Oct. 14, 2021

Modernist reflections of the Polish sculpture

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, Polish art was rapidly developing. Without a shadow of a doubt, it was a time when the Polish artists measured up to other European creators. Their works earned respect at international exhibitions and were praised for their ambivalent quality by the critics. In their works, Poles combined modern achievements of fine arts with elements of a distinct national tinge. On the grounds of the former Republic of Poland, as well as in the rest of Europe, the new modernist art was being born. It was filled with the revolutionary ideas of change. Those changes, which were so distinctly visible in painting, graphics, architecture, and artistic craftsmanship, did not overlook the domain of sculpture. 


The figure who had by far the greatest influence on the three-dimensional medium was a Frenchman, Auguste Rodin. He redirected the way of thinking about sculpture and set a new path for the development of upcoming creators. Over the decades, they worked overwhelmed with awe of his abundant oeuvres. Rodin created innovative structures filled with expression. His figures, often without pedestal, emerged from out the bare soil emphasizing the artist's input. The soft lines brought him closer to Art Nouveau, while the psychological sphere they captured – to symbolism. The author of “The Thinker" and of the lovers embraced in “The Kiss" influenced multitudes of sculptors directly, as well as indirectly. It comes as no surprise, as at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, Paris was an artistic mecca, with numerous eminent Polish personalities living there at the time. 

Konstanty Laszczka was among them. He made the achievements of French sculpture known in Poland, and among other things, this was possible thanks to the post he held after his return from the City of Lights. As a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, he taught numerous artists, who later, thanks to their master, have taken over internationally when it comes to sculpture innovation. Laszczka stayed in Paris until 1989. It was precisely this stay that influenced all his subsequent artistic endeavors. Elements of Rodin's art are distinguishable in the freely formed nudes or the figure of “Aquarius", which directly corresponds to “The Thinker". Those elements were also present at the October auction of “Modern and Contemporary Sculpture" in the work of “Three Playing Children". Even though it was created in 1926, its dynamism and shape directly refer to the 1900 style. The matter of the most importance here are the visible reflections of Impressionist art. Laszczka modeled the surface in such a manner, that the light slides over it, creating incredible luminous effects. 

However, the Polish sculpture of that period does not only revolve around Konstanty Laszczka. Other artists, lured by the astonishing ambiance of Paris, willingly moved there, and became acquainted with the current trends. At this point, it is imperative to mention the name of Wacław Szymanowski and his early composition “Wind", created in 1899. This wonderful sculpture referred to the artist's painting of the same title. After all, Szymanowski also focused on painting at that time. “The Wind" is a dynamic representation of a country girl walking carrying brushwood, with the wind striking her from every direction. The composition of the work encapsulates virtually all the issues relevant to the artists of the epoch. We have here a reference to symbolism, an Art Nouveau, a wavy line, and what is crucial for Polish art – an inspiration by the “peasant-mania" trend. 

Stanisław Jackowski was another artist who permanently incorporated elements characteristic for the fin de siècle in his oeuvres. Inspired by the figure of a woman, he remained faithful to this theme even during the interwar period, creating sensual and full of eroticism nudes. An excellent example of such work is the figure of “Female braiding a braid". A relaxed pose and sensualism make her an ideal model of a modernist sculptor. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, a woman was perceived as an ominous femme fatale who seduces a man, tempts him using her charm, and leads him to inevitable doom. Jackowski's works, admired by collectors, appear on the marked extremely rarely, and it seems this composition has not been known to researchers so far.