Silent Rebels

Polish Symbolism around 1900

25 March7 August 2022

Polish painting at the dawn of the 20th century transports the beholder to a world of myths and legends, dreamlike landscapes, ancient traditions and customs, and the depths of the human soul. In a nation without sovereignty – until its independence in 1918, Poland had been partitioned between Prussia, as well as the Russian and the Austro-Hungarian Empires – a young generation of artists responded to the clarion call of a ‘silent rebellion’. Their mission was nothing less than breathing new life into the art of painting. With their works, they created what was lacking in the political arena: a common identity. They drew inspiration from their own Polish history, culture and natural environment, as well as from the art circles of Munich, Paris, St. Petersburg and Vienna.

For the first time in Germany, the Kunsthalle München presents such a comprehensive exhibition devoted to the flowering of Polish art between 1890 and 1918, comprising 130 important works from public and private collections.

Art without Borders

Polish art at the turn of the century attests to a lively exchange of ideas between the local artists and their peers in the neighboring countries. In many cases, Polish painters studied or traveled abroad to discover the unfamiliar collections. At the same time, they presented their works in international exhibitions. In Paris, for example, they encountered modern movements such as Impressionism and Japonism. A sizeable enclave of Polish artists developed around 1870 in Munich. They mainly found expression by adopting the Realism, the atmospheric landscape, and the symbolist painting of Arnold Böcklin or Franz von Stuck they found there. In this way, their painting overcame the geographical and political boundaries of the time and influenced the self-image of an entire nation.

Inspiration and new Perspectives

The Polish artists explored various stories and legends in their works, thereby themselves creating new myths. Another vital component was the mythification of their native countryside and rural life: the ancestral Slavic culture was found among the farmers in the outskirts of Krakow, among the inhabitants of the Tatra Mountains and among the Ukrainian-speaking Hutsuls of the Eastern Carpathians with their manners and customs..

The exhibition broadens the view of the art of our neighbouring country and at the same time opens up new perspectives that invite us to explore the remarkable art and culture of Poland ia time of social upheaval and aesthetic innovations. Learn about artists from the Young Poland movement, such as Jan Matejko, Jacek Malczewski, Olga Boznańska or Ferdynand Ruszczyc, whose masterpieces count not only among the greatest cultural treasures in Poland, but also form an important aspect of European art at the turn of the century, that has received too little attention so far.

The exhibition stands under the joined high patronage of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier and of the President of the Polish Republic Andrzej Duda.

Experience the unique exhibition in our multimedia, 360° virtual tour!

Audio Tour (free of charge)

Exhibition leaflet

#StilleRebellen #KunsthalleMuc

The exhibition is organized by Kunsthalle Munchen in cooperation with Adam Mickiewicz Institute, National Museum in Warsaw, National Museum in Kraków, National Museum in Poznań.

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