Jan. 12, 2022

ART AND TATRA MOUNTAINS

The Tatra mountain landscape aroused more and more interest among artists, thanks to the nineteenth-century fascination with discovering wild and unusual places. The place that most often attracted artistic souls was a small village located at the feet of the Tatra Mountains. The amazing atmosphere of the town near the Giewont Mountain attracted an increasing number of painters, writers, actors, and musicians who transformed it into a real artistic colony.

The picturesque, mountain village, hailed as "Polish Piedmont" and "Polish Athens", was considered the spiritual and cultural capital of Poland. It was there that painters, poets, and politicians could freely exchange their ideas, which, at that time, most often concerned Poland regaining its independence. They ran away from the dull reality and frustrating life under partitions. The Great War did not stop the development of Zakopane. Filled with the joy of restoring independence, artists, writers, and the intelligentsia flocked to the feet of the Tatra Mountains attracted by wild skiing, risky mountain climbing, cafe life, dancing, and entertainment. Zakopane developed from a small village into one of the largest Polish tourist centers and in the 1930s it finally obtained city rights.

Rafał Malczewski was the leading representative of the interwar artistic milieu in Zakopane. The son of the great Polish symbolist painter, Jacek Malczewski, was famous for his passion for daring and dangerous ski rides and courageous mountain trips. The mountain landscapes of Malczewski presented the Tatra Mountains as an ideal and picturesque land, covered with white fluffy snow, "blemished" only by ski traces. In "View on Morskie Oko", the artist presents nature unspoiled by human presence. The artistic convention he used includes elements of "primitivism", allowing for a slightly more magical framing of the real world. The manner in which the artist rendered the uneven surface of the Morskie Oko lake serves as the perfect example of this approach. Water close to the viewer is rough and irregular, while the surface visible in the distance is completely smooth, transparent like a mirror. The presented painting is an excellent example of the artist's ability to render his sensual observations, as well as the personal emotional charge concealed in the landscape he loves.

"The number of the so-called “phenoms" was disproportionately higher in Zakopane than in any other Polish city" (Ferdynand Goetel, "Tatry", Gdańsk 2000, p. 6). Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, a big name among the bohemia of Zakopane, was definitely one of the greatest individuals. He located his "S.I. Witkiewicz Portrait Company", as the artist ironically called his studio, in Zakopane. Portraits of almost all important figures of Zakopane were made there.

The upcoming auction includes two portraits by Witkacy. One of them presents a lady with large, blue eyes and blood-red lips - Irena Próchnikowa née Gomólińska. The work is classified as type C portrait, which is characterized by a very subjective and caricatural depiction of the model, both in formal and psychological aspects. This type of painting was special compared to others. These works did not have a price and it was impossible to place an order for them, they were reserved only for Witkacy's chosen ones and friends. The second portrait offered at the auction depicts an unknown officer. The colors of the background and the collar trim indicate that the model was Polish and served in the infantry. The drawing was created by combining two portrait types - B and E. Type B was characterized by a realistic representation but allowed for a slight accentuation of the model's physical features. Type E, in turn, introduced additional psychological interpretations. Type B + E was a combination of the above, with the artist choosing the ratio of the features.

 

The mountains constituted a source of inspiration, especially for landscape painters. For some, the Tatra Mountains became the central point of their artistic activity. The Tatra landscapes were painted by Stanisław Gałek, an artist who was keen on depicting the mountains, especially in various weather conditions. He was fascinated by the unsteadiness and picturesque nature of the mountain landscape, as well as its immensity, and the transience of the captured light. In his snowy landscapes, Gałek masterfully rendered various shades of white and its effect on light.

Artists were fascinated not only by the picturesque views of the Tatra Mountains. They were equally intrigued by the highlander culture, local legends, and customs. Zofia Stryjeńska was one of the greatest admirers of the highland region. She expressed the spiritedness of the local people and the charm of the Tatra nature through her canvases and graphics depicting dancing highlanders in folk costumes. Zofia Stryjeńska's interpretation of folk motifs made her recognized as a co-creator of the national style. In addition, to a large extent she defined the concept of Polish art déco. A characteristic element of the artist's paintings is an unorthodox approach to folk tradition. Stryjeńska approached old Polish rituals, customs, and Slavic mythology in a casual way, her unlimited imagination allowed her to combine various motifs and play with folk patterns. At the upcoming auction, we present one of the artist's most important graphic portfolios - "Polish Peasants' Costumes", a series presenting Polish folk fashion. It is also the most extensive work of the artist, and it is extremely rare for the entire portfolio to appear on the auction market.

The School of Wood Industry, a center continuing the local tradition of folk sculpture, had become an important artistic place on the map of Zakopane. The school also anticipated the newest, most progressive artistic movements in the world - cubism, futurism, and expressionism. The students of the school in Zakopane combined in their projects the tradition of Podhale art with modernist solutions of art déco. Wooden statuettes on religious themes were a frequent motif of the works created by the artists from the School of Wood Industry. They included the so-called "Madonnas of Karol Stryjeński", whose figures were synthesized, had simplified anatomy, and no unnecessary ornaments. Most often, Mary was depicted without Baby Jesus in her arms, which broke the convention repeated for millennia. Her divinity was rendered through geometric mandoras and radiant halo, multi-layered rings, and wreaths

Artistic craftsmanship was also developing dynamically in Zakopane. Textile industry experienced a real renaissance in the interwar period. The long tradition of weaving in Poland had made fabric an art form and elevated it to the rank of a national asset. Kilim carpets had become representative of Polish art, being a symbol of native tradition, appreciated and awarded at the most important national and international exhibitions on numerous occasions. The "Kilim" Association, founded in 1910, played a significant role in the development of Zakopane weaving. Artists working for "Kilim" drew their inspiration mainly from folk art. The fabrics charm with their ornaments taken from Podhale embroidery, cutouts, and wooden boxes. One of the most distinguished artists associated with highland fabric craftsmanship was Kazimierz Brzozowski, a co-founder and long-time director of "Kilim". Fabrics by Brzozowski were characterized by saturated colors and strictly symmetrical folklore patterns, often with highly geometrized forms. Simplified and geometrized motifs taken from folk art constituted the essence of the Association's esthetics of those times.

We encourage you to familiarize yourself with the entire, incredibly diverse offer of the upcoming auction "Zakopane, Zakopane!". In addition to the works of the greatest artists of bohemia in Zakopane, Rafał Malczewski, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, and Zofia Stryjeńska, the auction offer includes a watercolor by an outstanding academician Wojciech Gerson, as well as Tatra landscapes by landscapists Stefan Filipkiewicz and Mieczysław Filipkiewicz. We also present you with works by contemporary artists associated with the milieu of Zakopane. The polyptych by Wacław Taranczewski, landscape by Tadeusz Brzozowski, and watercolor by Andrzej Wróblewski are particularly noteworthy. Items from the field of applied arts may also attract your attention. For instance, a chair designed by Wojciech Brzega, inspired by the culture and ornamentation of the Podhale region, or wooden buckets from a highlander's chamber.