June 8, 2021

1877: St. Stanisław and Grunwald

Thanks to the publications of Marian Gorzkowski, the secretary of Jan Matejko, the chronology of works of the artist as well as his public activities, is well-known.

Jan Matejko, fot. Jules Mien, Kraków, 1901, wyd. Sal. Mal. Polskich

 

Apart from his commentaries to the specific works of Matejko, Gorzkowski published his own two-part diary: “J. Matejko, the earliest years" (1896) and “J. Matejko. The later years" (1898). He described the displayed painting in the following words:

“Each year of Matejko's life begins with artistic works; this year he continued to paint a great canvas depicting the battle of Grunwald (…). Later that year he painted: St Stanislaus reprimanding Bolesław the Bold, depicting bishop St Stanislaus, king Bolesław the Bold, Christine; it was displayed at the end of June during the exhibition in Kraków and then it was bought by Redlich for someone from Warsaw, photographed by Szubert"

(Marian Gorzkowski, “Jan Matejko. The later years till the end of the artist's life. The diary of seventeen years", Kraków 1898, p. 95).

 

In the same year, apart from working on a large-sized painting along with “St Stanislaus reprimanding Bolesław the Bold", the painter created only three other works. All his works were preceded by detailed headworks. Drawn sketches of “St Stanislaus" from around 1877 have been preserved in the House of Matejko in Kraków.

Jan Matejko, Szkic kompozycyjny do obrazu „Święty Stanisław karcący Bolesława Śmiałego” – Dwa studia króla Bolesława Śmiałego; biskup św. Stanisław z królem, około 1877

 

The year 1877 is also important from other reasons. In 1873 Matejko was appointed as director of the School of Fine Arts where he had a large, spacious studio. He makes efforts to reform the school and to give it international significance. In 1877 he established cooperation with the most important Polish artists. He also brought in a book collection and a collection of engravings as educational tools. Since then the School became the most important art school in Poland and the fame of Matejko attracted many students. After securing a sum of money by the Diet of Galicia and Lodomeria the building of a new edifice started. It was opened in 1880.

Jan Matejko, Szkic kompozycyjny do obrazu „Święty Stanisław karcący Bolesława Śmiałego” – Biskup Stanisław z ręką podniesioną do góry; Bolesław Śmiały z postacią kobiecą, około 1877

 

 

In autumn of 1877 Matejko travelled to Warsaw for the first time where he was welcomed by the crowds and where he attended numerous social gatherings. However, it was not the end of his journeys: he travelled to Royal Prussia where he visited the fields of Grunwald and made some sketches from nature.

Jan Matejko, Bitwa pod Grunwaldem, 1878, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie

The creation of “St Stanislaus reprimanding Bolesław the Bold" is connected significantly with the works on “The Battle of Grunwald". Despite the fact that there is a gap of 400 years between presented historical events, both works can be seen as elements of some developmental process of the painter's oeuvre. Matejko rarely referred to the Piast era (“St Stanislaus") in his works and he depicted it rather as a chain of dynastic disagreements. But the Jagiellonian days of Late Middle Ages and early modern period (“Grunwald") are full of national pride. In both works described above the figure of St Stanislaus appears – physically and as an apparition, acting as a driving force in the history of Poland.

„Święty Stanisław gromiący Bolesława Śmiałego”, z: „Tygodnik Ilustrowany”, t. 6, 1878, nr 152, s. 329