Wyspiański’s Soirée (1908) by Kazimierz SichulskiThe National Museum in Krakow

To pluck up your spirit!  

Role of literature at the verge of the fights.

Death of Prince Józef Poniatowski (1850) by Emile Jean Horace VernetThe National Museum in Krakow

At the end of the 18th century Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was partitioned by three invaders that ended the existence of the state, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland and Lithuania for 123 years.

These were hopeless times, full of unsuccessful attempts to regain freedom, but also times in which literature and art played a major role in maintaining national identity.

Portrait of Józef Piłsudski (1921) by Kazimierz Józef MarkiewiczThe National Museum in Krakow

Józef Piłsudski, future Head of State, wrote a lot about the repressive and degrading politics of the invaders to the Poles, which in the long run was to destroy us as a nation, but also about the salvific role of poetry and literature, with strong attachment to the national traditions of uprisings, the cult of heroes and martyrs for the cause of the liberation of the Fatherland.

Portrait of Juliusz Słowacki (1909) by Wacław SzymanowskiThe National Museum in Krakow

This role was taken up by the literature and art of the Romantic period, which not only mythologized old heroes, but also promoted the patriotic spirit.

Adam Mickiewicz as a Pilgrim (1894) by Jan StykaThe National Museum in Krakow

The most important poets and at the same time political activists of the Romatism were Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki.

Portrait of Henryk Sienkiewicz, the Author of Quo Vadis (1913) by Olga BoznańskaThe National Museum in Krakow

Henryk Sienkiewicz is commonly known as one of the greatest novelists and the first Polish laureate of the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was adored by generations of compatriots for raising the sense of national community and patriotic spirit.

Scene from Uprising (1889) by Michał Elwiro AndriolliThe National Museum in Krakow

Art of fight 

The most popular subject depcited in paintings from the end of 19th c. were the Polish uprisings. The purpose of these compositions were to remind about glorious heros who fought for the freedom and independence.

January Uprising - leaders (1863) by Druck und Verlag von Carl LanzedelliThe National Museum in Krakow

Artists usually picked the topic of the January Uprising 1863-64. Although unsuccessful it was the longest and the biggest Polish uprising.

Portrait of Józef Patelski (1844) by Jan Nepomucen GłowackiThe National Museum in Krakow

the series: Lithuania (Lituanika), The Forest (1864) by Artur GrottgerThe National Museum in Krakow

The best-known series of paintings depicting scenes from the January Uprising is Lituanika by Arutr Grottger, one of the most prominent artists of the mid-19th century.

the series: Lithuania (Lituanika), Oath by Artur GrottgerThe National Museum in Krakow

Grottger poured all of his talent and energy into depicting the hopes and horrors of the failed Polish insurrections in several series of black-and-while pannels.

Prometheus (1898) by Alfons KarpińskiThe National Museum in Krakow

Alfons Karpinski also influenced the symbolic trend, was creating enigmatic paintings of decorative qualities accentuated by flexible contours of softly laid color patches.

Uhlans, Uhlans, the Painted Boys... (Legions in Volhynia in 1916) – Soldiers Dancing on Glade (1916) by Stanisław JanowskiThe National Museum in Krakow

The myth of a legionnaire

Uhlan by His Horse (1917) by Zygmunt RozwadowskiThe National Museum in Krakow

Legions is the first Polish military formation in the 20th century. Fighting during the First World War, they helped to regain independence in 1918 and became the germ of the Polish Army.

Legionary Playing Squeezebox (1920) by Leon WyczółkowskiThe National Museum in Krakow

Legionnaires had great artists in their ranks. Painters, graphic artists, sculptors, writers.

Old Campaigner I (1840) by Piotr MichałowskiThe National Museum in Krakow

They all enlisted in the service of Piłsudski, because they decided that his vision of regaining independence was the only formula possible to implement.

Portrait of Józef Piłsudski (1920) by Stanisław Kazimierz OstrowskiThe National Museum in Krakow

Polish Legions under the leadership of Józef Piłsudski initiated their combat trail in 1914, along with the outbreak of World War I.

A commemorative badge of a Polish Legions (1917) by NNThe National Museum in Krakow

Roads to Independence

After years of futile struggles and uprisings, paradoxically it was the First World War that brought the wind of change and the possibility of regaining sovereignty by the Polish state.

The Bomb (1907) by Antoni KamieńskiThe National Museum in Krakow

Prague 1831 (according to Léon Cogniet) (1832) by Jean Pierre Marie JazetThe National Museum in Krakow

Józef Piłsudski wrote that history is a "great master of life" and that "A nation that does not respect its history does not deserve respect for the present and has no right to the future."

Decoration of Lviv’s Coat of Arms with Virtuti Militari (1920) by Stanisław BatowskiThe National Museum in Krakow

But the future yet come and in 1918, after 123 years of partitions - captivity marked by the struggle, suffering and efforts of many generations of Poles - the country regained its sovereignty.

Credits: Story

National Museum in Krakow

The exhibition is an excerpt from an "Independent. Around the historical thought of Józef Piłsudski" exhibition, presented in the Museum on the occasion of the Centennial of the Independence of the Republic of Poland.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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