Julian Fałat was a painter, watercolourist, and illustrator. He was a leading representative of landscape and genre painting in the Young Poland period. He was born on 30th July 1853 in Tuligłowy and died on 9th July 1929 in Bystra.
Painter, watercolor and drawing artist.
He studied art between 1869 and 1871 at the School of Fine Arts in Kraków. In 1872 he worked as an illustrator in archaeological excavations on the estate of Stanisław Krzyżanowski in Lachowicze and Czerpowody. He continued his career as an illustrator in Odessa at the office of architect Feliks Gąsiorowski. He developed his interest for technology in 1873 when undertook polytechnic studies in Zurich and then in Munich. In 1875 and 1876 he was a draughtsman for the construction of the Tösstahlbahn railway in the Canton of Zurich.
He resumed his artistic education in 1877 at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied under A. Strähuber and G. Raab until 1880. In this period he collaborated with Józef Brandt. He went on several art journeys to Rome (1880-1881), to Samogitia (1882) and to Lithuania (1884); He visited Paris and Spain (1884). In 1885 he travelled around the world, visiting Marseille, Port-Said, Aden, Ceylon, Singapore, Hong Kong, Yokohama, San Francisco, New York, Bremen, and Munich. After a meeting with Wilhelm Pruski (later German emperor Wilhelm II) during a hunt in Nieśwież at the estate of Prince Radziwiłł, he was invited to Berlin in 1886, where he spent another ten years undertaking court orders; He repeatedly went to the hunting residence of the emperor in Hubertusstock. In 1893 he was appointed a member of the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts.
In 1895 he became the director of the School of Fine Arts in Kraków and made a thorough reform of its curriculum; in 1905 he became a rector of the university. He appointed new lecturers, among them the most recognised modernists: Stanisław Wyspiański, Leon Wyczółkowski, Jacek Malczewski, Józef Mehoffer, Jan Stanisławski, Teodor Axentowicz, Konstanty Laszczka, Stanisław Dębicki, Ferdynand Ruszczyc, and Józef Pankiewicz. He opened a new chapter in the history of Polish artistic education and laid the foundations for the Academy of Fine Arts founded in 1900.
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In 1910, after retirement, he moved permanently to his estate in Bystra, Cieszyn Silesia. In 1915 he went to legionary camps to drawing soldiers. In 1916, he represented the interests of Cieszyn Silesia in the Polish Government. Between 1919 and 1921 he lived in Toruń, where he founded the Konfraternia Artystów (Confraternity of Artists and Writers). In 1922 and 1923 he was the director of the Department of Art at the Ministry of Religious Denominations and Public Enlightenment. Having settled in Bystra, he joined the Czartak group of Beskidy poets founded in 1922 by Emil Zegadłowicz. First, however, he was a member of the Sztuka society of Polish artists, a group of 1897 masters of Polish painting. His work has been shown regularly since 1874 in the Society of Friends of Fine Arts in Kraków, where a retrospective presentation of his works took place in 1925.
From 1878 he has exhibited his paintings and drawings at the Zachęta Fine Arts Society in Warsaw, which organised the artist’s jubilee exhibition in 1926. He also presented his paintings in the Warsaw Salon of Krywulta (1880-1905) and Garliński Salon (1922, 1923, 1925). His individual exhibitions took place in Warsaw (1888), Poznań (1910, 1927), Kraków (1925), Lviv (1926) and Katowice (1930). The artist also presented his works abroad, among others: in Munich (1880, 1900, 1921), Liége (1880), Berlin (1886, 1895, 1898, 1889, 1891, 1893, 1896, 1909), Düsseldorf (1904), Saint Louis (1904), Venice (1910, 1914, 1920), and Rome (1911).
He was awarded a silver medal at the International Art Exhibition in Berlin (1891), gold medals at international exhibitions in Berlin (1892), Munich (1892, 1894) and Dresden (1892), a gold medal at the Powszechna Wystawa Krajowa (National Exhibition in Poznań, 1929); and the Ribbon of the Order of Polonia Restituta (1928). Fałat's Diaries were published in Warsaw in 1935.
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Fałat has gone down in the history of Polish art as a master of watercolours, spontaneously giving visual impressions through this difficult to master medium, a medium not subject to corrections, causing the artist's effects unpredictable until the very end. During his studies in Munich, the artist was influenced by the art of E. Grützner, painting scenes from monastic life subordinated to academic aesthetic norms (Monk with Missal) and generic episodes reproduced in Munich magazines.
In the early 1880s, a realistic attitude of the creator critically perceiving the social realities appeared (Postny Obiad Wyrobnika, 1888). Cooperating as an illustrator with Warsaw magazines Tygodnik Ilustrowany, Kłosy, Biesiada, and Tygodnik Powszechny, Fałat captured scenes from the everyday life in the poor neighbourhoods of the city in a naturalistic way. He also presented in the genre conventions the customs and religious rituals of the peasants observed during his stay in Samogitia (1882).
His works also adorned in the Viennese magazine Ver Sacrum, while his passion for caricature was reflected in illustrations published in the Kraków satirical magazine Liberum Veto. An objective view of the world, anecdotality, precise reproduction of ethnographic realities, and finesse in detailing oriental costumes are the characteristic elements of the sketches made by Fałat during his journey around the world Na Statku (On the Ship), Kupcy na Wyspie Ceylon (Merchants on Ceylon Island). Falat’s art has become recognised due to its figural composition that shows the hunting scenes at Nieśwież. The repertoire of motifs was limited to a few elements presented in numerous variants – hounds chasing animals, trumpeters, javelins against bears, a bear moving from his burrow, javelin throwers, a hunting camp and the return from hunting Polowanie na Niedźwiedzia (Hunting for a Bear), Powrót z Polowania z Niedźwiedziem (Return from Hunting with a Bear). Eleven works depicting the famous hunt in 1886 with the participation of Prince Wilhelm of Prussia were reproduced in the album Souvenir de Chasse à l'ours Donnée à Nieśwież… (Berlin 1886).
In the 1890s the realism of the details in Fałat’s paintings began to give way to the luminous effects and lightness of the painting announcing the reception of the impressionistic attitude Polowanie – Nagonka (Hunting – the Chase). This peculiar, native version of impressionism manifested itself in the spontaneous staining of colours, the intensification of blue and violet in the shadows and the use of the contrast of warm and cold tones Kraków Rankiem (Kraków in the Morning, 1897). An evolution in the direction of finding the plastic equivalents of the observed nature was supported by a watercolour technique which allowed him to quickly seize visual impressions and capture volatile atmospheric effects Cmentarz Montmartre w Paryżu (Montmartre Cemetery in Paris).
The wide, free-flowing brush strokes also appeared in oil paintings by the artist embracing extensive, horizontally stretched landscapes of Lithuania and Polesie with rural buildings embedded in snowy patches of fields or with a darkened river bed running down Pejzaż Zimowy z Rzeką (Winter Landscape with River). The theatre of the evening sky reflected in them the mood of the end of the day; the rich modulation of whiteness in the sun and the play of light were reflections of the artist’s sensitivity for colour (Śnieg).
With the impressionist attitude, the artist became fascinated with Japanese aesthetics, reflected in asymmetrically framed landscapes, where empty space has an active role – the white plane on which the black accent of a tree trunk or diagonal stream is cast Krajobraz Zimowy (Winter Landscape). The rule of artistic understatements were used by Fałat in creating the landscapes of Bystra, where he shows his mastery achieved in the synthesis of forms of nature, the creation of subtle nuances of rose, blue, and off-white Pejzaż z Bystrej (Landscape of Bystra).
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The motif of a village church, which lends itself to the sun, sifting through the leaves of the surrounding trees Kościół w Mikuszowicach (The Church in Mikuszowice), was characteristic of his mature work. Fałat’s tribute to realism and naturalism was the panoramic painting Przejście Napoleona I przez Berezynę w 1812 r. (Passage of Napoleon I by Berezyna in 1812) created together with Wojciech Kossak in 1894-1896, and exhibited in Warsaw (1898), Kraków, Kiev, and Moscow (a fragment is kept at the National Museum in Poznań).
His ability to accurately characterise the human figure is also reflected in the artist’s portraits. Numerous self-portraits and images of loved ones are made with watercolour technique and kept in the poetics of a sketch Portrait of Gabriela Zapolska and Portrait of Wife; They are particularly well-suited to the specific characteristics of the watercolours, the transparency and penetration of the multicolored spots creating sometimes an incidental shape, and the colour and textural quality of the paper Autoportret w Pracowni (Self-Portrait in the Studio, 1914). An important group in the drawing heritage of the artist are portraits of legionaries, among others. J. Piłsudski, J. Haller and W. Sikorski.
Reproductions of Julian Fałat's paintings, The Church in Mikuszowice, Return from Hunting with a Moose and Błonia of Kraków courtesy of the Upper Silesian Museum in Bytom.
Author: Irena Kossowska, Art Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences, November 2004.