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- Author Rafał Malczewski
- Date of production 1937
- Place of creation Zakopane, Poland
- Dimensions height: 90 cm, width: 116 cm
- ID no. S/4670/MT
- Object copyright The Dr. Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane
- Digital images copyright © all rights reserved, Tatra Museum
- Digitalisation RDW MIC, Małopolska's Virtual Museums project
The Tatra Mountains have always fascinated, delighted and bewildered everyone with their power. They have threatened us with their volatility and have punished daredevils severely who have given up their caution. Ultimately, they have been a real artistic challenge for all those who wished to tame them and include all that has always fallen outside any frames on a flat piece of cloth or paper.more
Between realism and fairy tale
The Tatra Mountains have always fascinated, delighted and bewildered everyone with their power. They have threatened us with their volatility and have punished daredevils severely who have given up their caution. Ultimately, they have been a real artistic challenge for all those who wished to tame them and include all that has always fallen outside any frames on a flat piece of cloth or paper. Ideas were numerous. Some decided to pursue illustrative accuracy, humbly bowing their heads before the magnitude of the subject (paintings by Walery Eljasz Radzikowski can be cited as an example here), others focused on constantly changing colours and light (here Stanisław Witkiewicz was in the lead) or selected small fragments of landscapes (for example, graphic works from the Tatra Mountains portfolio of Leon Wyczółkowski). For some, Tatra views served as a pretext to express their inner feelings (small size works of Wojciech Weiss can be interpreted this way). Each new generation of painters coming to the Tatra Mountains have tried to confront themselves with the surrounding nature, thereby contributing to the development of Tatra paintings.
Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz believed that only one artist taking up Tatra themes, who was actually contemporary to him, had not bent under the weight of the mountains. This artist was Rafał Malczewski, the son of the famous Polish painter Jacek Malczewski. He graduated from the St. Hyacinth Secondary School in Kraków. He continued his studies in Vienna (where he studied architecture, philosophy and agronomy, among other things), as well as at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków and in the studio of his father. He was also an excellent mountaineer and skier. From 1917 to 1939, he lived (with minor intervals) in Zakopane. He participated actively in the cultural life of the place, by becoming involved, for example, in the Theatre of Pure Form of Witkiewicz, as well as by writing columns and essays commenting on contemporary events in the "Z. village". He was friends with many famous personalities of Polish art, for example with Karol Szymanowski, Karol and Zofia Stryjeński, Michał Choromański, as well as Jarosław and Anna Iwaszkiewicz. His works on the Tatra theme are realistic watercolours on which mountain peaks and valleys can be identified, as well as the vast, almost fairy-tale-like, panoramic oil representations. The latter include the painting Wiosna w górach (Spring in the Mountains) of 1937, which won a gold medal at the International Exposition dedicated to Art and Technology in Modern Life in Paris. Malczewski's work presents a landscape that is both the central figure and the background. In the foreground, patches of melting snow can be seen which make brown fields look bare. Further in the background, on a small hill, there are two cottages to which a ribbon-like road leads. Behind them stretch blue and grey peaks, still whitewashed with snow. Anyone who has visited the mountains in spring knows such scenes when winter slowly gives way to the first spring rays, when the colour palette has not yet exploded with a feast of colours. However, this painting lacks finished details and illustrative accuracy. As a result, there is space for nostalgia. Among these muddy stretches of land meanders a narrow path, leading to modest buildings – to a safe harbour which is a frequent subject of dreams. Sharp and cold rocks form its background. Visitors to the Tatra Museum often spend a lot of time in front of paintings by Rafał Malczewski. Both his "journalistic" watercolours and grand metaphorical oil paintings enjoy popularity. Everything in them seems familiar: the mountains, a stream of heavy rain and "balding" patches of snow. However, there is always a dash of fairy tale, a great deal of understatement and freedom, not only for the artist, but especially for the recipient.
Elaborated by Julita Dembowska (The Dr. Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane), © all rights reserved