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At the turn of 1905, Stanisław Wyspiańki designed the interior of the flat of Zofia née Pareńska and Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński. The history of furniture creation was described by the owner in his Historia pewnych mebli [History of certain furniture] essay published in 1927 by Kurier Poranny [Morning Courier]. Apart from the furniture, other decorative elements were designed, such as the colours of the walls in the individual rooms and the matching curtains.

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At the turn of 1905, Stanisław Wyspiańki designed the interior of the flat of Zofia née Pareńska and Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński. The history of furniture creation was described by the owner in his Historia pewnych mebli [History of certain furniture] essay published in 1927 by Kurier Poranny [Morning Courier]. Apart from the furniture, other decorative elements were designed, such as the colours of the walls in the individual rooms and the matching curtains. Contrary to the fashion of that time, the parquet floor in the flat of the Żeleńskis was not covered with a carpet. Thanks to the uniform colours and minimalist interior decoration, the form of furniture became the most important element of the interior. The living room furniture set comprised chairs, armchairs, a table, jardinière and couches. The furniture was made of bright great maple and upholstered with cloth dyed in amaranth that matched the colour of the walls. When designing the furnishing of the Żeleński flat, Wyspiański applied the principles of total work, just like in the later project design, the House of the Kraków Medicine Society on 4 Radziwiłłowska Street. The type of austere aesthetics used was precursory in the Kraków of that time. In 1913 the furniture was sold to Doctor Andrzej Chramiec to furnish his sanatorium in Zakopane. Having been destroyed and broken due to intensive use by health resort visitors and during war actions, the items were added to the collections of the National Museum in Kraków after 1967.

Elaborated by Marta Graczyńska (The National Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved

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Lounge chairs from the user’s perspective

Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński had a unique opportunity not only to get to know Wyspiański, but also to sit on the furniture designed by this Kraków artist on a daily basis. How did he assess the suite designed for the lounge?
Years later, he recalled:
“Only once did we dare protest and only after a lengthy argument about who would...

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Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński had a unique opportunity not only to get to know Wyspiański, but also to sit on the furniture designed by this Kraków artist on a daily basis. How did he assess the suite designed for the lounge?
Years later, he recalled:
“Only once did we dare protest and only after a lengthy argument about who would have the grit to approach Wyspiański with the politest of inquiries. It was about lounge chairs, heavy ones, carved from thick sycamore logs, and ones whose thinly padded seats were so narrow that one could only just perch on the edge [...]. An existential issue was at stake. When a model of such a chair was brought from the carpenter, the fat boy Stanisławski had just popped in on a visit; I remember what a roar he gave at the sight of that item of furniture, on which, of course, there was no way he could sit down. Wyspiański accepted our pleas quite ironically. He replied that he considered this seat to be entirely sufficient and undertook to demonstrate that on that chair one could not only sit, but even draw or have lunch, by putting a plate on the hand rest. There was no reply at hand to that. And yet, despite all that, he kind-heartedly yielded to our effeminacy, and doubled the depth of the seat, which did not change the fact that it was extremely uncomfortable”.
Today, Wyspiański’s furniture is admired in the Wyspiański Museum (a branch of the National Museum in Kraków) and, although you cannot sit on it, the power of imagination remains: were they really so uncomfortable? Surrounded by a red rope at the museum exhibition, carefully protected by conservators, if it could speak, it would certainly have many a tale to tell—not only about the genius of an artist who tested its usefulness by putting a dinner plate on it.

Elaborated by Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

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

See also:
Living room furniture set designed by Stanisław Wyspiański
Boy about Wyspiański’s furniture


 

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Boy about Wyspiański’s furniture

Recognising Wyspiański’s genius, Boy-Żeleński joked that if he were asked to design a locomotive, as a complete artist, he would have scrupulously brought the completed design on the next day. It is no wonder then that furniture became one of the fields of his activity.

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Recognising Wyspiański’s genius, Boy-Żeleński joked that if he were asked to design a locomotive, as a complete artist, he would have scrupulously brought the completed design on the next day. It is no wonder then that furniture became one of the fields of his activity. Wyspiański took every opportunity to do so. “He once designed a universal piece of furniture that was to serve as a bed, a chest of drawers, a wardrobe and a table (...) for one of his friends who was decorating his bachelor flat”. Then the time came to decorate the House of Kraków Doctors’ Society. When he was accused of the fact that the chairs in the conference room were not very comfortable, he retorted: “That’s because they should not be comfortable. If the chairs were comfortable, the people would sleep through the sessions.” (quote after: Boy o Krakowie [Boy about Kraków], Kraków, 1968, p. 417).
Boy owed his flat’s interior decoration with Wyspiański’s furniture to his mother-in-law, wife of Professor Pareński, who was a fanatical enthusiast of the genius of the Kraków artist. As usual, Wyspiański created a complete work. “One by one, he designed the entire furnishing of the living room, the bedroom with a closet and the dining room, adapting it to the dimensions and layout” of the flat rented by Boy on 6 Karmelicka Street.
He treated every design as a part of a bigger whole: the beauty of furniture could be fully appreciated when looking at it through the prism of harmony and proportions of the entire room.
As Boy recollected, “Wyspiański had a total disregard for only one thing, namely... the anatomy of the human body and human needs. (...) Austerity was the most distinguished feature of these pieces of furniture: large, heavy, with a vast predominance of wooden blocks, scarcely lined seating areas made exclusively with straight lines (...) When someone brought up the issue that such heavy furniture without any handles would be difficult to move, he answered that furniture should not be moved at all” (p. 418).
The furniture made the impression that it was designed for the stage and not intended for household members, but for actors.
How did Boy feel in these decorations?
“The furniture dimensions arising (...) from geometric principles offered various surprises. Bedside tables were, for example, so huge that their tabletops reached up to a man’s chest, but they absolutely contradicted their utility: there was no way to look at a watch or drink tea in bed, absolutely no way! The seating area of the huge armchairs in the bedroom was 10 cm higher than regular ones, while the table, according to the principle that it should be of equal height to the arm rests, was so low that one would hit the edge with one’s knees (...) the chairs were downright torture instruments”. (pp. 418—419).
As Boy wrote, the austerity to which Wyspiański was accustomed to was reflected in all his works “whose goal was to wake, to not let one rest or dream,” and in the furniture it was literally visible. The short, barely upholstered hard beds, thanks to which the guests did not have any chance to overstay their welcome, took up the household members’ valuable time, which could be spent on work...
Boy called Wyspiański’s furniture despotic not only due to their lack of comfort but also due to the fact that, being designed for a specific interior, they tied the owner to a single flat (it was hard to imagine individual elements in another space). Comprehensively designed, the room could not bear any foreign elements (decorations, carpets, paintings other than those made by Wyspiański).
Despite these comments, Boy still admitted that on the whole it looked beautiful with its ravishing charm and originality, which was some consolation to the aching owners.
The furniture soon became the destination of pilgrimages, and the flat itself looked like a branch of the National Museum rather than a safe haven and warm hearth for the Żeleński family. The only rescue and respite was offered to them by the office fitted with English furniture. Although they were often tempted to donate the fruit of Wyspiański’s design to the museum collection, they sold the furniture set when they were forced to move out. Boy wrote: “When the furniture was carried out with the beautiful harmony of lines being destroyed, we had tears in our eyes seeing the destruction of thought of the great artist”. (p. 421)

Elaborated by Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

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

See also:
Living room furniture set designed by Stanisław Wyspiański

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Living room furniture set designed by Stanisław Wyspiański

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Fotel z kompletu mebli projektu Stanisława Wyspiańskiego odc. A Tells: Piotr Krasny
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Fotel z kompletu mebli projektu Stanisława Wyspiańskiego odc. B Tells: Piotr Krasny
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Fotel z kompletu mebli projektu Stanisława Wyspiańskiego [audiodeskrypcja] Tells: Fundacja na Rzecz Rozwoju Audiodeskrypcji KATARYNKA
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