May 25, 2022

Painters and the Baltic Sea

Poland is a geographically diverse country. You can find here vast forests and grasslands, picturesque lakes, majestic mountains, and charming Pomerania. Even though there was no significant art colony on the Polish coast, unlike in Zakopane and the Tatra mountains, painters were just as eager to visit the Baltic Sea. The relatively late "discovery" of this region by Polish artists was influenced by the political circumstances and Pomerania's reintegration with Poland after the First World War. Our auction "Nad Bałtykiem. Polska Marina XX wieku" ("The Baltic Sea. Polish Marine Painting from the 20th century") presents you with the works by almost all the most important Polish marine painters. Let us introduce you to some of them.


Jerzy Kossak's "Poland's Wedding to the Sea" is a unique composition that stands out from the others owing to its theme. General Józef Haller symbolically re-united Poland with the sea in Puck on 10 February 1920. This symbolic gesture has "restored" the Baltic Sea for Polish artists. Starting from the 1920s, painters flocked in droves to the coast. The allegorical wedding was portrayed by various artists. However, it was Wojciech Kossak who created the most famous and iconic composition. Jerzy faithfully copied the motif, following in his father's footsteps, perfectly preserving the solemnity of the moment. The viewer participates in this spectacular event. In the painting, we notice soldiers lined up with firearms and Polish flags fluttering in the wind along the sandy bay. This patriotic march seems to be never-ending. In the very center of the composition, we see the figure of General Haller leading the soldiers. Presented on horseback, the commander raises his right hand to the sea in a symbolic gesture. This composition is representative of Jerzy Kossak's oeuvre, which has a strong patriotic profile. It comes as no surprise, as the artist grew up in a house which highly valued Polish traditions.


Today, landscape painting by Wojciech Weiss is synonymous with early, expressionist views from Strzyżów near Carpathia, atmospheric panoramas from Italy and the vicinity of Krakow, as well as, or even above all, landscapes created in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska. However, it's worth recalling that the Baltic shore was also an important location for open-air painting. Weiss and his wife Aneri came to the Baltic Sea in 1935 and returned there regularly in the following years, until 1938. As evidenced by countless oil compositions, watercolors, and drawings, these romantic outdoor painting sessions abound in artistic elations. For both Wojciech and Irena, the Baltic beaches and dunes were prime spots for painting. They often portrayed each other, although they were primarily interested in natural landscapes. The Weiss family traveled to Rozewie, to Gdynia, and to Jastrzębia Góra. This is where they made the landscapes presenting the vicinity of Lisi Jar or the terrace of the "Rossetówka", a villa erected by one of the first constructors of the resort, Alexander de Rosset. Weiss himself would write about the coast as follows:

"The horizon is clearly defined by the line. The ocean by its level.
Clouds hang over the sea - sacks filled with wind.
The ones closer to me - lit with the sun.
These further - in the depths of shadows.
The dark blue of the sky rises vertically – into the abyss of zenith (...)"

- Wojciech Weiss, fragment of the poem "Infinity", from the "Landscapes" series 

Wojciech Weiss' landscape, available at our auction, presents a tranquil scene somewhere on the Baltic dunes. In the foreground, flora is stirred by the sea breeze. The artist often painted the overgrown sandy coastlines with golden cytisus and silvery lime grass, each time with remarkable attention. In this landscape, almost half of the composition is occupied by the sky – blue, with pink and orange reflections over the horizon. The lower part of the work was "split" between the sea and sand dunes. 

Of course, the marine auction would not have been possible without Marian Mokwa, the leading painter from the coast. Since his arrival in Sopot in 1918, the artist had been permanently associated with the Baltic Sea and its environs. In 1934, he founded the Maritime Painting Gallery in Gdynia, also known as the Maritime Gallery. He published "Fale" ("Waves") literary and artistic magazine, and actively participated in the local artistic life. Our offer presents you with three works by Mokwa. The oil painting presents a lonely boat floating on the surface of a calm sea. His watercolors, in turn, feature the Baltic beaches. On one of them, the outline of the Orłowo cliff can be seen in the distance. Artists such as Henryk Baranowski, Antoni Suchanek, and Eugeniusz Dzierzencki should be remembered alongside Marian Mokwa. Their landscapes are gaining in popularity among the collectors, being at the same time inextricably linked to the Baltic region. 

The monumental canvas by Stanisław Gałek is certainly among one of the most unique items available in our offer. This painter, who was best known for his activity in Podhale, also proved himself as a skilled marine painter. In his interpretation, the sea is wild and frightening. Just as with a gouache painting titled "Storm" by Soter Jaxa Małachowski, another famous Polish marine painter. Being dominated by natural landscapes, our auction also presents you with vedutas, for instance, views from Ustka, Łeba, and Gdynia. Gdańsk is naturally the most popular motif in these landscapes, as testified by Henryk Dąbrowski's remarkable panorama of the city.