SPECIAL PRESENTATION / Craving beauty. Presentation commemorating the centenary of the Society of Friends of the National Museum in Warsaw
26th January – 12th March 2017
The mirrors start turning along with the waltzing,
The candlestick circles away, out of sight.
Look: hundreds of candles now sway in the fine mist,
A hundred more mirrors reflect the ball’s rite.
Czesław Miłosz, Waltz
The Society of Friends of the National Museum in Warsaw was established a hundred years ago. To celebrate this impressive jubilee, we have prepared an exhibition that recalls the carnival atmosphere of interwar Warsaw. The aim is to bring back the joy, enthusiasm, dynamism and thirst for beauty which – combined – formed the spirit of the time. Paintings, sculptures, furniture, posters, invitations, clothes and ornamentation will transport viewers into this fancy-free era, during preparations for a ball in the capital of the reborn, independent Polish state. The exhibited objects belong to the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw and the private collections of Agnieszka and Marek Roefler, and Adam Leja.
Our exhibition is as diverse as the art of the interwar period. Next to famous works by Tadeusz Styka, Wojciech Weiss, Leon Chwistek or Tymon Niesiołowski, we have decided to showcase lesser known names, who nevertheless enjoyed considerable recognition back in the day: Kazimierz Kwiatkowski, Michał Czepita, Włodzimierz Bartoszewicz and Witold Jurgielewicz. Paintings by artists associated with the “Rhythm” society, the Kapists in Paris, or the Vilnius milieu, are mostly representative portraits, united by their classical form, rhythmical composition and decorative character. Sculpture, which experienced particularly strong, dynamic development during the period, is represented by works from Xawery Dunikowski, Franciszek Strynkiewicz, Henryk Kuna, Mika Mickun and Jean Lambert-Rucki. Works gathered together at the exhibition are intended to convey the overlapping of high-brow and mass culture, so typical of the day. The international decorative style known as Art Deco, and occasionally referred to in Poland as the “style of reborn independence”, manifested the affirmation of life and the desire to beautify it. Its best and most complete realization was the Polish Pavilion at the 1925 International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris. Henryk Kuna’s iconic sculpture Rhythm, which perfectly harmonized with the Pavilion’s architecture, is also featured in our exhibition. Another of Kuna’s sculptures depicts Kazimierz Wierzyński – one of the ‘great five’ poets of the Skamander group – and recalls the atmosphere of Mała Ziemiańska café. Wierzyński was a regular guest at this fashionable venue located at 12 Mazowiecka Street – one of the most elegant and popular arteries of the capital. The dresses from the 1920s and 1930s presented in the exhibition could well have been worn by ladies seen on the dancefloors of other popular cafés such as Ziemiańska, Udziałowa or Adria.
As they turn, and their gaze is locked on each other,
Silk rustles against the nude body, but shh…
The ballroom is roaring, with feathers and pearl-strings,
And whispers, and calling, and circling, and rhythm.
Czesław Miłosz, Waltz