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    The exhibition ‘Matejko: Painter and History’ at the National Museum in Krakow

    Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

    Over 300 objects showcasing the creativity of Jan Matejko are now featured in a new exhibition at the National Museum. The exhibition offers a glimpse into a new facet of the artistry of the Krakow-based artist. The exhibition ‘Matejko: Painter and History’ is the first extensive monographic exhibition dedicated to the creator of the painting “Battle of Grunwald” in several decades.


    “It was paradoxical that an artist who is so important to us and seemingly present in our culture had not had such a large exhibition for decades.”,

    says Andrzej Szczerski, the director of the National Museum in Krakow.

    It was the institution’s initiative that led to the year 2023 being declared the Year of Jan Matejko by the Polish Senate. The inspiration behind this decision were three important anniversaries falling in that year: the 185th anniversary of the artist’s birth, the 130th anniversary of his death, and the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the first biographical museum in Polish lands, the Jan Matejko House.

    The grand monograph of Jan Matejko at the National Museum in Krakow unveils the fascinating aspect of the artistry of the most prominent painter of the era of historicism, presenting new facets of his creativity.

    “The exhibition is conceived as a revision of our thinking about Matejko. We want to show him from a new perspective, and this is also reflected in the selection of objects. We have both large-format paintings and works of medium and small formats, drawings, photographs, sketches, and an extraordinary collection of objects from Jan Matejko’s collection, which opens our exhibition and reveals the world of Matejko’s imagination,” explains Andrzej Szczerski.

    “We want to demonstrate how the language of paintings, the visual language, can tell a story about history only when employed by such an exceptional figure as Jan Matejko.”,

    he emphasizes.

    The exhibition features over 300 objects from across Poland, some of which come from private collections. One of these objects is the painting “Jan Kazimierz na Bielanach” from 1861, which was considered lost for many years.

    “The painting, in many ways, already raises the issues that will haunt Matejko throughout his entire career, reminding us not only of the fantastic and magnificent events from Polish history but also of those moments when the fate of Polish statehood hung in the balance. Matejko delves into these painful events precisely to awaken hope and remind us that the spirit of the nation has not perished.”,

    explains Michał Haake, the curator of the exhibition.

    “That is precisely why, since we have known him for years, it is worth taking a closer look once again and appreciating not only his artistry but also the magnificent ideas he developed to narrate the history of Poland. This exhibition is about painting and history. These two realms intertwine and complement each other. Matejko was not the only artist who depicted Polish history with a brush, but he certainly developed a narrative and a storytelling method that can be called artistic,”

    emphasizes the exhibition curator.

    Visitors to the exhibition can witness not only famous paintings such as “Stańczyk,” “Rejtan,” “Polonia – Year 1863,” and “Kazanie Skargi” but also works unknown to the wider public. Among the exhibits, there are also numerous testimonials of gratitude and recognition, reminding us of the artist’s social contributions.

    The exhibition ‘Matejko: Painter and History’ at the National Museum in Krakow will be open to visitors from June 23, 2023, until January 7, 2024. It is an excellent opportunity to revisit and appreciate the artistic legacy of Jan Matejko and his unique way of narrating the history of Poland through his brush.

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