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ART & ARCHITECTURE: The Art - The Society of Polish Artists
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[73] - The exhibition of the Society of Polish Artists, not large but interesting, has been located in the small southeast gallery, No. 62, of the West Pavilion of the Fine Arts Building, and the overflow accommodated, more or less satisfactorily, in various localities in the West Court and on the stairways leading to the second and third floors. In the gallery 62 the attention of the visitor is at once arrested by several large and generally vigorously painted canvases, the most popular, as it is the most inexplicable, of which depicts the interior of a gloomy wood with the figure of a nude young girl terrified by the lightning and the whirl of rain which falls at her side and with a fine young man dead at her feet. Fortunately, this picture bears a printed explanation which informs us that, according to an ancient Lithuanian legend, MILDA, the goddess of love, became enamored of a young fisherman, and this excited the jealousy of the god Perkun, the thunder, who killer her lover and destroyed "the amber palace in the depths of the Baltic Sea." This painting, which has been exhibited and reproduced in Germany, is the work of ALCHIMOWICZ, of Warsaw. Next it hangs a still larger canvas by Matejko of Cracow, representing the inspired peasant Wernihara "relating the history of Poland and prophesying her resurrection," - his faithful followers grouped in respectful attitudes around him, and one of them [74] reverently taking down his winged words. The prophet, who poses something like a modern Moses, is draped in red, and the rising full moon forms a sort of halo behind his head. Next this is a simpler and more beautiful nocturne, a shepherd boy "astronomer" gazing up at the stars, with the crescent moon lower in the sky. This is by another Warsaw painter, Kedzierski, and immediately around the corner, on the north wall, is a large and dramatically grouped canvas, by Malezewski, of Cracow, the "DEATH OF AN EXILED WOMAN IN SIBERIA." The couch of the dying one, covered with skins, has apparently been placed in a stable, beyond her may be seen the antlers of the reindeer in a strange red light that streams through a little window; three or four men in long, gray caftans stand weeping at the foot of the bed while another mourner bows himself upon the couch, and the tyranny of the Russian oppressor is personified by the figure of an official in uniform who enters hastily and irreverently into this death chamber. This painting is reproduced for this publication in a full-page plate.

Over the central doorway in this north wall - apparently placed there only because it was sufficiently small - hangs the Pasini-like composition by Waclaw Pawliszak, of Warsaw, entitled "Before the Gateway of Mingli Ginjray Khan, in Bahtschi Serai," - or, as the official catalogue spells it, "Zhan Margli Tivez." This sunny, well-arranged picture is marked by more charm of color than are most of its compatriots, the luminous shadows and the accents of blue and vermilion in the garments and housings of the cavaliers all contributing to the pleasantness of this glitter. On the other side of this doorway, on the line, hangs another good picture by the painter of the "Rustic Astronomer," a "Return from Town," and two canvases by another Warsaw artist, F. Zmurko, of which the better is probably the smaller, a decoratively arranged head of a lady in a wilderness of gray fur. The larger picture, entitled "THE FEUDAL LAW," gives the interior of a mediaeval chamber, a nude sleeper starting up in her couch as though suddenly awakened and on the stand by her side, among other furniture, a sword. Possibly the "law" here illustrated may be the Droit du Seigneur.M. Zmurko sends several other works, none of them as worthy as these two, and all of them marked by a peculiar grayness and dryness of quality. In this same gallery hangs another head, a "Pieta," a conventional meek-eyed young girl in velvet; up on the third floor of the West Court is a long canvas, two young women on a divan "under the [75] influence of hasheesh; an equally large, flat, grayish decoration, "EVENING SONG," figures on the edge of a stream, reproduced here in a full-page plate, and some unsatisfactory children's heads.

To return to the lower gallery, in which the Warsaw artists are much the stronger, the largest canvas of all, though by no means the most interesting, a group of peasants sorrowfully contemplating their grain beaten down by the storm, by Popiel of Cracow, faces those just described on the west wall. At the left of the entrance hangs a carefully and smoothly rendered work which has more of a story, - Gerson's Hedwig, Queen of Poland, breaking down the palace gate with an axe taken from the guard in order to reach her lover, William, Prince of Austria. In this laudable attempt, however, she was intercepted by the treasurer, Demetrius of Goraj, and when she turned on him angrily with the feminine threat, "Remember, I can break you!" he answers smoothly, "Frangere non flecter," - "You may break, but not bend, me." This softens the queen, "and tears finish the scene." She was only fifteen at the time, and this was in 1382. Only a year afterwards, she married Ladislaus Jagello, thus uniting under one crown two neighboring provinces, Poland and Lithuania, and the sequel of the story is shown in another large canvas upstairs, by the same painter, carried out in sepia, in which Ladislaus, soon after this marriage, embraces Christianity and causes himself and all his people to be baptized. Another historical painting, by this same artist, represents the vision of his dead queen, Barbara, raised for the consolation of the mourning king Sigismund by the famous magician Twardownski; and he also sends two large designs for ceiling decoration, and some smaller works. MM. Gerson, Kendzierski and Matejko, are among the winners of medals in this group of painter. The latter, in addition to his "Wernihara." already described, is represented by a rather small and blackish painting, a young girl on the border of a stream on St. John's night.

The list of large canvases is not yet exhausted, - all of them having certain qualities beside their size to commend them to our attention. Alchimowicz, in addition to his "Milda." is represented by a [76] careful study of an itinerant merchant selling, or endeavoring to sell, certain strings of coral beads to a peasant girl sitting in her doorway; a life-sized picture of a Moorish girl standing in an archway, in which the whites are not very well managed, and a better rendered "Ginski in Prison," - an old man visited in his cell by a pretty maiden. A large church interior scene, the congregation kneeling during the holiday service, and in which the gray tones are somewhat forced, is signed by Jasinski, of Warsaw; Szwignicki, of the same city, in his large "Electioneering," gives an eighteenth-century wine-cellar, crowded with figures, painted in the conscientious, rather smooth, hard and uninspired German genre manner; a big crucifixion, pretty black in the shadows, is by Piechowski; an unpleasantly realistic scene of the murder of a girl in the grass by her lover, is by Pioutkowski; and an immense Dance Macabre, of skeletons and nude women, through a firelit air - too big for any place but the staircase - is by Padkawinski, all of the same city. The Cracow painters have been almost equally as ambitious. In addition to those already mentioned, TETMAYER sends a spotty interior, "The Penman," and a large "WEDDING;" Styka, a conventional, throned Madonna, under the title, "Queen of Poland, pray for us;" Wodzinowski, some women in a wood gathering "poisonous mushrooms" - apparently for the sake of their color, though the painter has not made as much of them in this respect as he might have done and a Venus reclining on the ocean waves, rather flat and thin, by Piotrowski.

Among the smaller and more worthy canvases may be mentioned Kendzierski's church-goers, Goscimski's "At a Pond," good in color, Modcustein's study of a white-capped nun pressing a little foundling to her breast and a forest scene by Maszynski, and some "COSSACKS," by Ryszkiewicz. All these are of Warsaw. By Piotrowski of Cracow is a "Winter Morning," somewhat thin in painting, but interesting. The sculpture exhibit, apparently not catalogued, consists almost solely of an admirably rendered head of "A Poor Poet," by Thaddeus Baronaz, which compels us to wish that the display had been larger.

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Last Updated: February 16, 1999