Poland Geography and Population

By | January 8, 2023

Poland – visual arts and architecture

With Poland’s transition to Christianity in 966, the influence of the West began to take hold. From pre-Roman times, remains of chapels in rotunda form have been preserved in Kraków, Płock and Giecz. From the 1100’s. Romanesque churches were built in Gniezno, Poznań and Kraków; an example of the Romanesque sculpture is the bronze gate with reliefs from 1170 in the cathedral of Gniezno.

I 1300-t. Gothic architecture was developed in, for example, the Churches of Mary in Gdańsk and Kraków, and Gothic sculpture is represented by the tombstones in Wawel Cathedral in Kraków. At the same time, a rich development took place in the field of book painting and goldsmithing. Late Gothic wooden sculpture culminated in the altar of Wit Stwosz ‘(Veit Stoss’) in St. Mary’s Church in Kraków (1477-89).

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In the 1500’s, the renaissance was introduced into architecture, and convened Italian architects oversaw the construction of castles, aristocratic palaces and public buildings, such as the Zygmund Chapel in the cathedral and the rebuilding of Wawel Castle in Kraków (1517-36) by Bartolomeo Berrecci (d. 1537) and the town hall in Poznań (1550). 53) by BG di Quardo; Bernardo Morando planned and built the city of Zamość (1579-1600), a unique architectural monument. Renaissance portrait painting is represented by Martin Kober (d. Before 1609).

In the 1600’s and 1700’s. dominated French, Italian and German baroque, thus the castles of Wilanów (1680-92) and Łańcut (1629-41). During the period, Byzantine influence became evident in the arts and crafts, and the art of weaving in particular flourished. In the 1700’s. developed a classicist architecture, especially in a large number of palaces in Warsaw, with French and German influences. Soon, however, it got national features, as seen in the castle of Łazienki (1780’s) by Domenico Merlini (1731-97). In the rest of Poland, this development is represented by the noble residences in the countryside. The art of painting was dominated by the Italians Bernardo Bellotto (Canaletto) and Marcello Bacciarelli (1731-1818).

1800’s architecture was characterized by historicism, represented by Henryk Marconi (1792-1863). In connection with the divisions of the country 1772-95, a patriotic history painting emerged, which reached a climax with Jan Matejko. The most significant romantic was Piotr Michałowski (1800/01-55), while Henryk Rodakowski (1823-94) became internationally known as a portrait painter.

The breakthrough of modernist directions in visual art and literature 1890-1914 is called Młoda Polska ‘The Young Poland’: Impressionism is represented by Józef Pankiewicz (1866-1940), Władysław Podkowiński (1866-95) and Olga Boznańska (1865-1940), and the symbolism of Jacek Malczewski (1854-1929). The landscape painter Józef Chełmoński (1849-1914) was also of great importance. Characteristic of the Młoda Polska artists was a connection to Polish folk culture and to the Art Nouveau style, as can be seen in e.g. Stanisław Wyspiański’s and Joseph Mehoffer’s (1869-1946) large frescoes and stained glass windows in several churches, especially in Kraków. The Art Nouveau style characterized construction in Łódź and Poznań, functionalism and constructivism dominated in the interwar period.

During World War II, a large number of historic cities were heavily destroyed; the worst were Warsaw, Poznań and Gdańsk; after the war, however, the old quarters have been reconstructed. In the 1950’s, socialist realism became the official form of expression, and monumental construction was marked by Soviet classicism, such as the Palace of Culture in Warsaw (1955). Since the 1960’s, functional large-scale construction has dominated, supplemented by experimental modernism.

The greatest innovation of the visual arts in the interwar period came from the constructivists: the group Blok with Władysław Strzemiński, his wife Katarzyna Kobro-Strzemińska and Henryk Stażewski. An abstract expressionism was cultivated by multi-artist St.I. Witkiewicz, post-impressionist colorism by Jan Cybis (1897-1972), while graphics were developed as an independent form of expression by Władysław Skoczylas (1883-1934).

Prominent sculptors were Wacław Szymanowski (1859-1930), Xawery Dunikowski (1876-1964) and Alina Szapocznikow (1926-73).

International breakthrough came painter and theater innovator Tadeusz Kantor; in Scandinavia, the expressive assemblages of Władysław Hasior (1928-99) are known.

Polish poster art has gained an international reputation with Henryk Tomaszewski (1928-99), Waldemar Świerzy (1931-2013), Jan Lenica (1928-2001) and Franciszek Starowieyski (1930-2009) as well as the textile art represented by Magdalena Abakanowicz.

Installation artists include Jarosław Kozłowski (b. 1945), Krzysztof Wodiczko (b. 1943), Zofia Kulik (b. 1947) and Mirosław Bałka (b. 1958).

Poland – literature

With Christianity (966) the art of writing and Latin literature came to Poland and soon also clerical and secular texts in Polish translation. The oldest preserved original Polish prose is folk sermons from approximately 1300, but the first known poem, the hymn to God’s mother “Bogurodzica”, is possibly older.

Only the Renaissance, however, brought a rich, independent literature. Mikołaj Rej wrote exclusively in Polish, both postils and lively books about the daily life of his time. The greatest not only Polish but Slavic poet of the time, Jan Kochanowski, founded the most significant genre of Polish literature, poetry. In particular, his gripping, philosophical cycle of lamentations and the loose epigrams are still read.

After the partitions of Poland in 1772-95, most poets felt obliged to be the voice of the oppressed fatherland, and a magnificent national-romantic poetry emerged, especially in emigration. Adam Mickiewicz reached, as in the depiction of his promised homeland, Pan Tadeusz (1834), the image of a lost world order in the light of the heroic exploits of the Napoleonic Wars. In Anefesten (1832) he took up the fight against God in defense of his people.

Juliusz Słowacki, with his restless talent, expanded the possibilities of poetic language in poems and plays. Zygmunt Krasiński addressed societal and philosophical issues in the play The Un-Divine Comedy (1835). With his religious-philosophical poetry, Cyprian Norwid pointed out the new, difficult form and language far into the modern poetry of the 20th century. At home in Poland, however, there was also a more down-to-earth literature such as Alexander Fredro’s festive comedies.

In response to the Romantic cult of heroism and suffering, a generation of realistic prose writers, the “positivists”, spoke out after the failed uprising of 1863. Their demands for “work from the ground up”, enlightenment and modernization as the way forward for the nation are seen in Bolesław Prus, while Eliza Orzeszkowa fought for liberation from ignorance, prejudice and oppression of women. To “strengthen the hearts”, Henryk Sienkiewicz, recipient of the Nobel Prize, wrote a series of still popular patriotic novels from Poland’s heyday.

Poetry returned strongly with the movement Młoda Polska ‘Young Poland’, which sought new paths, especially in terms of poetic form, at once marked by the romanticism and modernist or completely original as in Bolesław Leśmian. Within prose, Stefan Żeromski stood strong, above all as the nation’s burning social and patriotic conscience.

Władysław Reymont gained an international audience through his Nobel Prize-winning novel cycle of elemental passion and strife over the land of the Peasants (1902-08). A modern drama was created by Stanisław Wyspiański with the at once contemporary and poetic-historical play The Wedding (1901).

In 1918, an independent Poland re-emerged, and the poets could now feel free from national obligation. “Skamandritterne”, Julian Tuwim, wrote poetry within the poetic norms about the city for better or worse, about sorrow, love and joy of life. For culture and traditions of Poland, please check aparentingblog.

The avant-garde with Tadeusz Peiper (1891-1969) as a theorist experimented with the language and form of poetry and rejected rhyme and rhythm. Medieval prose brought great psychological, realistic novels such as Nights and Days (1932-34) by Maria Dąbrowska.

New trends that were only internationally recognized after World War II pointed to modern renewal through the grotesque and absurd as the pure form theater in plays by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz and by Witold Gombrowicz and tales by Bruno Schulz.

World War II with its inhumanity, concentration camps and the Holocaust was the background for a bitter and painful prose as in Tadeusz Borowski’s short stories or in Jerzy Andrzejewski’s controversial novel Ash and Diamonds (1948, filmed 1958 by Andrzej Wajda). A completely new, both brutal, harsh and sensitive poetry was created by Tadeusz Różewicz.

Czesław Miłosz (1980 Nobel Prize in Literature), whose poems before the war were carried by preconceptions of a catastrophe, wrote ethical-philosophical poems during and after the war. In protest against communism, he emigrated like several other writers. Gombrowicz wrote the absurd dream game Vielsen (Spanish 1947, Polish 1953) as an emigrant.

Social realism (especially 1949-56) came to play only a minor role. Opposition to externally imposed communism was a significant continuation of the patriotic commitment of Polish literature, from the uncompromising, humanistic and ethical poetry of Zbigniew Herbert to the hard-boiled narratives of Marek Hłasko and to the witty satire of Sławomir Mrożek’s absurd dramas. Andrzej Szczypiorski’s prose is based on both the dilemmas of war and the reality of communism.

Not least the 1968 generation wrote in the sign of protest against the regime, eg the poet and translator Stanisław Barańczak (b. 1946). Throughout the post-war period, a number of great poets, including Nobel laureate Wisława Szymborska, creates sublime free poetry.

An interesting feature is that the difficult history of Poland for over two hundred years has forced great poets to write in emigration. Other Polish writers have chosen to write in other languages, such as Jan Potocki’s Manuscript from Zaragoza written in French, Joseph Conrad’s (Teodor Józef Konrad Korzeniowski) authorship is English. Isaac Bashevis Singer, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978, wrote in Yiddish.

The state of martial law in December 1981 brought for a time almost national romantic tendencies back to poetry, but the fall of communism has liberated Polish literature, also for these tendencies. The new conditions seem to have given new tasks and a less specific national character, albeit with roots in Polish reality, in town and on land.

Rural life is the basis for authors such as Wiesław Myśliwski (b. 1932) with symbolic and poetic novels such as The Horizon (1997). Poetry seems to have lost its dominant role. Authors who began writing after the fall of communism, such as Olga Tokarczuk (b. 1962), choose post-national themes in soon psychological, soon magically realistic novels about the general conditions of human life.

Poland Geography