The National Museum in Warsaw
Aleje Jerozolimskie 3
Opening hours: Closed Monday and days following public holidays; open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday – Sunday 10am to 6pm; Thursday 10am to 9pm. Free admission to permanent exhibitions Tuesday.
Housed in a purpose-built modernistic edifice designed by Tadeusz Tolwinski and constructed between 1927 and 1938, the National Museum of Warsaw traces back its origins to 1862, when the Law on Public Education in the Polish Kingdom established a Fine Arts Museum in Warsaw. Transformed into a National Museum in 1916, it was officially opened in the current premises in 1938. However, it was closed to the public by the occupation's authorities just a year later, following the severe damage sustained during the bombardments of 1939. During the war, Professor Stanislaw Lorenz, the museum's Director since 1935, and a group of employees conducted a clandestine operation to secure the museum's works of art as well as other public and private collections brought there. After the Warsaw Rising of 1944 capitulated, Professor Lorenz directed an unprecedented effort to save the exhibits left in the deserted and ruined Warsaw, managing to evacuate a number of valuable works of art and saving the museum's building from being blown up. The National Museum was one of Warsaw's first public institutions to have opened after World War II. In May 1945 the first exhibition, entitled Warsaw Accuses, was mounted.
The museum's holdings originated from a collection of paintings and drawings presented by the Library of the Government and the School of Fine Arts in 1864, as well as from the sculptures and plaster casts from the collection of King Stanislaw August and the Warsaw Society of Friends of the Sciences. Over time the holdings grew through purchases and gifts, and now the museum boasts masterpieces of Polish and foreign painting, sculpture, decorative arts, and numismatics spanning ancient and modern times, preserved in designated departments and galleries.
The Gallery of Ancient Art is the largest of its kind in Poland. Egyptian art is represented by exhibits from Polish and French excavations at Edfu and Deir el Medina, notably including steles from Edfu dating from the 2nd Interim Period and Louvre deposits that hold statues of Sahmet and Amon. The museum is also home to a collection of Mesopotamian seals as well as Eastern Europe's largest collection of Greek vases, including the famous vases that the Czartoryski family kept at their Goluchow residence: a sixth-century vase with the oldest image of the poetess Sappho, and an amphora decorated by the painter Euthymides. Ancient Greece and Rome are also represented by a set of Greek terra cottas and Cypriot vessels, while Ancient East features three extremely interesting Assyrian reliefs and Luristan bronze items.
The Professor Kazimierz Michalowski Faras Gallery boasts a group of exhibits brought from Sudan by the Polish archeological mission, which took part in UNESCO's international Nubian artifacts salvaging action from 1960 to 1964. The gallery's collection of the eighth to fourteenth century wall paintings from the Faras cathedral in Sudan is world-unique, the only other one kept at Khartoum. These paintings represent divine personages and saints as well as Nubian clerical and secular dignitaries. Also on display are the cathedral's architectural details, inscriptions, a group of clay vessels from Faras and Old Dongola, and a collection of textiles and crosses from Ethiopia and the Carpathians.
The Gallery of Medieval Art preserves Gothic exhibits from all historical regions of Poland. Of special note are: St Mary's Coronation and polyptych from the Grudziadz castle chapel dating from ca. 1390; the Lubiaz PiÉta (ca. 1370); the St Barbara polyptych from Wroclaw (ca. 1447); the sculpture of Beautiful Madonna from Wroclaw (1410); the celebrated painting of PiÉta from Tubadzin (1450); the Altar of Holy Virgins from Nysa (after 1510); and the Renaissance triptych of the Legend of St Stanislaw (1515).
The Gallery of Foreign Painting, one of Poland's most numerous and coherent collections of European art, presents the main trends and stylistic schools. Its holdings of Italian and French painting from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century are particularly noted for Sandro Boticelli's Madonna with Child, St John and Angel. Venetian painting includes such masterpieces as the Portrait of an Admiral by Jacopo Tintoretto, Baroque mythological and biblical canvases, portraits, decorative still lifes and landscapes, including the Venice-specific cityscapes. The eighteenth-century French paintings include works by Watteau. There are also Dutch and German paintings from the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, with a few works by Cranach, Pieter Aertsen's precious Deeds of Christian Charity, the portrait of M. Soolmans signed by Rembrandt, a group of paintings by Rembrandt's students, including the important Raising of Lazarus by Fabricius as well as the Madonna with Child from the workshop of Rubens and the Holy Family with St John, His Parents and Angels by Jacob Jordaens. The gallery also boasts a variety of court, burghers' and group portraits, architectural canvases, still lifes, landscapes (notably by Salomon Ruysdael), and Jan Steen's genre paintings. The gallery's holdings of nineteenth-century painting are particularly noted for the collection of works by Paul Serusier, purchased from the writer Gabriela Zapolska.
The Gallery of Polish Painting, particularly strong in the nineteenth-century art, presents stylistic changes that Polish painting underwent from the sixteenth century to World War I. There are anonymous paintings dating from the sixteenth to the first half of the eighteenth century, with formal portraits from the former familial galleries of ancestors, a group of Sarmatian coffin effigies, and portraits of the Vasa court members. Battle scenes include the unique Battle of Orsza painting from the sixteenth century. The Age of Enlightenment is represented by works created under the patronage of King Stanislaw August and the aristocracy, such as the portraits of the King and eminent court personages by Baciarelli and Lampi, decorative paintings by Norblin, and cityscapes by Bernardo Belotto called Canaletto. Classicist paintings include a number of works by Antoni Brodowski, with a number of miniature paintings dating from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Romantic paintings include portraits and battle scenes by Piotr Michalowski, works by January Suchodolski, historical and genre scenes by Artur Grottger, canvases by Jozef Simmler, with the famous Death of Barbara Radziwillowna, and portraits by Henryk Rodakowski. Realistic painting is represented by cityscapes and interiors by Marcin Zaleski, genre scenes by Franciszek Kostrzewski, and works by Jozef Szermentowski, the latter rooted in the tradition of French painting. Historical paintings are particularly noted for the monumental canvases by Jan Matejko, with his Battle of Grunwald, and for the works by Wojciech Gerson. The 'Munich Circle' is represented by works by Jozef Brandt, Maksymilian Gierymski, Adam Chmielowski, Julian Falat, Jozef Chelmonski and Aleksander Gierymski. There are impressionistic and symbolic paintings by Wladyslaw Podkowinski, Jozef Pankiewicz and Leon Wyczolkowski. The art of the Young Poland movement includes the Art Nouveau stained glass designs by Jozef Mehoffer, notably his Strange Garden, impressionistic and symbolic landscapes by Jan Stanislawski, paintings by Wladyslaw Slewinski, Poland's only representative of the French Pont-Aven school, and a collection of symbolic paintings by Jacek Malczewski. The paintings of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries include works by Stanislaw Wyspianski, Olga Boznanska and Witold Wojtkiewicz, the outstanding artists who escape clear-cut definitions.
The Gallery of the Twentieth Century Polish Art includes works created from the start of the twentieth century to 1949 and is representative of all key movements and trends in the art of that period. The Formists are represented by works by Andrzej and Zbigniew Pronaszko, T. Niesiolowski, R. K. Witkowski, S. I. Witkiewicz, L. Chwistek and T. Czyzewski. The inter-war avant garde (geometrical abstraction and constructivism) includes such names as K. Kobro, W. Strzeminski, H. Berlewi, H. Stazewski and M. Szczuka, while the Capists are represented by J. Cybis, J. Czapski, A. Nacht-Samborski, P. Potworowski and Z. Waliszewski. There are the surrealistic works by the Lvov-based 'artes' group, including M. Wlodarski and J. Janisch, as well as paintings by the Wilno (Vilnius) and Warsaw based artists: L. Slendzinski, T. Pruszkowski, B. Cybis, J. Gotard and B. Linke, who take from the various traditions of figurative movements. The Krakow Group and its post-war continuators are represented by works by T. Brzozowski, T. Kantor, J. Nowosielski, M. Jarema and J. Stern. There are a number of paintings by Poles active in France and connected with the École de Paris, such as M. Kisling, E. Zak, R. Kramsztyk, T. Lempicka and Z. Menkes, and by individualists such as T. Makowski, H. Kuna, J. Szczepkowski, Z. Stryjenska and S. Szukalski.
The Department of Polish Prints and Drawings has holdings of works ranging in date from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century and including collections of royal portraits by R. de Hooghe, E. Sadeler, W. Hondius, J. Falck and others, of portraits of Polish celebrities, notably by M. Fajans and J. P. Piwarski, Polish cityscapes, and numerous drawings by J. P. Norblin, M. Plonski, D. Chodowiecki, S. Czechowicz, J. B. Plersch, A. Orlowski, Z. Fogel, M. Bacciarelli, B. Bellotto-Canaletto, W. Wojtkiewicz and S. Wyspianski. There is a collection of albums and sketch-books by W. Gerson, J. Malczewski and P. Michalowski, a comprehensive collection of watercolours by P. Michalowski, J. Kossak, J. Falat, A. Kedzierski, S. Maslowski and S. Noakowski, and a set of architectural designs and drawings from the sixteenth to the twentieth century. The Department of the Twentieth Century Polish Prints and Drawings also preserves works by W. Strzeminski, S. I. Witkiewicz, B. W. Linke, K. Hiller, F. Themerson and H. Stazewski.
Foreign prints and drawings are represented by a collection of drawings of the following provenances: German (A. Durer), Netherlandish (P. Brueghel the Elder), Flemish (P. P. Rubens), Dutch (Rembrandt), French (F. Boucher, P. Cezanne, H. Matisse), Italian (Piranesi), and Spanish (Goya). There are also works by modern artists, notably A. Archipenko, M. Chagall, P. Klee, F. Leger, J. Miro, A. Modigliani and P. Picasso.
The Gallery of Polish Decorative Arts preserves particularly valuable exhibits ranging in date from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century. Alongside artifacts made by goldsmiths from Gdansk, Warsaw and other centers, the exhibition shows embroideries, tapestries, waist scarves and other garments, as well as eighteenth-century glass from the works of Naliboki, Urzecze and Lubaczow, faience from the Belvedere manufacture, porcelain made in Korzec and Baranowka, decorative ceramics from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, clocks, and furniture, including an 1840 plated table by Fraget.
The Leopold Kronenberg Silver Room, created to commemorate the distinguished economist and politician, contains silver tableware made by Warsaw's best artisans, such as Karol Malcz, Ludwik I and Ludwik II Nast, Karol Lilpop, Jan Maciej Schwartz, Tomasz Klimaszewski, Emil Radtke, and Jozef Fraget. There are also silver items from other silver-making centers of Poland within its present-day and pre-war boundaries, including Cracow, Kielce, Lublin, Wilno, Grodno and Kalisz, as well as from lesser-known workshops of Lomza, Checiny and other towns. The exhibition also includes the Judaica.
The Gallery of European Decorative Arts displays exhibits ranging in date from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century, and including specimens of medieval Limousin enamels, Italian majolica, Rhine stoneware, sixteenth-century painting enamel, items made by German goldsmiths of Augsburg and Nuremberg, seventeenth and eighteenth-century clocks, porcelain from the most important and creative manufactures, notably those in Meissen, Berlin, Vienna and Sevres, as well as Czech, Silesian, and Dresden and Potsdam glass, and furniture.
The National Museum of Warsaw also collects the art of Asia, and has comprehensive collections of Chinese porcelain: blue and white of the Yuing, Ming and Qung dynasties, Japanese woodcuts from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century and decorative arts, textiles from the Near East, Muslim and Hindu manuscripts, and Hindu and Lamaist bronze exhibits dating from the nineteenth century onwards.
The holdings of modern design boast a unique collection of applied art of the 1940s, including glass and furniture by J. Kurzatkowski, textiles by S. and A. Milwicz, K. Szczepanowska and W. Strzeminski, ceramics by A. Kenar and his students, an jewellery by H. Grunwald and the Zaremskis, and wickerwork by W. Wolkowski.
The Numismatics Room contains Poland's largest and most representative holdings of Greek electron coins, Greek coins from the Black Sea coast, Roman coins from the early Republic period, coins of the Piast dynasty period, as well as coins dating from contemporary times.
The iconographic documentation preserved by the Museum is related to Polish and foreign culture. Among the strengths of the collection are the fourteenth-century Libri Prophetarum parchment, Jan Januszowski's and Marcello Baciarelli ennoblement papers from 1588 and 1771 respectively, and letters written by S. Wyspianski between 1890 and 18966, photographs by K. Beyer (1818-77) and J. Bulhak (1876-1950).
Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie
Aleje Jerozolimskie 3
Phone: (+48 22) 629 30 93
Fax: (+48 22) 622 85 59
Aleje Jerozolimskie 3