#photography & visual arts
At the end of September, the Louvre-Lens Museum, in cooperation with the National Museum in Warsaw and the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, is opening a retrospective of 19th-century Polish painting – the largest ever exhibition of Polish art of that time period in France.
Thanks to prestigious loans from Polish national museums and private collections, the exhibition brings together almost 120 works – dating from between 1840 and 1918 – by the leading representatives of Polish painting, including Jan Matejko, Józef Brandt, Jacek Malczewski, Józef Chełmoński and Olga Boznańska.
The exhibition retraces that particular moment in the history of Polish culture, in which despite the country’s division between the Russian empire, Austrian empire and the kingdom of Prussia, artists created a veritable Polish identity, a sense of ‘Polishness’. It reveals the way in which artists, by drawing inspiration from national history, landscapes and rural life, fashioned images of Poland for Poles and also for the rest of the world. Their rich, evocative, striking paintings marked the European art world of the time.
Znikające dzieła polskiego malarstwa XIX-wiecznego
The exhibition opens with a monumental work by Jan Matejko: Reytan – The Fall of Poland, in which the artist depicted a major event from the late 18th century: the first partition of the kingdom of Poland, on 21 April 1773 at the Royal Castle in Warsaw.
In the 19th century, painting in Poland was strongly marked by the country’s close links with France. Napoleon I was a central figure for many artists, such as Piotr Michałowski and Wojciech Kossak. In the 1830s, contacts were further strengthened: the failure of the insurrection of 1830 led to the arrival in France of much of the Polish elite. Aristocrats, artists and poets sought refuge in Paris, where a ‘little Poland’ was created.
The inhabitants of the divided Polish territory, marked by cultural, ethnic, religious and social diversity, became a popular subject in painting in the second half of the 19th century. Artists depicted scenes of rural life around Kraków and in the Tatras. The images of everyday life in the different communities – Jews, peasants, workers, the nobility, artists – painted by artists became in a way the soul of a nation that was still alive.
'Rejtan. Upadek Polski' (Rejtan, or the Fall of Poland) by Jan Matejko, 1866, oil on canvas, 282 x 487 cm, set in the Royal Castle in Warsaw, photo: courtesy of the Royal Castle in Warsaw
matejko rejtan zk warszawa.jpg
At the turn of the 20th century, a new generation of Polish artists felt a need to develop fresh artistic ideals. Some of them abandoned nationalistic and Romantic themes, while others drew on this tradition while transcending it in contact with new artistic trends from Western Europe. These two tendencies, a skilful mixture of neo-Romanticism and modernism, came together in a group of artists called the Young Poland movement.
The exhibition at the Louvre-Lens Museum is related to the centenary of the signing, on 3 September 1919, of the agreement between France and Poland that led to the arrival of large numbers of Polish workers in France, notably in the mining region in the north of the country. Between 1919 and 1928, 280,000 work contracts were signed following this international agreement. It was made possible by Poland’s return to independence in 1918.
The exhibition is accompanied by the following programme of events: concerts by Jakub Józef Orliński, Marcin Masecki & Jerzy Rogiewicza and Ola Bilińska as well as theatre performances, film screenings, and the festival Muse & Piano dedicated to the music of Fryderyk Chopin.
- Exhibition co-organisers: Musée du Louvre-Lens, National Museum in Warsaw, and the Adam Mickiewicz Institute
- Exhibition under the Honorary Patronage of Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, & Andrzej Duda, President of the Republic of Poland
- Curators: Iwona Danielewicz & Agnieszka Rosales Rodríguez (National Museum in Warsaw), Marie Lavandier & Luc Piralla (Louvre-Lens), assisted by Caroline Tureck & Wojciech Głowacki
- Support in communication of the exhibition: Polish Institute in Paris
- The exhibition's catalogue is edited by Iwona Danielewicz, Agnieszka Rosales Rodríguez, Marie Lavandier & Luc Piralla, and is published in French by Snoeck Publishers
adam mickiewicz institute
Exhibition organised with the National Museum of Warsaw and the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of the international cultural programme accompanying the centenary of Poland regaining independence. Co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland as part of the multi-annual programme NIEPODLEGŁA 2017–2022.