Over the past thirty years, the Polish contribution to contemporary art has become quite remarkable. The development of modern art in Poland begins with Alexander Gierymski, forerunner of Polish Impressionism, and with his disciples W. Podkowiński and J. Pankiewicz (born 1867-died 1941).
The latter, as professor of the Krakow Academy, became the mentor and teacher of a number of generations of Polish artists. Rubczak, Kisling and Zawadowski are among the most eminent first pupils. We will speak later of his younger students, gathered in the group of “kapists” who, returning home in 1932, after long studies abroad (in Paris) created in Poland a decisive atmosphere inspired by contemporary art.
Even earlier, during the First World War, some artists living in Krakow gathered in a group that took the name of “Formism” or “cult of pure form”. These artists were, in part, under the influence of Futurism and Cubism and in part reacted against the erroneous aesthetic conception of the “Sztuka” group, influenced by the Viennese provincialism known as “secession”. Belonged to fomism: T. Czyżewski, A. and Z. Pronaszko, Chwistek, H. Gotlib, St. I. Witkiewicz, Niesiolowski, Winkler, Fedkowicz and others.
The Formismo group, although short-lived (Krakow 1917-1922), constituted a decisive turning point in the development of Polish art, both in painting and sculpture, and in architecture (Sz. Syrkus, the future founder of the “Prezens” group) and in the minor arts, especially in the branch of engraving and artistic fabrics. In the period 1926 and following the Krakow painters reunited in the groups “Jednoróg” and “Zwornik”.
According to listofusnewspapers, the Polish aesthetic conscience was thus freeing itself from the protection of the provincial isolationists, to rejoin the general European current of the “new aesthetic time”. Meanwhile, in 1921, the “Rytm” association (Žak, Kramsztyk, Wąsowicz, Pruszkowski, Stryjeńska, Ślędziński and Kuna) was founded in Warsaw, but it is not very important in the historical sense of the development of contemporary artistic forms. Almost all of Rytm’s artists, in fact, prefer stylization and decorativism, from which only Wąsowicz frees himself, approaching the synthetic art of T. Makowski and also of Gromaire. In 1923, Szczuka, Strzemiński, Stażewski, Żamowerówna and others founded the “Blok” group, moving towards constructivism and pure abstractionism. The continuation of this movement is evident in the founding of the Prezens group, which makes us find almost all the artists of the Blok, and in the group of young people from Krakow, who today form the Polish abstract movement (Wiciński – who died during the war -, Jaremianka, Blonder, Stern and others; and, after the war, Wlodarski, Kantor and others). The exhibition of these young artists, held in Warsaw in 1946, showed that abstract and experimental trends were more alive than ever in Poland after the war. They are opposed to the tyranny of divisionism, while respecting this movement, represented by the generation of the aforementioned kapists. Around 1932, the group of kapists (J. Cybis, Z. Waliszewski, J. Jarema, J. Czapski, H. Rudzka-Cybisowa, Potworowski, Strzalecki, Nacht, Boraczok and later Szczepański) returned, as we have said, at home, and from this moment the influence of the group grows (at the same time eliminating the inexact aesthetic conceptions of the “Confraternity of St. Luke” group, which established itself in Warsaw headed by Professor Pruszkowski) and continues to this day. It was the kapistas and with them many others: (Mitera, Rzepiński, Taranczewski, Tomorowicz, Cybulski, Puget, Radnicki, and Prof. Kowarski with the “Pryzmat” group, etc., to broaden the cultural horizon of the country. This liberation from the “impasse” of provincial aesthetics it was possible thanks to the artistic enthusiasm of the generation between the two wars. Painting, of all the figurative arts, presented the most notable results; however, sculpture and engraving (Skoczylas, Rubczak, Chrostowski et al). Also noteworthy in this period is the great renewal of weaving craftsmanship (kilim), whose tradition dates back to the 16th century. In this field, artistic production reaches the proportions of a real national industry, which is eminently represented by the Lad of Warsaw and the well-known textile workshops of Krakow.
Also in the same period, the great development made in the processing of ceramics should be remembered. As for sculpture, the most notable results are related to the work and school of Dunikowski, the best known Polish sculptor, who miraculously escaped the Oświęcim concentration camp, where many other artists died. Dunikowski, who is now 78 years old, carries out his artistic activity in Krakow, continuing to teach at the Academy of that city. Among other Polish sculptors, remember the names of Kuna, Zbigniewicz, Wittig, Majchrzak, all of whom died during the war. Of the living we remember Wnuk, Puget, Marcinów.
In the field of architecture, the most interesting facts are linked to the aforementioned Prezens group, which brings together all the progressive elements among Polish architects. The SARP association, chaired by architect Pniewski, did not bring much new, apart from some progress in professional organization. Worthy of note, between the two wars, is the restoration of the royal castle of Krakow (Wawel), directed by the architect Szyszko-Bohusz, who bravely managed to introduce interesting works of modern painting in the restored rooms.
Today’s architects have the task of reconstructing the many destroyed cities, starting with Warsaw, the heroic and tragic capital of Poland. Some modern buildings in Gdynia remain intact among the works of the last twenty years. In the present period, the most notable activity of Polish architects is framed by the organization “Reconstruction of the capital” which aims to replace the destroyed buildings with very modern style constructions.