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Wyspiański left twelve self-portraits. Every one of them is a fascinating record of the physical change and current emotional state of the artist according to his often-repeated belief stating that “man (...) changes irretrievably; they are changed by their experiences and thoughts. A portrait is a reflection of a moment, an artistic reflection seizing things in their very essence.”

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Wyspiański left twelve self-portraits. Every one of them is a fascinating record of the physical change and current emotional state of the artist according to his often-repeated belief stating that “man (...) changes irretrievably; they are changed by their experiences and thoughts. A portrait is a reflection of a moment, an artistic reflection seizing things in their very essence.”
The presented work was completed in 1904. Against a neutral background, in a close frame, two young people appear: a robust woman in a colourful Kraków outfit and a small figure of the artist with an oval face, a high forehead and a small red beard wearing a peasant doublet nonchalantly thrown onto his narrow shoulders. The flat colourful patches marked with a clear contour form a uniform and a tasteful painting composition whose decorativeness is intensified by the rich colouring built of harmonious reds, violet and orange completed with the abstract ornament of the embroidered dress.
Manifesting the insight he was famous for, the author captured the psychological aspects of his marriage. The common features of Teofila and her life-giving robustness stand in contrast with the subtle, lean body of Wyspiański stamped with a terminal illness. Fragile and delicate as he was, it is he who stands with his side to the viewer and seems to be protecting his wife from the interference of the outside world. The painting’s dominance intentionally lies in the hard, questioning sight of the both of them, and the slightly provocative way in which they look at the viewer. The painting was created four years after their wedding when the union of a well-known artist and his aunt’s servant of peasant origin still bore the signs of a moral scandal and was the subject of unrefined jokes in Kraków circles. The fascination with Teofila’s vitality is combined here with Wyspiański’s specific longing for simplicity and aversion to the bourgeois prejudices. “It is all a «social» comedy,” he commented ironically in his letter to Stanisław Lacek, “that my wife is not from the city, from the so-called intelligentsia (...).” On the pages of Wesele [The Wedding] he delivered this punch line: “Weź pan sobie żonę z prosta: duza scęścia, małe kosta. [“Mister, take a simple wife: lots of happiness, small costs.”] The ostentatiously highlighted Kraków outfit of Teofila, with the triple string of beads, proves not only the artist’s interests in folklore but his authentic faith in the hidden forces of this social class which, as the healthiest part of the population, was to be the footing of our native traditions and the hope for national rebirth. In this view, the sacramental union of Wyspiański and Teofila may also be interpreted as the symbolic return of the disease-ridden artist, who is aware of his imminent death, to the sources of life and pure nature untainted by civilisation.

Elaborated by Kamila Podniesińska, PhD (The National Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved

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Wyspiański in Biecz

We were very close to having the opportunity to see polychromes and stained-glass panels made by Stanisław Wyspiański in the parish church in Biecz. The artist stayed in Biecz in 1889 during a scientific trip around the regions of Biecz and Sącz organized by the professor of the Kraków School of Fine Arts (today’s Academy of Fine Arts) Władysław Łuszczkiewicz...

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Stanisław Wyspiański,
cartoon for the polychromes
in the parish church in Biecz, 1895
1897,
National Museum in Warsaw.

We were very close to having the opportunity to see polychromes and stained-glass panels made by Stanisław Wyspiański in the parish church in Biecz. The artist stayed in Biecz in 1889 during a scientific trip around the regions of Biecz and Sącz organized by the professor of the Kraków School of Fine Arts (today’s Academy of Fine Arts) Władysław Łuszczkiewicz. At that time, beautiful drawings of the monuments hosted in Biecz itself, as well as in its vicinity, were made: these included, among other things, sketches of the furnishings of St. Sophia’s church and the parish church in Bobowa, small wooden churches in Wilczyska, Sękowa and Binarowa, as well as the 16th-century Gładyszów renaissance court in Szymbark.
In another renaissance manor located in the nearby Jeżów, Wyspiański even made a polychrome on one of the walls, which can be admired to this day.
Six years later, the artist returned to his fascination with Biecz, working in the years 1895–1897 on the designs of polychromes and stained-glass panels which were to be situated inside the local parish church. In a letter to Lucjan Rydel, he wrote at the time:
 “I already have a design for Biecz. It will be seemingly modest and very simple and, under this guise, rich in ornamentation. I think I will manage to smuggle it in its entirety, I just need to have the “lust” for painting. This design has transformed into a huge thing”.
Unfortunately, this “huge thing” was never implemented. Wyspiański came into conflict with the Kraków restorer and architect Sławomir Odrzywolski who supervised renovation works at that time, and, disagreeing with the limitations imposed on him, he ended the cooperation, despite the fact that he was fascinated with this undertaking. The design of one of the stained-glass panels has survived and is currently located at the National Museum in Kraków. In turn, the cardboard template for making polychromes which may be seen above, depicting mallows, is stored in the National Museum in Warsaw.
Most of the drawings made by Wyspiański during the trip around the Biecz region have not survived to the present. Reproductions of the sketches made by the artist in Biecz itself, with which the then student of painting was fascinated, are located in the collections of the Museum of Ziemia Biecka in Biecz. During the visit to the museum, it is worth asking local curators about the artist’s other connections with Biecz, including him being creatively inspired by one of the paintings on exhibition in the “Dom z basztą” (“the House with a tower”) department, namely Madonna with bird and the legend associated with it. According to the researchers of Stanisław Wyspiański’s literary work, including Professor Kazimierz Wyka, it became one of the inspirations for creating the drama from 1899, controversial for its times, entitled The Curse.

Elaborated by: Kinga Kołodziejska (Editorial team of Małopolskas Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

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

See also a picture of Stanisław Wyspiański from a trip around the Biecz region.

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Photography of Wyspiański and Mehoffer

In the collection of the Museum of Ziemia Biecka in Biecz, there is a unique photo from 1889, depicting the students of the second year of thethen School of Fine Arts (today’s Academy of Fine Arts) in Kraków, during an educational trip around the regions of Sądecczyzna and Biecz under the supervision of Prof. Władysław Łuszkiewicz.

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St. Wyspiański, J. Mehoffer, Maszkowski
and Cinciel in the church in Libusza, 1889.
From Museum of Ziemia Biecka in Biecz.

In the collection of the Museum of Ziemia Biecka in Biecz, there is a unique photo from 1889, depicting the students of the second year of thethen School of Fine Arts (today’s Academy of Fine Arts) in Kraków, during an educational trip around the regions of Sądecczyzna and Biecz under the supervision of Prof. Władysław Łuszkiewicz. The photograph was taken inside the church in Libusza, located seven kilometres from Biecz. The figure staring at us, the first person from the left, is Stanisław Wyspiański. Standing next to him, sketching some element of the church’s furnishings is Józef Mehoffer.

The participants of the trip arrived at Biecz on 2 August 1889. They stayed at the monastery of the Franciscans of Primitive Observance. From there, they left for nearby towns, looking for themes on which to base their sketches. Biecz alone fascinated Wyspiański so much that, six years later, he became involved in renovation works at the local parish.

More on Stanisław Wyspiański’s links with Biecz here.

 

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

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland.

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Michalik’s Cave with Wyspiański’s drawings?

Located close to the municipal theatre (today the Słowacki Theater) and the School (later Academy) of Fine Arts, this confectionery quickly became the favourite meeting spot for the circles of young Cracovian painters. Today, there are legends about how meticulously the owner – Jan Michalik – kept his accounts...

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Located close to the municipal theatre (today the Słowacki Theater) and the School (later Academy) of Fine Arts, this confectionery quickly became the favourite meeting spot for the circles of young Cracovian painters.
Today, there are legends about how meticulously the owner – Jan Michalik – kept his accounts. If one of his guests ordered something on credit which they could not immediately settle, the confectioner would promptly send a dunning letter. In fact, the guests paid him with something much more valuable by leaving their drawings and sketches on the walls, which are worth a fortune nowadays. Had it not been for a combination of circumstances, the Cave could boast of a more splendid decor.
An offer for painting the confectionery was submitted by Wyspiański, declaring that if only Michalik would sponsor him with paints (costing a dozen or so guilders at that time), the artist would paint the main room of that establishment overnight. “And you declined the offer?” enquired Boy-Żeleński. “Well, that wasn’t very clever of me ... I thought: a renovated confectionery, what would it look like, they would laugh at me ... and I do regret it now”[1].
The drawings were often made in such a way that the guests painted and sketched on a piece of paper, which they then handed to the owner for binding.
The presence of distinguished artists brought him fame and considerable wealth. Jan Michalik, oppressed by the  denunciations of the housekeeper, Mrs Witoszyńska, who kindly informed the Austrian authorities that the confectioner had white bread, which was not allowed at the time, wanted to get rid of the premises at some point. He only did so in 1918, selling it to Roman Madejski (formerly an employee at the Cave) and to Franciszek Trzaska.

Read more about the legend of the “Green Balloon

Don’t miss the dolls from the “Green Balloon nativity scene in the collection of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums:
Puppets from the “Zielony Balonik” (“Green Balloon”) nativity play — Jacek Malczewski
Puppets from the “Zielony Balonik” (“Green Balloon”) nativity play — Jacek Malczewski
Puppets from the “Zielony Balonik” (“Green Balloon”) nativity play — Juliusz Leo

Elaborated by: Editorial team of Małopolskas Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

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


[1] T. Żeleński (Boy), About Cracow, edited by H. Markiewicz, Kraków 1974, p. 113.

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Self-portraits and “selfie” fashion ... The puzzle of the self-portrait

Currently, there is a fashion for self-portraits, popularly called selfies. Anyone can take them — using not even a camera — just a telephone. There is a narcissistic craving in us to show and see our own images. Once, creating a self-portrait was a process. Self-portraiture created the possibility of immortalising one’s image, while fulfilling the function of a tool of self-knowledge and self-reflection.

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Currently, there is a fashion for self-portraits, popularly called selfies. Anyone can take them — using not even a camera — just a telephone. There is a narcissistic craving in us to show and see our own images. Once, creating a self-portrait was a process. Self-portraiture created the possibility of immortalising one’s image, while fulfilling the function of a tool of self-knowledge and self-reflection. This served to explore one’s “I”, to encode information about oneself or play some kind of game with convention … to hide behind an image (Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz). This took various forms. An example of a multiple self-portrait is the painting by Pola Dwurnik: Mercy!. Out of the crowd outlined in the background, twenty-four images of the artist emerge; she is in a different mood and mental state in each.
The earliest known self-portrait was probably created in Egypt, around 2650 BC (Ni-ankh-Ptah). Self-portraiture was a rare phenomenon in antiquity (the self-portrait of Phidias, on the shield of Athena Parthenos, in the Parthenon in Athens). The Middle Ages saw the creation of idealized self-portraits; the author often painted himself as an individual assisting in a religious scene. An independent self-portrait appeared in the Renaissance as a result of raising the artist’s prestige and increasing the role of human individuality. According to the humanism of the Renaissance, the artist had become someone special, which is why artists often painted themselves turned towards the viewer (e.g. Albrecht Dürer).
Many artists painted self-portraits almost all their lives, thus creating cycles of their likenesses, including, among others, Olga Boznańska and Stanisław Wyspiański. In the case of Olga Boznańska, self-portraits are not only a reflection of the passage of time, but also the changing personality of the artist. The self-portrait of Józef Mehoffer is a faithful record of mood and moment; it reflects the intimate nature of the situation. One can even have the impression that it has the form of a sketch. Julian Fałat chose an unusual form of self-portrait; by blending his effigy into the Kraków panorama, Jan Matejko painted his self-portrait on a painting base in the shape of a circle.
Artists reveal themselves in a variety of different ways. It is typical to be presented at work, in a studio, or with family or friends (Stanisław Wyspiański with his wife). It also happens that they present themselves as historical, biblical, or mythological figures (Maurycy Gottlieb). The true master of this manner of self-presentation was Jacek Malczewski, author of the greatest number of self-portraits in the history of Polish art. Looking at them, it is hard not to suspect him of narcissism, but maybe this is just a sophisticated game with the viewer, a kind of planned show?
More self-portraits by Jacek Malczewski can be found in the following photo gallery: http://mnk.pl/fotogalerie/autoportrety-jacka-malczewskiego.

 

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.

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Feliks “Manggha” Jasieński. Creating a collection

Feliks Jasieński collected art for thirty years of his life. The collection numbered about 15,000 items and included paintings and graphics from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, a set of Asian art objects, carpets, kilims, furniture and arts and crafts, as well as a library. The unique collection became a testimony to the time of its creator, who initially collected works in his apartment, and then, on 11 March 1920, donated them to the city of Kraków...

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Feliks Jasieński collected art for thirty years of his life. The collection numbered about 15,000 items and included paintings and graphics from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, a set of Asian art objects, carpets, kilims, furniture and arts and crafts, as well as a library. The unique collection became a testimony to the time of its creator, who initially collected works in his apartment, and then, on 11 March 1920, donated them to the city of Kraków.

Photo National Digital Archives

Who was the man whose collection inspires so much admiration? An anthropologist, cultural scientist, he was also interested in art, various aspects of civilization. He came from a landowning family. He received a very thorough education: in Dorpat, Berlin and Paris. He pursued various fields of study: economics, philosophy, literature, art history and music. Above all, however, he was an enthusiast and collector who consistently gathered a coherent collection of works. His pseudonym Manggha came from the collection of woodcuts by a Japanese artist Katsushiki Hokusai.
Thanks to Jasieński’s involvement, he managed to save the painting Szał [Frenzy] by Podkowiński , which had been cut up by the author. Jasieński carefully restored the canvas and hung it on the wall of his apartment in Cracow, as the most valuable object in his collection. He started the collection with the works of his contemporaries. The most outstanding artists of his time made an attempt at portraying him: Boznańska, Wyczółkowski, Malczewski, and Laszczka. His private acquisitions transformed into a museum collection. Would anyone be willing to donate their private collection of contemporary art to a museum nowadays?

Elaborated by: Editorial team of Małopolskas Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

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

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Painting “Self-portrait with wife” by Stanisław Wyspiański

Pictures

Audio

Obraz „Autoportret z żoną” Stanisława Wyspiańskiego [audiodeskrypcja] Tells: Fundacja na Rzecz Rozwoju Audiodeskrypcji KATARYNKA
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Obraz „Autoportret z żoną” Stanisława Wyspiańskiego Tells: Piotr Krasny
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