Peasant Art and the Natural World as Inspriation: Wyspianski

I've have a lot on my mind. Clear thoughts seem to pop up most often when I am taking walks around the city. While in motion, I have the most clarity...always. This is the case when I walk and garden. Perhaps I need to carry a recording device with me because a computer or journal just doesn't cut it...too much movement and too much dirt. I get back to my room, the computer, my journal... What were those thoughts? I try and retrace steps in my brain. 

One of the topics that has a lot of circulation around my neuropathways is Polish peasant art, folk art, making sense of it, the expressions and the context for expression. Who did what? Why? What were/are folk artists drawing from? What was the their world like while they were making art? Who has drawn from peasant art in different art historical periods for inspiration? Who is drawing inspirations from it today?

Obviously I have a lot of questions (and this isn't even all of them). So many that one of my contacts at the Ethnographic Museum, after emailing her a few questions said, "All your questions and topics are very interesting but cover extremely wide field of knowledge. It is nearly program of 3 years university studies of ethnology or cultural anthropology. If I’d like to answer one of  the topics or even try to talk about, it would take a lot of time. May be you would consider ethnology studies?" Hmmmm.... She was very gracious and about to head out on her holiday so she pointed me to a number of good books in english. She offered for me to read in the museum's library which was open for three mornings before it closed for renovations for the summer. I went, I read. She's right, my questions are going to take study, reading and a good amount of time to answer.

An artist who I have been learning about here in Poland and am drawn to is Stanislaw Wyspianski. I'd like to write about him because of my attraction to his work and the fact that back in the late 1800's early 1900's he was drawing from Polish peasant art and it was most definitely influencing his creative output. I'm so impressed with his work, his life, his vision. He strikes me as a Polish renaissance man, a "Leonardo Davinci". His life ended way too prematurely at age 38. What he was able to accomplish is amazing. He was a playwright, a painter, a poet, a stained glass window designer, a furniture and interior designer, he designed his theater sets and costumes... He was also a non-conformist and shook things up. He looked to the past as inspiration and brought it to the present. He brought Polish peasant art and romanticism to his work yet in a modern and new way. He regularly drew on this inspiration as a theme. He was connected to the natural world which is evident in his studies of flowers and plants. He also drew patterns which evoke patterns found on Peasant costume.  One of his most well know works is a play called "Wesele" (The Wedding Party) which addresses class ( peasants verses the upper class) in Polish society in the 19th century. I have yet to read or see this drama but it is high on my list to familiarize myself with upon my return to the states. I think it is available to see as a film too. He married a peasant woman which created quite a stir in the upper class, intelligentsia he came from...  Wyspianski is one of the most important Polish artists. I like him all the better because he expressed his sense of identity, Polish identity, and consistently referenced the authentic, honest, earthy, yet spiritual peasant art and culture to express himself.  I believe this was especially important as he created his work during the Polish Partitions when Poland was not even a unified country.  Polish peasant art and artist's like Wyspianski helped keep the Polish national identity alive during the 123 years when Poland did not exist as a country.  This reality further proves my feeling that the artist's job is to express the heart and soul of humanity, of a place and of spirit.

The following pictures are paintings by Wyspianski and photographs that I took from the museum that honors him and his work and from Krakow's Franciscan Church where he designed the decorative flower motifs on the walls expressing the Franciscan's love of nature. He also designed the beautiful stained glass in this church as well. It is my favorite stained glass in Krakow. The image of God the Father emerging from chaos is captivating with it's organic shapes, lines and bold colors...drawing from Art Nouveau. I hope you enjoy seeing some his work as much as I do!

Self Portrait with Wife at the Window, 1904

 A snowflake interior lighting design by S.W....

Planty Park at Dawn, 1894   ...this is a scene right from the beautiful green belt surrounding Krakow Center

Stained Glass, Franciscan Church, Krakow

Floral Motifs, Franciscan Church, Krakow

Stained Glass, Franciscan Church, Krakow

God the Father, emerging from chaos...Stained Glass, Franciscan Church, Krakow