Artibus et Historiae no. 11 (VI)

1985, ISSN 0391-9064

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TERESA GRZYBKOWSKA - The Pseudojapanese in «Young Poland» Art

Polish artists, Stanisław Wyspiański, Wojciech Weiss, Józef Pankiewicz, Jan Stanisławski and others, met briefly with Japanese art, mainly through woodcuts, in the Paris of the 1880s (only Jan Fałat and K. Frycz traveled to Japan). More substantially they learned about it in Cracow thanks to the friendship with the greatest collector ever of Japanese art in Poland - Feliks Jasieński, nicknamed "Manggha", an outstanding personality, writer, and critic. In 1901 he brought to Cracow a large collection, particularly of Japanese prints, gathered in Paris. Soon he became a promoter of Polish "Nipponism" but he transferred not so much orientalism as some western ideas about the Orient. Polish artists could not comprehend Japanese works and in imitating them mostly limited themselves to using Japanese accessories. Only Wyspiański, Fałat and Stanisławski were free of dissension. There are two reasons why Japanese art was so strange and difficult. In fact this art as presented to Polish eyes, was born of a mythical time of everlasting present, strictly in a non-historic time. The Poles totally caught up in history, perpetually fighting to regain their political freedom, could not feel that kind of time. Besides, Japanese culture was based on the knightly Samurai code and the values in this culture were expressed through "perfect" forms. Polish artists up to their necks in bourgeois-Catholic tradition could not understand Japanese relationship to art as something spontaneous and disinterested.

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