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2005 | 18 | 71-86

Article title

Disputes on Polish National Art and Polish National Style in the Inter-War Period


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The topic of the article are the debates regarding Polish national art and national style, which artists from the sphere of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Art (ASP) had with the broadly-defined avant-garde and the Kapists, and which took place in the years 1918-1939. This issue was an important one in the artistic discussions in Poland, one of many European national countries created after the WW I. The artistic circle which was focused round the ASP formulated a conception of national art and national style which dominated Polish official art of the entire period. These artists sought inspiration for their applied art and graphics mainly in patterns of folk art, although they did postulate to transform them in accordance with the requirements of modernity. In painting, however, they associated 'Polishness' with certain formal features which appeared naturally in the output of any artist who related to Polish natural scenery and culture. They stressed that national character is a paramount quality of art, and that it assures art's originality and attractiveness on the worldwide forum. The avant-garde artists and the Kapists, on the other hand, maintained that the task of art is to introduce universal values and to modernise the country. For the avant-garde, a national style which referred to folk art was a tool for those who would hinder the civilisational development of the country. The Kapists accused the ASP circle of conservatism, nationalism and fear of foreign influence; in other words, of having a worldview current in the period of the Partitions, during which the main task of Polish art was to preserve national identity. One of important elements of this debate was the struggle over the 'Towarzystwo Szerzenia Sztuki Polskiej wsród Obcych' (Association for Propagation of Polish Art among Foreigners), which organised state-financed exhibitions of Polish art abroad. In accordance with the notions of the Warsaw ASP artists, it supported art which possessed a clearly national character. For the avant-garde artists and the Kapists, this signified that the Association stressed Polish exoticism and demonstrated that Polish art remained isolated from the contemporary European culture.







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  • A. Chmielewska, Centrum Europejskie Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, al. Niepodleglosci 22, 02-653 Warszawa, Poland


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