Applied arts in the Zakopane style
“Inside of this cottage everything bears the imprint of artistic preferences (...)”, wrote Stanisław Witkiewicz with regard to a highlander’s house. Applied arts, inspired by the region of Podhale, developed simultaneously with Zakopane style architecture. From the very beginning, Witkiewicz’s concept assumed the principle of completeness, i.e. creating architecture along with interior design, ranging from furniture equipment to the finest decorative details. Just as much as a highlander’s cottage was a model for architecture, its furnishing with particular items of equipment inspired stylish designs for furniture and applied art, because “all this had to be made of the material found in the forms existing in folk art”.
The forms of a highlander’s cottage were adapted to the requirements of more demanding clients. Witkiewicz believed that “the white chamber, almost unchanged, can be located in even very exquisite and rich apartments and constitute a splendid dining room”. According to his conception, a highlander shape and appearance should be given to all interior elements and, therefore, elements should also be created which “obviously did not exist in a cottage and had to be produced in a fully independent manner under the influence of new emerging needs”. In 1904, a new collective work entitled, the Zakopane style, was published for this purpose, edited by Witkiewicz. Volume I: the Dining room was a furniture template set, which included designs of various new home equipment, as well as examples of the use of Podhale ornamental motifs.
Therefore, the basic equipment of a highlander’s cottage, consisting of a table, chairs, shelves, boards, and storage space, constituted a pattern for this stylish furniture. Their form was primarily shaped by their function. They had a very logical structure, which, at the same time, constituted their artistic value (e.g. little pegs, overlap joints, or dovetail joints), and was more important than the surface ornamentation. The line, which decoratively followed all edges and clearances, was also of great aesthetic value. If these basic furnishings were created in the Zakopane style, they usually followed the model highlander form, adding variety to the details and decor. In order to design, for example, living room or office furniture, which was not originally in a cottage (“Washbasins and toilets, couches and armchairs, chaise lounges and stools, cabinets, mirrors, desks and a whole lot of other equipment”),it was based on the forms and construction of highlander equipment, compiling their elements into completely new furniture. A cupboard , for instance, was formed by combining a chest, table legs (called srogi) and a top unit modelled on a shelf, while the chair backrest or bed headboard were based on the design of a backrest of a sleigh.
The Zakopane style drew directly on the repertoire of Podhale ornamentation, mainly created using the technique of shallow carving. Geometric motifs, such as zigzagging, recica, cone, cross, as well as plant motifs: groves, martagon lily, parzenica, asphodelus, parnassia (a type of a thistle) and the famous “sunrise” were used, with the frequent additional use of openwork, gaps, and fenestrations.
Although objects in the Zakopane style was subjected to its prototype (highlanders’ furniture) in the field of form and ornamentation, artists were, in practice, more inclined to cater to the wishes of the clients, rather than rigidly adhere to the models. In addition, stylish items differed depending on the designer or contractor, who often worked out their own, individual style. It was important simply to convey the flair and style of Zakopane. After the successes of Witkiewicz’s first complete realizations in Zakopane — a villa with furniture — the popularity of the Zakopane style continued to grow, and so did the demand for various products in this style. The orders “encompassed a huge range of life needs, from a ball gown to a chasuble; from a stool to an altar; from a spoon to a monstrance; from home to church”.
Apart from Stanisław Witkiewicz, the main designers of stylized furniture were Wojciech Brzega, Wiktor Gosieniecki, and Stanisław Barabasz. Home furnishing and fittings were also made by highlanders, especially Maciej Sieczka, Jasiek Walczak (turner), Wojciech Gąsienica Roj (sculptor), and others. Interior designs also contained furniture made by the School of Wood Industry.
In fact, there exist only a few interiors designed by Witkiewicz; for example, the home furnishings of the Pod Jedlami house and the library in the palace in Kluczkowice. In contrast, the greatest activity in the field of furniture industry was developed by Wojciech Brzega, who ran his own workshop from 1903. He made various kinds of items in the Zakopane style there, in addition to creating sculptural works.
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 J. Majda, Styl zakopiański, Kraków 1979, s. 22.