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On utility and artistic national duty...
Apart from paintings and sculptures, the collections of the Art Division at the Tatra Museum also include a rich collection of furniture. Visitors pay the greatest attention to the ones in the Zakopane style. The permanent exhibition at the Museum of Zakopane Style in the Koliba villa features, among others, a desk and a chair designed by Wojciech Brzega.

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On utility and artistic national duty...
Apart from paintings and sculptures, the collections of the Art Division at the Tatra Museum also include a rich collection of furniture. Visitors pay the greatest attention to the ones in the Zakopane style. The permanent exhibition at the Museum of Zakopane Style in the Koliba villa features, among others, a desk and a chair designed by Wojciech Brzega.
Desks originated as a combination of a desktop, a table and a chest of drawers probably in the 17th century. Over time it became harder and harder to imagine an office without this piece of furniture, which was used not only for writing but also for storing documents and letters, as well as other valuable belongings.
The desk designed by Wojciech Brzega was completed by Jan Śliwka for Bronisława Kondratowiczowa who was interested in photography, collecting, as well as the Zakopane style and its origins. This piece of furniture was presented at the “Polish Applied Art” Society exhibition as early as 1902. The legs of the desk with slightly bent external edges are decoratively carved. Under the top (whose edges are decorated with indents) there is a drawer with a leluja ornament. The top is enclosed on three sides with a railing with hearts. On the right is a level raiser housing a cabinet and small compartments.
The set is composed of a desk and a chair designed by the same artist. Chairs had already been known in ancient Egypt. These pieces of furniture have a framed structure, a backrest and usually no arms. The piece in the collection from the Tatra Museum has all of the above-mentioned features. It distinguishes itself with its beautiful decorations in the Zakopane style. The open-work backrest and legs are decorated with hearts, rosettes and lelujas. The ornaments were completed with great precision and perfectly match the furniture design.
The artist graduated from the ornamental sculpture division of the Zakopane School of Wood Industry. He later studied sculpture in Kraków, Munich and Paris. He designed his first pieces of furniture in 1896. For many years, starting in 1903, he made them in his own workshop. Apart from the finished works, the museum collection also features many designs signed with the name of this artist. After many years of activity, Wojciech Brzega wrote the following in his memoirs: “I believed in Witkiewicz and thought that I would be fulfilling my duty as a Pole and a highlander citizen by working in this direction. I have devoted a large portion of my life to the work of the Zakopane style in the furniture industry.”
Developed by Stanisław Witkiewicz; the Zakopane style was intended to cover both construction and utility art. This artist and art critic who settled permanently in Zakopane in 1890 tried to convince the greatest possible group of supporters and co-workers to employ his ideas. He encouraged local artists to make various objects (not only furniture) adorned with graceful decorations, such as lelujas, rosettes and hearts. According to its initiator, the style was to leave the boundaries of the Podhale village and become the first Polish national style, which would be of particular importance due to the current political situation of Poland. Hence the words by Wojciech Brzega, who thought it was his civil duty to work with patterns re-designed by Stanisław Witkiewicz but originating from his native land.

Designed by Wojciech Brzega, the chair is part of a set comprising also a desk in the Zakopane style.

Elaborated by Julita Dembowska (The Dr. Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane), © all rights reserved

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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”.

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“Inside of this cottage everything bears the imprint of artistic preferences (...)”[1], 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”.[2]
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”.[3] 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”.[4] 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”),[5]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”.[6]
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.

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

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

Bibliography:
Teresa Jabłońska, Styl zakopiański Stanisława Witkiewicza, „Lamus”, 28 (2013), nr 2/12, p. 60–68.
Teresa Jabłońska, Muzeum Stylu Zakopiańskiego im. Stanisława Witkiewicza: przewodnik, Zakopane 2002.
Jan Majda, Styl zakopiański, Kraków 1979.
Zbigniew Moździerz, Dom „Pod Jedlami” Pawlikowskich, Zakopane 2003.
[Jan Gwalbert Pawlikowski], O sztuce podhalańskiej, III: Sprzęt i zdobienie, [w:], Katalog Wystawy Podhalańskiej, Lwów 1911, p.12–20.
Stanisław Eliasz Radzikowski, Styl zakopiański, Kraków 1901.
Barbara Tondos, Styl zakopiański i zakopiańszczyzna, Wrocław–Warszawa–Kraków 2004.


[1] S.E. Radzikowski, Styl zakopiański, Kraków 1901, s. 13.
[2] T. Jabłońska, Styl zakopiański Stanisława Witkiewicza, „Lamus”, 28 (2013), nr 2/12 , s. 64; za: S. Witkiewicz, Styl zakopiański. Zeszyt I: Pokój jadalny, s. 367.
[3] S.E. Radzikowski, dz. cyt., s. 15.
[4] T. Jabłońska, Muzeum Stylu Zakopiańskiego im. Stanisława Witkiewicza: przewodnik, Zakopane 2002, s. 38.
[5] Tamże.
[6] J. Majda, Styl zakopiański, Kraków 1979, s. 22.

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Stanisław Witkiewicz vs. Imperial and Royal Professional School for Wood Industry in Zakopane

The first signs of interest in the culture of the highlanders emerged before Stanisław Witkiewicz’s arrival in Zakopane. The first Woodcarving School had functioned in this town since 1876. It was later renamed, the Imperial and Royal Professional School for Wood Industry (k.k. Fachschule für Holzbearbeitung in Zakopane), in which professional craftsmen were trained. The school operated under the rule of the Austrian occupier, and its curriculum propagated Tirol styles. Despite this, it was this school's pupils who created the first works inspired by the art of Podhale.

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The first signs of interest in the culture of the highlanders emerged before Stanisław Witkiewicz’s arrival in Zakopane. The first Woodcarving School had functioned in this town since 1876. It was later renamed, the Imperial and Royal Professional School for Wood Industry (k.k. Fachschule für Holzbearbeitung in Zakopane), in which professional craftsmen were trained. The school operated under the rule of the Austrian occupier, and its curriculum propagated Tirol styles. Despite this, it was this school’s pupils who created the first works inspired by the art of Podhale. During the years 1885 and 1886, under the supervision of the then school principal, Franciszek Neužil, a bed and room screen in the Podhale style were made, according to meticulously designed projects by Magdalena Butowt-Andrzejkowiczówna, on the special order of Countess Róża Krasińska. From the second half of 1880s, this decorative style became widespread in the School. Numerous furniture sets designed by Neužil were produced. These were of simple design, and the only thing that connected them with the highlanders’ culture was the abundance of applied ornamentation, hardly reminiscent of folk art. However, the principal himself was the first to describe them as the Zakopane style [zakopaner Style].
After settling in Zakopane, Stanisław Witkiewicz began to notice great potential in the production of the wood industry and the tradition of local wooden products. There was, after all, a school training professionals, as well as a large group of folk carpenters and craftsmen. However, Witkiewicz’s first contact with the Professional School for the Wood Industry did not bring the expected results. The school authorities still opted for Tyrolean-Viennese inspirations for their products. Apart from executing individual orders for sets of furniture stylized to look like Podhale art, highlanders’ patterns were simply considered “peasant” designs. Witkiewicz expressed the increasing antagonism between him and Neužil in the work Na przełęczy (On the col) (1890), in which he called the School “a seedbed of Tyrolean-Viennese taste, a German poison, killing the artistry of the highlanders”.[1] Undoubtedly, this situation encouraged Stanisław Witkiewicz to take up designing furniture and various equipment himself. The first example of this was the realization of (Villa) Koliba for Zygmunt Gnatowski.
In 1895, Edgar Kováts — a Hungarian — came to Zakopane to work as a teacher. In 1899, he became the new principal of the School. The Austrian authorities, in line with local politics, had become inclined to recognize highland designs as “the appropriate national style in Galicia”,[2] which was manifested in Kováts’s activity, especially in his book of templates entitled: Sposób zakopiański [The Zakopane way] (1899).
Kováts introduced his concept into the field of art with solid impetus, and he successfully competed with the Zakopane Style of Stanisław Witkiewicz. The highlanders’ culture, introduced by Kováts, entered the school’s programme, and the designs he proposed were adopted for use by craftsmen. Kováts won numerous orders and support from many personalities in the world of art. However, despite his all-out attack, Witkiewicz neither competed nor argued with him. He only emphasized that the Zakopane Style had nothing to do with Kováts’s proposals, and the two should not be confused. 
The Zakopane Style by Kováts proposed an eclectic formula. Witkiewicz accused him of superficiality in referring to the art of the highlanders, the use of forms other than Podhale art, as well as exaggeration in furniture and equipment decor. Kováts’s decorative patterns combined geometric, floral elements with Tyrolean motifs. They were overused and applied without full understanding of their purpose. The furniture and equipment were of conventional form, with variation added only by inlaid or carved ornamentation and decorative top panels.
The discussion about the priority of the “style” or the “manner” gained publicity, shaping artistic factions. Initially — supported by several architects — the superiority of “manner” was opted for, thanks to which, it was Kováts who participated in the preparation of the Galician Pavilion for the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900. And yet, the public debate between opponents and defenders of the Zakopane Style — who sometimes expressed their views via magazines and newspapers quite aggressively — restored favour to Witkiewicz’s style. Feliks Jasieński rightfully criticized the Paris Pavilion by describing it as “a synthetic-Slavonic-Byzantine-Kovátsov interior of a non-Polish home in a Polish manner”.[3] Over time, a broad group of Kraków artists and professors of the Academy of Fine Arts spoke in favour of the Zakopane Style, as subsequently did the Society for Polish Applied Arts, established in 1901.
Despite Witkiewicz’s ideological victory over Kováts, in practice, Zakopane carvers often used the Zakopane way in their designs, mixing its elements with Podhale art motifs proposed by the Zakopane style. An example of this is the library of the palace in Kluczkowice, which was constructed according to Witkiewicz’s design, although some of its decorative motifs were based on the Tyrolean patterns of the Manner. Such compilations resulted from Witkiewicz’s unclear method of drawing patterns from Podhale art, which was treated freely, as well as from the fact that his collaborators were very often professionally educated students and graduates of the School of Wood Industry.
Stanisław Barabasz, an artist and ethnographer, was the first Pole to be the principal of the School from 1901. From then on, relations between the School and Witkiewicz were normalized, because Barabasz “opened up this ‘chained-up’ institution to Witkiewicz’s concept” [4] by introducing the style of Zakopane to the School’s curriculum. The next principals were artists who had collaborated earlier with Witkiewicz, such as Karol Stryjeński and Wojciech Brzega.

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

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

Bibliography:
Teresa Jabłońska, Muzeum Stylu Zakopiańskiego im. Stanisława Witkiewicza. Przewodnik, Zakopane 2002.
Jan Majda, Styl zakopiański, Kraków 1979.
Zbigniew Moździerz, Dom “Pod Jedlami” Pawlikowskich, Zakopane 2003.
Barbara Tondos, Styl zakopiański i zakopiańszczyzna, Wrocław–Warszawa–Kraków 2004.


[1] T. Jabłońska, Muzeum Stylu Zakopiańskiego im. Stanisława Witkiewicza. Przewodnik, Zakopane 2002,
 s. 19.
[2] B. Tondos, Styl zakopiański i zakopiańszczyzna, Wrocław–Warszawa–Kraków 2004, s. 85; za: M. Leśniakowska, Jan Koszyc-Witkiewicz (18811952) i budowanie w jego czasach, Warszawa 1998, s. 17.
[3] B. Tondos, dz. cyt., s. 92.
[4] J. Majda, Styl zakopiański, Kraków 1979, s. 8.

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Zakopane style chair

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