The ART DEPARTMENT is one of Muzeum Śląskie’s most complex departments in terms of the nature of its collection, covering a wide range of fields of national art. The entire collection currently numbers 20,200 exhibits and is divided into the following sub-collections:
- Polish painting 1800-1945;
- Polish painting after 1945;
- Icon painting;
- Polish printmaking and drawing 1800-1945 and old foreign printmaking;
- Polish and foreign printmaking and drawing after 1945;
- Polish poster;
- Arts and crafts;
- Fine art photography;
- Polish old and contemporary sculpture.
Polish painting 1800-1945
The collection consists primarily of exhibits gathered by the pre-war Museum, with some additions made since it was restored in 1984. It was first founded with the efforts of the original Director of the Museum, Dr. Tadeusz Dobrowolski. Until 1939, the collection comprised 280 oil paintings, watercolour paintings and pastel pieces, yet some 100 paintings perished during the war. Additionally, about 80 paintings have so far been acquired or accepted from donors, including both works by artists being part of the pre-war collection such as Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Władysław Podkowiński, Aleksander Orłowski, Stanisław Czajkowski, and recently, with co-financing by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, a painting by Józef Brandt, and new works by Franciszek Kostrzewski, Zygmunt Rozwadowski, Tadeusz Dobrowolski, Piotr Stachiewicz, Stanisław Grocholski and Alfons Dunin-Borkowski, and others.
Today, the collection of over 260 paintings is considered to be one of the most representative of Poland’s 19th and 20th-century painting nationwide. It covers all major Polish art trends between 1800 and 1945, including Romanticism, Realism, Academicism, Historicism, Symbolism and Art Nouveau paintings of the Young Poland period, as well as works of Polish Impressionists and art of the interwar period. The collection includes many eminent names and is marked by high artistic quality.
Polish painting after 1945
Consisting of some 700 exhibits, this collection mainly aims to record current artistic trends and seeks valuable artworks by artists representative of major painting groups and interesting individual painters. The Museum has brought together works by artists originating from well-known, respected art schools: Krakow, Warsaw, Wrocław, and those based in Silesia. Between 2009 and 2012, new valuable acquisitions were added to the collection of contemporary painting, including the tachist painting by Tadeusz Kantor, paintings by Jan Lebenstein, Stanisław Dróżdż, Zbigniew Libera and by artists of groups such as Twożywo, The Krasnals and Łódź Kaliska. Some very valuable acquisitions include multimedia installations by Lech Majewski, an interdisciplinary artist of world renown.
Since 1999, Muzeum Śląskie has extended the range of its collection to incorporate icon painting. The icons were part of a thwarted unlawful export of the artworks. With a decision by the Regional Heritage Conservator, the icons, being property of Poland’s Treasury, were transferred to Muzeum Śląskie. Although of various creation dates and condition, all of the icons form part of national culture and are of high historical, artistic, sociological and ethnographic value. The collection of more than 200 icons comprises artworks created mostly in Russia. These are primarily 19th and early 20th century icons, a handful of them dating back to the 18th century. They are referred to as ‘late icons’ and were created by workshops and studios based in Russia. This collection covers a broad thematic and iconographic range of representations. They include icons representing the life of Christ, St. Mary, the saints, holidays, as well as calendar icons, crosses, travel icons and others.
Polish printmaking and drawing 1800-1945 and old foreign printmaking
This collection is committed to Polish and European prints and drawings dated between the 19th century and today. The collection also includes a handful of prints of earlier centuries (16th-18th c.). This section of the Museum numbers 2,400 exhibits, including original engravings, plates, drawings, as well as gouache and watercolour works, and aims to present works representative of a wide range of artistic trends and movements, including art by outstanding printmakers such as Jan Piotr Norblin, Ernest Wilhelm Knippel, Tadeusz Kulisiewicz, Bogna Gardowska-Krasnodębska, Zofia Stryjeńska, Kajetan Wincenty Kielesiński, Maksymilian Fajans, artists mostly thought of as painters: Artur Grottger, Piotr Michałowski, Aleksander Orłowski, Julian Fałat, Jacek Malczewski, Leon Wyczółkowski, Witold Pruszkowski, Wincenty Wodzinowski, and Józef Pankiewicz, Tadeusz Makowski and Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz. It is also worth mentioning the artists committed to representing some typically Silesian themes: Władysław Zakrzewski, Paweł Steller and Jan Wałach, the latter known for his characteristic Silesian types.
The collection of Polish printmaking also has a few prints by European artists such as Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn and Giovanni Battista Piranesi. The once insignificant collection of works by representatives of European schools was substantially enlarged with the donation from Krakow collectors Janina and Tomasz Maczugowie made in 2015. They contributed some 500 Polish and foreign prints representing a wide range of themes: allegorical, biblical, mythological, historical, as well as portraits, genre scenes, landscapes, and book prints, both by famous printmaking masters such as Thomas Cook, Erich Dahlberg, Bernard Picart, William Unger, Johann Jacob Schuebler and unknown artists.
Contemporary Polish and foreign printmaking and drawing (after 1945)
This collection includes approximately 2,000 pieces and represents many artistic scenes across Poland, including Krakow, Warsaw, Łódź, Wrocław, Poznań, and Silesia. At present, the Silesian printmaking scene, nurtured mainly by the local University of Fine Arts, is one of the most numerous and thriving in Poland. The collection of prints represents a wide variety of graphics techniques ranging from traditional ones to the latest computer techniques and the related quest for new means of expression. The national artistic communities are represented by: Tadeusz Brzozowski, Krzysztof Skórczewski, Lucjan Mianowski, Jacek Gaj, Jan Berdyszak, Janusz Przybylski, Jerzy Panek, among others. The collection includes works representative of the Silesian scene, including Paweł Steller, associated with the tradition of Upper Silesia and Cieszyn Silesia; Aleksander Rak, an eminent professor of the Katowice Academy of Fine Arts; and younger generations represented by: Adam Romaniuk, Jan Nowak, Stanisław Kluska, Andrzej Pietsch, Jan Szmatloch, Józef Budka, Tadeusz Siara and others.
This collection also includes works by international, mostly European, artists, including Czech and Slovak artists. The international prints have been recently complemented by a precious body of 100 Italian prints donated by the city of Cremona, Italy to honour the high status of the Silesian artistic scene in contemporary printmaking, a field of particular importance to Upper Silesia’s artistic life. The printmaking collection is complete with printmaking equipment such as matrices, chisels, presses, etc.
Polish poster art
The collection of Polish post-war posters is considered to be one of the largest nationwide and numbers over 15,000 pieces. It highlights the achievements of an art field that has played a significant role in post-war visual arts and covers all of its genres: posters related to cultural life, mainly film, theatre, music and circus posters, as well as posters celebrating holidays, social and political posters, and exhibition and advertising posters. The collected pieces were designed by outstanding Polish artists, including the master of Polish poster design Henryk Tomaszewski and famous artists such as Wiktor Górka, Wojciech Fangor, Józef Mroszczak, Jerzy Flisak, Eryk Lipiński, Franciszek Starowieyski, Waldemar Świerzy, Jan Młodożeniec, Roman Cieślewicz, Tadeusz Grabowski, Roman Kalarus, and Jan Lenica. A special contribution to this museum collection has been a donation made by the Committee for the Polish Poster Biennale in Katowice. The gift comprises nearly 5,000 posters that cover all Biennale editions from 1965 to this day. The post-war collection is complemented by a few pre-war pieces, including Stefan Norblin’s posters promoting cities and regions of Poland, and posters by Czesław Kuryatto, working with the museum before the war.
Arts and crafts
The collection comprises some 800 ceramics, glass, textile and furniture exhibits. The old ceramics are represented by tableware, including dinner services, coffee and tea services, and table accessories such as precious and rare porcelain figurines. They come from famous Polish manufacturers working between the 18th and 20th centuries: Nieborów, Korzec, Baranówka, Ćmielów and Chodzież. Particular attention is drawn to Silesian porcelain factories: Prószków, Wałbrzych, Tułowice, Glinica, Giesche, and Huta Franciszka, which demonstrate the significance of the Silesian porcelain industry in late 19th and early 20th centuries. The porcelain exhibits are complemented by a precious collection of Silesian and Czech functional and decorative glassware of the 19th century (the Biedermeier period), covering a wide variety of colour glass types and a wide range of decorative techniques and forms, including cups, chalices, glasses and carafes. The collection also includes contemporary glass art, including that by Henryk Tomaszewski, unique Czech artworks by Lubomír Arzt, Jozef Tomeček, Ján Šucháň and others, and pieces by Wrocław artists Ireneusz Sadowski and Ireneusz Kiziński. The arts and crafts collection also presents some of the oldest fabrics, i.e. 18th-century silk and metal kontusz sashes from Polish workshops in Słuck and Kobyłka, known as persjarnia, as well as artistic fabrics made by Magdalena Abakanowicz, Wojciech Sadley and others.
Fine art photography
This collection highlights a wide range of imaging realms and addresses photography as an element of creative practices that combines tradition with new media. Still under development, this collection’s new mission is to explore the community of Polish artists of various art fields who make use of photography as a medium, strictly artistic phenomena, photography related to contemporary art (video art) and works by artists who use other digital media in their pursuit of related digital art genres (video recordings, including of art performances).
The collection currently consists of about 200 works, including those by Łódź Kaliska, photo montages by Ryszard Horowitz, pieces by Jan Berdyszak, the well-known piece by Zbigniew Libera Che – ostatni kadr, and work by Silesian photographers inspired by the nature of Silesian landscape such as Edward Poloczek, Michał Cała, Stanisław Gadomski, Michał Sowiński, and Zofia Rydet, one of the most outstanding Polish photographers, covering a wide variety of themes.
Polish old and contemporary sculpture
Muzeum Śląskie’s sculpture collection explores typical features of art from ca. 1800 on. The prevailing concepts it addresses are: Academicism, Traditionalism, Modernism and Avant-garde. The artists being part of this collection include: Henryk Stattler, Stanisław Popławski, Jadwiga Bohdanowicz, Edward Wittig, Feliks Antoniak, Jerzy Bereś, Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Jacek Waltoś, Andrzej Szczepaniec, and Krzysztof M. Bednarski. The avant-garde is represented by Magdalena Abakanowicz, Jan Berdyszak, Władysław Hasior, Adam Myjak, Natalia LL and others.
The diversity of art and the artistic communities of Katowice, Krakow, Warsaw, Gdańsk, Poznań and Wrocław are shaped by respective universities as well as state and private patrons.
A separate collection is dedicated to Gothic and Baroque sculptures, deeply associated with the evolution of the identity of Silesian art. These are part of the Gallery of Silesian Religious Art.