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A vase with a flat bottom and a belly gradually widening upwards. Around the vessel a decorative ornament presenting a circle of dancing figures holding each other’s hands, also serving as a vase handle.
The pottery and tile ware factory, J. Niedźwiecki and Co. in Dębniki, was also famous for the production of artistic faience in the years 1900–1910.

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A vase with a flat bottom and a belly gradually widening upwards. Around the vessel a decorative ornament presenting a circle of dancing figures holding each other’s hands, also serving as a vase handle.
The pottery and tile ware factory, J. Niedźwiecki and Co. in Dębniki, was also famous for the production of artistic faience in the years 1900–1910. It cooperated with such renowned artists of that period as Jan Szczepkowski (manager of the art department), Konstanty Laszczka, Stefan Matejko (the nephew of master Jan), Karol Brudzewski, Tadeusz Błotnicki, Ludwik Puget. They designed magnificent works, which were distinguished by their originality and modern form different from other European products.

Elaborated by Janusz Tadeusz Nowak (Historical Museum of the City of Kraków), © all rights reserved

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The story of the short-lived artistic production of the Niedźwiecki and S-ka faience factory in Dębniki

During the years 1900–1910 in Dębniki—at that time still located outside the administrative borders of Krakow—there was a faience factory operating as J. Niedźwiecki and S-ka. The relatively short-lived period of production of this small factory might be considered a phenomenon from an artistic point of view rather than from an industrial one. The uniform production was characterized primarily by inventiveness in the field of forms and decor and a high level of performance of these modern products, especially conspicuous in the background of the local production, but also compared to foreign manufacturers.

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During the years 1900–1910 in Dębniki—at that time still located outside the administrative borders of Krakow—there was a faience factory operating as J. Niedźwiecki and S-ka. The relatively short-lived period of production of this small factory might be considered a phenomenon from an artistic point of view rather than from an industrial one. The uniform production was characterized primarily by inventiveness in the field of forms and decor and a high level of performance of these modern products, especially conspicuous in the background of the local production, but also compared to foreign manufacturers. In 1850, the great fire of Krakow broke out. This led to a construction boom, generating considerable demand for material, which resulted in the formation of numerous brickworks and tile factories on the outskirts of the city in the second half of the 19th century. One such tile factory was the Adam Żychonia Clay Factory, founded around 1870 in Dębniki. The factory was later acquired by Józef Niedźwiecki, and in 1889, he formed a partnership with Józef Pokutyński (a Cracovian architect), who withdrew from the company five years later. The company's shareholders were Beata Matejko (daughter of Jan Matejko); later Kirchmayerowa (from 1892, the wife of Wincenty Kirchmayer); together with her brother-in-law, Adam Kirchmayer. After Niedźwiecki’s death in 1898, Beata Kirchmayerowa redeemed his shares, thanks to which the factory became the family business of the Kirchmayers. Due to the good reputation of the factory, a decision was made to keep its name, J. Niedźwiecki and S-ka (mass impression: “J. NIEDŹWIECKI and Ska DĘBNIKI”), under which it was known until the end of its productive life. 
The position of factory manager was held by Adam Kirchmayer, an industrialist educated in Vienna. Under his management, the factory began to operate in the spirit of the ideals of the revival of arts and crafts, especially promoted by the Polish Applied Arts Society. PAAS defended crafts and handicrafts, promoting artists’ involvement in industrial activities, as well as drawing on native traditions, including the repertoire of folk art. These actions were mainly directed against the mass-produced “trashiness” imported from Austria and Germany, which had flooded the Galician market at the time. Inspired by the Society’s activity, as well as the influence of friends—especially by Jerzy Warchałowski (co-founder and theoretician of PAAS)—Kirchmayer undertook the production of artistic “maiolica” (fine, delicate faience).
Kirchmayer—showing a full understanding of his objectives—hired a qualified team of specialists and talented designers. The manager of tile production and main chemist was Jan Sławiński, a technologist experimenting in the field of glazes. He came from a famous family of ceramists and had earlier worked for Niedźwiecki. His brother, Tadeusz Sławiński, an excellent practitioner and pedagogue—who had built ceramic stoves almost throughout Krakow—became the manager of the pattern shop. Adam Kirchmayer hired a large group of prominent Cracovian artists and opened a ceramic laboratory, available to all interested parties. Konstanty Laszczka, Jan Szczepkowski, Karol Brudzewski, and Henryk Hochman cooperated with the factory in the fields of design and model building. Over the years 1902–1907, the artistic director was Szczepkowski, who was involved in the design of dish forms as well as decoration designs. As far as painting was concerned, such projects were often crafted by students of the School of Fine Arts. For a short period of time, Stefan Matejko (nephew of Jan Matejko) worked for the factory. He was a painter and stained-glass maker.
The main branch of the factory’s output—which was the mainstay of the entire business—was tile production. The factory had a wide range of products, starting from stoves, galley  kitchens, and fireplaces; including the large-scale production of household ceramics, a variety of tableware, and faience; ending with objects of daily use, such as candlesticks, ashtrays, and paperweights. However, the workshop became famous for its production of artistic ceramics. Apart from decorative patterns and sculptural tableware, sculptures were also made. These were produced on a small scale to avoid their mass production: a few copies were cast and then destroyed.
The products of the J. Niedźwiecki and S-ka factory enjoyed a very good reputation. They were described in magazines, appreciated by the Society of Art and Polish Applied Arts, and displayed at many exhibitions. However, the plant’s main and recurrent problem was the market. Avant-garde products did not win many supporters in a conservative society, which generally preferred mass-produced, cheaper, and more traditional goods imported from Austria and Germany. Despite numerous sales points, low demand discouraged the entrepreneurs themselves. The National Industrial Association improved this situation by organizing a Galician Goods Market in Vienna along with exhibitions of handicraft and applied arts, where the factory products gained great popularity. The staff of the factory also showed great commitment in this regard. As part of the struggle against cliché, foreign products, and in an attempt to increase the sale of the factory’s products, Szczepkowski designed several types of figurines (religious objects, souvenirs) for Emmaus-type fairs, which were sold very quickly due to low price. However, those minor achievements were not enthusiastically received by Kirchmayer, who strived to achieve more sophisticated manufacturing standards. 
Despite much effort, the artistic ceramics department of the factory was not sustainable. It was closed by Adam Kirchmayer in 1910. A large outlay on the production of artistic “maiolica” did not bring the expected results. Modern products simply lost out to more profitable, clichéd items, which did not involve artists, who only generated costs. The factory, J. Niedźwiecki and S-ka—which continuously produced tiles—functioned until 1919, when all its products were sold out at an auction. In that year, Adam Kirchmayer donated its faience work to the Museum of Science and Industry in Krakow. After its liquidation, all items ended up in the National Museum in Krakow.

Elaborated by Paulina Kluz (Editorial Team of Malopolskas Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

See also:
Vase with a dance circle motif designed by Jan Szczepkowski;
Sculpture “Portrait Study” by Henryk Hochman;
Sculpture “Maria Sobańska's bust” by Konstanty Laszczka;
Sculpture “Feliks Jasieński’s bust” by Konstanty Laszczka.

Bibliography:
Bolesława Kołodziejowa, Fabryka fajansów J. Niedźwiecki i Ska w Dębnikach pod Krakowem (1900-1910), „Rocznik Muzeum Mazowieckiego w Płocku, 4 (1973), p. 5–45;
Bolesława Kołodziejowa, Ceramika krakowska I poł. XX w., „Rocznik Muzeum Mazowieckiego w Płocku, 14 (1991), p. 121–158;
Bożena Kostuch, Kilka faktów z historii fabryki fajansów na Dębnikach w Krakowie, „Spotkania z zabytkami – dla szkół”, (2010), p. 30–33.

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Known/Unknown Konstanty Laszczka

Konstanty Laszczka (1865–1956) seems to have been less famous than his contemporary Young Poland artists, with many of whom he befriended and portrayed in his works. Was his style not original enough?

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Konstanty Laszczka (1865–1956) seems to have been less famous than his contemporary Young Poland artists, with many of whom he befriended and portrayed in his works. Was his style not original enough? Experts mention the strong influence of August Rodin on the sculptures by Laszczka, who – during his studies in Paris – became fascinated by the work of this artist. Similar to Rodin, in the Young Poland period, he used the specific technique of non finito, leaving the sculpture as if it was “unfinished.” This technique adds dynamism and introduces anxiety, so typical of the art at the turn of the 20th century. We can search for other meanings and see how this artistic technique affects us by taking a close look at the bust of Feliks Jasieński created in 1902, presented on our website.
The titles of the works by Konstanty Laszczka created in that period already provide us with a picture of the creative atmosphere at the time: Opuszczony (Abandoned) (1896), W nieskończoność (In the Infinite) (1896/1897), Niewolnica (Slave Woman) (ca. 1900), Żal (Pity) (1901), Zrozpaczona (In Despair) (1902, compared and deceptively similar to Danaid by A. Rodin from 1884), Nostalgia (Nostalgy) (1903). Both the themes and the form are dominated by sorrow, the sense of isolation and alienation, the atmosphere of decadence. Laszczka often sculpted hunched, desperate figures symbolically imprisoned in a confining block.

Konstanty Laszczka in the workshop at the Academy
of Fine Arts in Kraków. December 1933.
National Digital Archives
signature No. 1-N-3152-11.

The artist also left over 100 busts, created in a less dramatic manner. One example is the sculpture representing Maria Sobańska, with a gentle and Secessionist line of modelling, presented on our website. In this manner, Laszczka also depicted numerous representatives of the world of art at the time: Leon Wyczółkowski (the amusing caricature portrait which can be seen in the National Museum in Kraków); the already-mentioned Feliks Jasieński, presented on our website; Julian Fałat, Zenon Przesmycki-Miriam, Ferdynand Ruszczyc and Stanisław Wyspiański, with whom he befriended and shared similar views on art. He was often portrayed by them. Laszczka was also engaged in paintings, ceramics and monumental sculptures; in most cases, the latter did not survive the war. The preserved sculpture, Avenging Angel, from 1910, created to commemorate the Kraków revolution of 1846, can be seen at the Rakowicki Cemetery in Kraków. Nonetheless, he was primarily an educator and an activist supporting the development of artistic life in Poland, a teacher of such artists like Xawery Dunikowski, Bolesław Biegas and Henryk Hochman, presented on our website. For more than 30 years (1900–1935) he was the head of the Department of Sculpture at the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts. He was also one of the founders of the “Art” Society of Polish Artists (Towarzystwo Artystów Polskich “Sztuka”) and member of many art associations.
It is worth visiting the Gallery of 20th Century Polish Art in the Main Building of the National Museum in Kraków to spend a moment with the works by an artist who is not well-known, yet one of the most interesting sculptors of the Young Poland period.

Elaborated by Kinga Kołodziejska (Editorial team of Małopolska's Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

See:
Sculpture “Feliks Jasieński’s bust” by Konstanty Laszczka
Sculpture Maria Sobańska's bust by Konstanty Laszczka
Sculpture ”Portrait Study” by Henryk Hochman

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