Man of Different Shades
In the company of diplomats, aristocrats and representatives of the intellectual elite, he kept raising and promoting the question of Polish independence. Thanks to his highly developed network of contacts, Paderewski managed to gather an abundant circle of international advocates for the Polish cause.
Many leading musicians played on Steinway pianos, in public performances and at home. The company not only supplied such musicians with instruments, but also organized special concert tours, thus generating recognition for their brand. It proved to be a winning formula. The Steinway stable of artists included Anton Rubinstein, George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Sergei Rachmaninoff, as well as Ignacy Jan Paderewski.
Over the course of his long music career, Paderewski played hundreds of concerts across five continents, in many of the world’s largest performance venues. This photo shows Paderewski aged seventy-three during a performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Audiences loved his charismatic playing style and personal manner, and he achieved a level of fame comparable to that of today’s pop stars.
Finding its way into the Museum’s collection was a group of photographs, including pictures from Paderewskis travels, often of a documentary nature, like, for instance, several from a trip to the Whakarewarewa Maori village (Rotorua, New Zealand), in which we see the smiling and relaxed couple wearing the villagers’ traditional fur cloak costume.
Of the interesting souvenirs the Paderewskis brought back from their extensive travels, what stands out is a collection of spoons decorated with city coats of arms, resort panoramas and scenes of tourist attractions. The most striking ones were acquired during the Paderewskis’ journeys to the USA, Australia and Canada. They provide us with interesting information about the history and architecture of the relevant cities and countries.
Interestingly, the spoon bearing the inscription “Detroit” was made in the famous Parisian goldsmith’s workshop of Henri Soufflot. It was common practice to have luxurious souvenirs manufactured by foreign companies specializing in the given craft. The stem of the Sydney spoon is decorated with the state emblem, while the broad bowl features a sketch of the New South Wales city hall, erected in the 1880s in late Victorian style.
The next spoon along, in a form typical of such American products, is decorated with the massive building of a hydrotherapeutic facility in the seaside spa town of Helena, Montana, erected in 1889, when thermal springs were very popular in the USA. The Toronto spoon is decorated with a glazed emblem showing the iconic maple leaf. On the bowl is a neo-Gothic building designed by famous architect E.J. Lennox – the largest city hall in North America at the time.
This photograph was taken in the summer of 1921, during a picnic hosted by Ignacy and Helena Paderewski at the couple’s ranch in Paso Robles, California. The boy joined in a campaign organized by the Paderewskis to benefit Polish child victims of the First World War. To help Polish war orphans, he pledged to donate the proceeds from the sale of signed photographs.
One of the works in the Zachęta Portfolio, which directly references the recipient, is a watercolour by Feliks Szewczyk showing a carriage transporting the Head of State Józef Piłsudski, and Prime Minister Ignacy Jan Paderewski surrounded by an honorary squadron of the First Chevau-Légers Regiment at Castle Square.
It is said that the beginning of Paderewski's public activity is the year 1910 – the 500th anniversary of the defeat of the Teutonic Knights at Grunwald, when he founded the creation of a monument commemorationg the great Polish triumph. At the monument’s grand unveiling, the pianist delivered an impassioned speech underscoring that the piece was the product of love for the homeland, a symbol of Poland’s past glory and a sign of better times ahead. The members of the “Kurek” (Hammer) Riflemen Society in Krakow used the Grunwald Monument motif in their diploma as a reference to the master’s great contribution to the Polish cause. Later, the pianist himself underscored that funding the monument proved to be a turning point in his life, inspiring him to get involved in politics.
During the First World War, the pianist’s social and political involvement revealed another one of his talents – for negotiation and diplomacy. It is said that because of Paderewski’s actions, President Woodrow Wilson made the 13th of his Fourteen Point address state the necessity of creating an independent Polish state.
Dr Magdalena Pinker
Joanna Bojarska-Cieślik, dr Anna Feliks, Joanna Popkowska
Dr Magdalena Pinker, Aleksandra Szkudłapska, Simon Włoch
The exhibition "Paderewski" at the National Museum in Warsaw is held under the Honorary Patronage of the Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki
The exhibition is part of the series „3 × Independent at the National Musem in Warsaw” under the National Patronage of the President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, on the Centenary of Poland Regaining Independence 1918 - 2018
This series is part of the “Niepodległa” Program 2017–2021
National Digital Archives