The capital’s first photographers have also left behind photographs of a photojournalistic character. The images of 19th-century Warsaw are supplemented by photographs of noisy streets, children playing in Saski Park, and vibrant marketplaces.
Tents on Castle Square
Beyer documented the besieged capital of the Kingdom of Poland with a tiny outdoor camera which he bought in 1860. The new camera was adapted to take 10×13 glass film and it allowed a higher degree of freedom in taking pictures. One could produce larger prints from the small negatives with the use of an enlarger, which Beyer had in his studio. The photograph was published in the French L'Illustration on 9 September 1963. It remains one of the most popular Polish photos.
Church of the Visitation
In the centre of the shot – the Church of the Visitation and monastery. On the right – part of Tyszkiewicz-Potocki palace (currently HQ of the Warsaw University Museum). On the left – the Visitationists' town house, at number 391. This was also the address of Beyer’s second studio, used for group portraits. The wooden extension with a glass roof, stuck to the top wall of the town house, is probably part of his atelier. Beyer’s town house was completed in 1864 and it adorned this part of the city until WW2, during which it was severely damaged, before being torn down after 1945.
Water-carrier on Krakowskie Przedmieście
The figure of Christ carrying a cross which would become one of Warsaw’s most characteristic sculptures is absent from the front façade of the church in this picture. In the foreground – a genre scene with a water-carrier, whose horse-drawn cart is “parked” in front of a hydrant, thus allowing the inhabitants to draw running water. The first waterworks with water fountains was built only a few years before and it was a great accomplishment for the city at the time.
A view from Krasiński Square
The centre of the frame is dominated with the Baroque silhouette of the Piarist Church on Długa street, which was converted into a Russian Orthodox Church. The initial form of the church was re-established after Poland regained its independence. Nowadays, the church serves as the Field Cathedral of the Polish Army. In front of the church is a horse-tram, which ran from Rogatki Mokotowskie to Nalewki (Warsaw districts) via Ujazdowskie avenue, Nowy Świat, Krakowskie Przedmieście, Podwale, Długa street and Świętojerska street. Everyday life was captured with Brandel’s modern camera, which allowed him to take sharp photographs of moving objects.
134 cubits above the ground
Brandel used the scaffolding set up around the Royal Castle’s clock-tower to photograph Warsaw from a platform located above the top of the tower. He created a complete panorama of Warsaw using 10 negatives. In 1875 the photos were used by the weekly Kłosy to create a woodcut which was later presented to the subscribers of the magazine as a Christmas gift. The 299x30cm woodcut was based on a drawing made by Adolf Kozarki, who is often mistaken as the panorama’s author. The woodcut had viewing instructions attached to it. Its authors suggested placing the woodcut on rigid cardboard and subsequently joining the cardboard’s farthest edges. The resulting cylinder was to be then hung below a lamp, and the viewer was to enter it and, by turning around, see all of Warsaw.
Passers-by on Krakowskie Przedmieście
A street photograph taken by the artist, blending with the crowds on Krakowskie Przedmieście.
St. Alexander’s Church
St. Alexander’s Church on Three Crosses Square after being redeveloped by Józef Dziekoński at the turn of the 1880s and 90s. The monumental church was demolished during WW2. After the war, the church was rebuilt in its initial, classicist style.
Fun and games in Saski Garden
Saski Garden, opened to the city's inhabitants in 1727, was essentially a municipal park even during the Russian occupation. Children playing in front of the Saski Palace, the headquarters of the Russian army, were photographed with Brandel’s modern camera, which allowed one to take pictures of moving objects.
A wooden Praga station
The Russian authorities made it a priority to develop train routes on occupied territory. A route from Mława via Warsaw, Lublin and Chełm to Wołyń (now a Ukrainian territory) was opened on 17 April 1877 as the fourth train route in the Kingdom of Poland. The route linked Russian fortresses in Warsaw, Modlin, Dęblin and other cities. The wooden station in Praga was demolished during WW1.
Karol Beyer (1818–1877) is regarded as the father of professional photography in Poland. He opened his atelier in Warsaw back in 1845. He photographed Warsaw’s inhabitants and incomers from foreign countries, representatives of different environments, mainly the intelligentsia and the bourgeoisie, sometimes the landed gentry and the peasantry. In his atelier located on the corner of Krakowskie Przedmieście and Karowa street he created a photographic pantheon of the Poles. He was the only photographer to document the everyday life of Warsaw’s inhabitants during the patriotic demonstrations in 1861. He also published albums illustrated with photographs of monuments. He was sentenced to exile for his social and professional activity. He returned to Warsaw in 1865 after an amnesty, however he remained under the surveillance of the tsarist police until he died in 1877.
Maksymilian Fajans (1825–1890) was educated in the Academy of Fine Arts and Parisian studios of local artists and was initially interested in drawing and lithography. In 1862, he became intrigued by the more and more trendy invention of photography. He was a portraitist and a documentarian. As a photoreporter he captured the – often now destroyed – developments of Warsaw: new train routes, train stations, bridges. Due to his interest in industrial topics he became an important documentarian of the right-hand side of the city. He developed his own technology of printing – he obtained chocolate tones, different to the then-standard sepia.
Konrad Brandel (1838–1920) initially worked in Karol Beyer’s atelier. He opened his own studio in 1865 and managed it until the turn of the century. His atelier specialised in portraits. He was also an author of unique photographic documentation of Warsaw at the end of the 19th century. He took a very popular panoramic photograph of Warsaw from a hot air balloon. His liking for open-air work and reportage lead him to the invention of a “photorevolver”, a camera which allowed one to take photos by hand. Brandel was the first to document morbidity of the patients of Warsaw hospitals.
Photographs by Karol Beyer, Maksymilian Fajans and Konrad Brandel portray the city, which, although degraded as a provincial administration centre for tsarist Russia, ended up being the largest urban development on Poland’s territory, which preserved its cultural, political and economic position as the capital of a land divided between three invaders.
Each of the photographs showcased in the exhibition will be accompanied by a QR code, which upon being scanned, will allow the portrayed areas to be compared with how they look today.
Warsaw’s First Photographers. Beyer, Brandel, Fajans
An open-air exhibition
16 April – 18 October 2015
Ks. Jan Twardowski’s Square (Skwer im. Ks. Jana Twardowskiego), Warsaw
(Corner of Krakowskie Przedmieście and Karowa Street)
Exhibition’s curators: Danuta Jackiewicz, Katarzyna Madoń-Mitzner
Organisers: Dom Spotkań z Historią
, National Museum of Warsaw
Co-finansed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage
Author: Janusz R. Kowalczyk, transl. Agata Dudek, April 2015.