European Art 1800-1945 - National Museum in Szczecin Poland

Like the one of Szczecin old art collection, the history of institutional collecting of  artworks of modern times dates back to 1834, when Pomeranian Artistic Society (Kunstverein für Pommern) was established. Its collection, as well, as the ones gathered in the second half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century by rich bourgeois families, became the beginning of the City Museum, which in 1913 obtained new, impressive seat at former Hakenterrasse, today’s Wały Chrobrego. For three years it had been managed by Dr. Walter Riezler from Munich, a classical archaeologist, Adolf Hildebrandt’s and Hans von Marées' art interpreter and expert on history of applied arts. On account of his taste, excellent orientation in contemporary artistic scene, perseverance, consistency and diplomatic skills Szczecin could create – as it has been called at that time – gallery of the living (Galerie der Lebenden).

Despite financial limits of the museum and differences in outlooks between its management and conservative public, within the space of the second floor of the northern wing works by Vincent van Gogh, Alexej von Jawlensky, Georges Despiau and Moisej Kogan were presented. Since 1926 there was also a presentation of splendid paintings by Hans Thoma, Max Liebermann or Carl Schuch, which, given by Frida and Wilhelm Doering, complemented the collection of modernist German art. Expressionists, including Karl Hofer, Oskar Kokoschka, Otto Müller, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Ernst Barlach or Ludwig Gies gained Riezler’s particular measure of support. Riezler’s successor since 1933 Dr. Otto Holtze used the time that did not favor the artistic avant-garde to enrich the collection of German art of the first half of the 19th century. The relics of Pomeranian romanticism and biedermeier, especially paintings by Caspar David Friedrich and Philipp Otto Runge, were considered that times’ most splendid accomplishment.

Both nazi action of cleaning the museums of so called degenerate art (entartete Kunst), as well, as second world war hostilities and changes of borders after its end caused damage and dispersion of precious collections. The surviving part constituted the collection of Pomeranian Foundation in Kiel (Stiftung Pommern Kiel), a successor of which became, in 1996, Pomeranian State Museum (Pommersches Landesmuseum) in Greifswald. In the storages taken over by newly created Polish museum in 1945 only few artworks were found. Objects found in ruined city and in the area of former province were taken there as well. Purchases and hand-overs of Polish masterpieces became obvious priority, passed by the central authority in 1947. In the first stage, over a dozen of relics were obtained from the State Art Collection and several dozen were put in long-time deposit by the National Museum in Warsaw. Since the beginning of the next decade there began a dynamic, lasting up to now process of obtaining new exhibits.

The Department of European Art of 1800–1945 collects paintings and sculptures created in the period from post-revolution, universal world of modernity to the beginning of new political and social order after the second world war. Relics of romantic time of „Storm and Stress”, realistic and academic conventions accompanying full bloom of bourgeois, modernist streams of fin de siècle, patriot duties fed by artists in the period of emancipation of nations  and stylistic pluralism of the builders of New Europe between the wars let to draw the history of the Old Continent in the age of rapid and fundamental transitions. The output of Polish artists, the most strongly represented, is related to the art of foreign schools, mainly of German circles, but also of Dutch, Italian, Hungarian or Yugoslavian ones.

As far, as landscape painting of romanticism is concerned, landscapes by Antoni Lange, Carla Blechen and Chrystian Breslauer are worth mentioning. Among the works of the first half of the 19th century, there is a distinctive group of portraits typical for bourgeois culture – by  Carla Joseph Begas, Adolf Henning, Aleksander Kokular and Antoni Murzynowski, and, especially, related to Pomerania Ludwig August Most. The collection of his works is being systematically enriched, creating a representative set of works by the most splendid painter of Szczecin biedermeier. Dusseldorf landscape school is represented by paintings by Axel Nordgren, Andreas Monsen Askevold and Heinrich Steinike, and Warsaw tendencies of this genre – by numerous compositions by Władysław Aleksander Malecki and Józef Szermentowski, close to Barbizon school. Genre paintings and portraits of realistic convention are works by, among others, Wojciech Gerson, Józef Chełmoński, Eugen Klimsch, Paul Meyerheim or Antonio Rotta. Great topics of historical painting may be illustrated by the examples of battle visions of romantics Aleksander Orłowski and January Suchodolski, antique motives used by scholars Henryk Siemiradzki and Piotr Stachiewicz and literary inspirations of modernizing realists Kazimierz Pochwalski and Otto Friedrich.

Paintings by these modernist creators are the most numerous and the most precious group in the collection of the Department. Paintings by Lovis Corinth, Ludwik de Laveaux, Konrad Krzyżanowski, Jacek Malczewski, Włodzimierz Tetmajer, Józefa Mehoffer and Max Slevogt belong to it. Sculptures of symbolist-expressionist stream by Konstanty Laszczka, Henryk Kuna and Toma Rosandić are worth attention. A testimony of vital role of Paris in the development of modern art of the beginning of the 20th century are compositions by Olga Boznańska – close to Les Nabis, Józef Pankiewicz and Jana Rubczak – reinterpreting impressionism, fauvist Béla Czóbel and a wide choice of works by close to cubism Wacław Żaboklicki. The assumptions of new classicism are illustrated by portraits by Eugeniusz Zak and Xawery Dunikowski and bronze figures by Hugo Lederer and Edwarda Wittig. One of the most interesting collections is maritime painting. Among its representatives there are  eulogists of both Mediterranean and North-European landsacpes, among others, Aleksander Gierymski, Julian Fałat, Edward Okuń and Władysław Ślewiński. Baltic topics were studied especially by Polish artists between the wars, when the Second Republic regained access to the sea. Record of such „patriotic” plein-air workshops are paintings by Jan Maksymilian Kasprowicz, Michalina Krzyżanowska, Soter Małachowski-Jaxa, Włodzimierz Nałęcz, Wacław Wąsowicz, Wojciech Weiss or Feliks Wygrzywalski. Old Szczecin and areas of today’s Western Pomerania were illustrated by Eugen Dekkert, Hans Hartig, Max Kühn, Otto Lang-Wollin, Julo Levin or Johannes Mangels.

A wide spectre of artistic streams of 1920s, 1930s and 1940s is complemented by sculptures by Georg Kolbe, Ernest de Fiori, Kurt Schwerdtfeger and Joachim Utech, as well, as paintings by  Mar Diemèl, Tadeusz Makowski, Erich Mercker, Tymon Niesiołowski, Andrzej and Zbigniew Pronaszko, Ludomir Sleńdziński, Zygmunt Waliszewski and Marek Włodarski. Among artists beginning their careers before 1939 and strengthening their position after the war there are Polish activists of extreme avant-garde – Władysław Strzemiński and Henryk Stażewski, members of the Cracow Group – Maria Jarema, Adam Marczyński, Jonasz Stern and Aleksander Winnicki, pioneers of Polish artistic environment in Szczecin – Łukasz Niewisiewicz, Kazimierz Podsadecki and Marian Tomaszewski, as well, as foreigners – Georg Arnold-Graboné, Jaroslav Paur and Gérard Singer. Their works participate in numerous temporary exhibitions in Poland and abroad, a permanent gallery restoring the historical place of the modern art classics in the building at Wały Chrobrego is also being prepared.