Marian Gorzkowski, a friend of Jan Matejko

Marian Gorzkowski was born in Biała Cerkiew [Ukr. Bila Tserkva] in 1830 in Ukraine. He studied at the University of Kiev. He travelled to Greece and Italy. He came from Russia and was strongly attached to his homeland region; he collected documents and books dealing with the history of Russia. In 1870 he came to Kraków for the first time, and two years later he settled there permanently. He was a journalist by trade; he belonged to the editorial staff of “Czas” [“Time”] magazine. He also worked part-time for the Czartoryski Museum. Together with Matejko, he shared a passion for history of the old Polish Commonwealth and love for collecting, which resulted in their friendship. The friendship with the painter became even closer when Gorzkowski came to hold the post of the secretary of the School of Fine Arts, which Matejko had managed since 1873. Soon Gorzkowski also took care of Matejko’s household and estate matters and gave his son French lessons. The artist decided to show gratitude by placing the figure of Gorzkowski in several of his paintings such as: Wernyhora, Battle of Grunwald or Prussian homage. After Matejko’s death in 1893, Gorzkowski retired.

Marian Gorzkowski gathered a large collection of his superior and friend’s works, numbering nearly 243 drawings, watercolours and oil paintings. He also left behind texts in which he commented on Matejko’s painting. These included three books, several brochures, two volumes of memories and a volume of letters to his wife. The greatest controversy was stirred by the book entitled Jan Matejko. Epoka lat dalszych, do końca życia artysty [Jan Matejko. The Epoch of Later Years, Until the Artist’s Death], published in Kraków in 1898. Its circulation was destroyed by order of Stanisław Tarnowski, who was afraid that it would compromise the artist in the eyes of the readers. Later researchers of Matejko’s work questioned the value of some of the information provided in Marian Gorzkowski’s studies.

Elaborated by Agnieszka Jankowska-Marzec (PhD), (Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków),
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.


  1. E. Łepkowski, Marian Gorzkowski,[in:] Polski Słownik Biograficzny, Vol. VIII, Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków 1959-1960, p.335-336.
  2. J. Krawczyk, Matejko i historia, Warszawa 1990.