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2009 | 8-9 | 105-127

Article title

The Cracow Painters' Guild At The Time Of The Decline And The Beginnings Of Academic Ambitions At The Turn Of The 18th And 19th Centuries


Title variants

Krakowski cech malarzy w czasach upadku i poczatki ambicji akademickich w jego kregu na przelomie XVIII i XIX w

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The gradual disappearance of the medieval-modern day guild system in favor of academic structures was effected in Western Europe in the course of the 16th and especially the 17th century. The creation of an academy of art was a consequence of endowing art with the features of intellectual activity, which occurred in Poland at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. In the year 1745, the Cracow Painters' Guild was taken over by the authorities of the Cracow University, but in 1783, it once again returned to the jurisdiction of the Cracow Town Hall. It was only the painters who held the title of master artist (granted by the Academy) that were excluded from the congregation. Theoretically, there could be as many as 12 master painters, but in practice the title was held exclusively by Dominik Estreicher and Jan Kopff. In the course of the next few decades, the guild functioned in a similar way as in the previous periods, though it was gradually losing its significance. The minutes from the Congregation sessions reveals that as far back as the twenties and the beginning of the thirties of the 19th century, masterpieces of the art of painting continued to be executed in Cracow; it also reveals that these masterpieces did not differ in any substantial way from those executed in the 18th c. In accordance with the statutes of 1783, members of the guild (which also included house painters) had the exclusive right to practice their trade. The corporation relied on a traditional system of educating its members, granting licenses to apprentices and masters, as well as appointing elders and conducting guild sessions during which members' attendance was mandatory. In the period 1806-07 and at the beginning of 1810, Michal Stachowicz (one of the leading guild painters of the time), tried in vain to obtain the title of master painter. Shortly after this event, in the year 1810, the whole congregation applied for transfer to the jurisdiction of the rector of the Cracow University. However the petition was refused by the University Council which came to the conclusion that the resolution of the crown court of 1783, can only be changed by the king. In this situation, the painters decided to write a letter to the monarch. The reply they received from the minister of home affairs was also in the negative and what is more, it made them aware that the very existence of the guild was in fact illegal. A serious complication in the guild system was the law which forbade painters to undertake commissions for a fee which exceeded a certain sum of money. During the period of the Free City of Cracow, the guild operated in a similar way as at the end of the 18th century, although in 1818 a School of Fine Arts was created within the Cracow Academy /University/. Its first professors, Józef Peszka and Józef Brodowski did not belong to the guild.. The guild was gradually turning into a congregation of house painters, though formally it was still the same institution which back in the 18th century had grouped, among others the painters of frescos and paintings. The leading figures in the Cracow painters' guild at the beginning of the 19th century are almost exclusively forgotten artists (apart from the above-mentioned Stachowicz): Wojciech Gutowski, Józef Rybkiewicz, Szymon Orlicki, and in the twenties and thirties of the 19th c.: Lukasz Kozakiewicz and Wojciech Dembowski.






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  • Instytut Sztuki PAN, Warszawa
  • Zbigniew Michalczyk, Instytut Sztuki PAN, ul. Dluga 26/28, 00-950 Warszawa, Poland


Document Type

Publication order reference


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