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Everyday companions
We buy, receive and collect... items of so-called everyday use that are faithful companions of our reality. We try to surround ourselves with objects that bring us pleasure, that cause our hearts to beat faster and that we take a liking to at the first glance. The space that surrounds us is important. We run away from “ordinariness” and “mediocrity.” We always try to decorate it somehow. The same applies to the past. In the second half of the 19th century in England, artists who were dissatisfied with mass machine production started the Arts and Crafts Movement. They wanted to re-create what was beautiful and noble in everyday-use objects. This initiative reverberated throughout the whole of Europe, including also Poland of that time.

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Everyday companions

We buy, receive and collect... items of so-called everyday use that are faithful companions of our reality. We try to surround ourselves with objects that bring us pleasure, that cause our hearts to beat faster and that we take a liking to at the first glance. The space that surrounds us is important. We run away from “ordinariness” and “mediocrity.” We always try to decorate it somehow. The same applies to the past. In the 2nd half of the 19th century in England, artists who were dissatisfied with mass machine production started the Arts and Crafts Movement. They wanted to re-create what was beautiful and noble in everyday-use objects. This initiative reverberated throughout the whole of Europe, including also Poland of that time.
In 1886 Stanisław Witkiewicz, painter, art critic and theoretician, came to Zakopane. After four years he settled in a small village at the foot of the Tatra Mountains and started a new style in architecture. Inspired by the folklore and art of Podhale, he created the Zakopane style which referred not only to construction but also to the furnishing of new houses. Similar to the above-mentioned English Arts and Crafts Movement, the Zakopane style was a holistic project encompassing every detail of art. Witkiewicz wanted his ideas and concepts to spread all over Poland that was, at that time, under the occupants’ rule. The new Zakopane style was to be the first Polish national style that was pleasant to the eye and supported the national identity. The enforcement of these new assumptions advanced with different effects. However, some artists became interested in Witkiewicz’s designs and tried to create other works in this spirit. These included, e.g., the sąsiek casket and the clock shaped as a highlander’s cottage made by Jan Mosz in the 1st decade of the 20th century.
Witkiewicz thought that the folk art of Podhale was an abundant source of inspiration for designers. He obviously did not mean copying the patterns without questioning, but approaching what could be found in the highlander’s cottages in a creative way. A whole number of items “without which the life of contemporary people could not go on” must have been invented by those who accepted the challenge of the Zakopane style. They included a casket for valuable belongings and a small clock to be placed on a desk or table. Their shapes actually drew upon the repertoire of folk shapes.
The shape of the jewellery casket is derived from sąsieks that could be found in nearly every highlander’s cottage. They were chests of typical carpentry structure reminiscent of the “post” joint used in wooden architecture. The basic structural elements were four massive posts acting as legs and vertical edges of the chest. Two thick slats were let in the posts with a number of embedded vertical planks shaped and joint similar to shingles. The chest lid was flat. They were made of durable hard hood that was joined with wooden pegs. They were used to store various objects in the room, including corn. In the smaller and more ornate chests one could find “holy herbs.” In case of this casket, the author used an object that was intended for storage purposes but reduced its size. He also used a different material, namely steel. The Sąsieczek turned from a heavy massive chest into a stylish and smart jewellery box.
The clock was inspired by the entire highlander cottage with the horst structure and bonnet roof covered with shingles and crowned with decorative pazdur. The face was located in the door embedded in a rich frame hammered in with pegs. The mechanism was hidden inside. Just like in a house the heart beat inside. This form was a kind of advertisement for Podhale architecture. When looking at the metal miniature, one’s memory goes back to the wooden originals in Tatra villages — it happens every time one’s eyes rest on the face to check the time.
It is said that architecture is the art closest to man. The objects used by man every day are definitely even closer. Those inconspicuous companions of everyday life witness our every move, our joys and sorrows. We move among them, touch them briefly, sometimes look at them without noticing them, but we know their shape and every ornament by heart and we are not indifferent to them. We have our favourite cups, spoons and vases. We carefully select a friend who will measure our hours. It is no wonder that, after years of service, they find safe shelter in museum exhibitions. When watching them, remember about those whom they accompanied...

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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Clock shaped as a highlander’s cottage

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