The Gallery of the Polish Painting is dedicated to the Polish Art of the 19th and 20th century (from 1800 up until the 1945). The paintings date from the pre-war period and have been gathered between 1927 and 1939.
These were initially located at the Silesian Museum and the collections have been created due to the efforts of Tadeusz Dobrowolski, the person in charge of the museum at that time, who had visited a multitude of antique shops and national fairs throughout Poland in order to find those valuable pieces of work. But paintings were also purchased from international galleries, such as from Paris or Vienna.
Initially, the collection of paintings did not have a designated place of their own, so they were put to safekeeping inside the Provincial Council where they awaited to be transferred to a specially arranged edifice. The plan was to have everything prepared in this regard up until 1940, but unfortunately history had a different view.
World War II came swiftly, and the new building, which was a landmark of Polish culture, and of modernity, as well, was brought down to the ground. The collections were then transferred to another museum located in Bytom. There were 280 pieces of art, but the dire circumstances contributed to the loss of an impressive number of 100 items.
The museum in Bytom was functioning under the Silesian Museum so the collections were very well preserved. After the war, the collections remained in Bytom, but the museum changed its name to Upper-Silesian Museum, thus keeping the “memory” of the initial museum alive. However, in Katowice, the construction work was under way so that the Silesian museum was inaugurated in 1984. So the collection would return to its “hometown” once more.
Afterwards, the museum was dedicated to increasing the collections as much as possible so as to encompass valuable works of arts of renowned painters.
The result was that the Gallery of Paintings comprised works of art which mirrored the most significant developments which occurred in the Polish art. Thus visitors can admire paintings representative for various periods: Classicism, Realism, Romanticism, Symbolism, Impressionism, as well as the artistic responses to the secession and inter-war period.
Once entering the gallery, it is obvious that portraits form the majority of the paintings on display. The artists were particularly interested in portraying historical characters, artists, important public figures, children and in painting self-portraits.
But the gallery is not dedicated solely to portraits. The other works of art are categorized according to the theme they present: depictions of nature, allegorical interpretations, paintings with inanimate subject matters, as well as representations of interior decorations.
The entire collection should be perceived as a whole, a symbol of the Polish Art, which emphasizes the way in which the artistic mind has evolved in the course of a century.
Up next, we are going to mention some names, as well as their works, in order to have a clearer perspective about the items that can be found at the gallery: portraits by Henryk Rakowski i Jan Matejko, ‘Summer’ by Aleksander Kotsis, The Blue Boy’ and ‘Horsewoman’ by Peter Michałowski, the famous ‘Jewess with Lemons’ by Aleksander Gierymski, Jacek Malczewski (a Symbolist painter), landscapes by Jan Stanisławski, etc.
Even if WWII has caused serious damages to the museum, but more importantly it had made the collections lose valuable additions, the Gallery of Polish Painting is still one of the most impressive ones in the country. Just to comprehend the immense value the paintings of this gallery carry, you should know that many of these are reproduced in textbooks and catalogues, not only those published at a national level, but also in the publications from across the Polish borders.