Przemyskie środowisko artystyczne XIX i XX wieku
Przemyśl’s artistic milieu of 19th and 20th centuries
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An artistic milieu of a given area is usually created by artists; nevertheless local art patrons as well as institutions that support artistic activities influence it. Despite being one of Poland’s oldest cities Przemyśl through the ages had never had its own and separate artistic milieu. As for earlier times of the city’s history there are known only some names of artists who has been working mainly for two local church communities: Roman Catholic and Byzantine Catholic. A large number of artists arrived to Przemysl in the 18th century; that was connected with building and restoring a few of the churches or with re-decorating some of them. An artistic revival in Przemysl became in the 2nd half of the 19th century due to development stimulated by the erection of great fortifications surrounding the city. Next time Przemyśl hosted a considerable group of artists during the WWI. The reason was Austro-Hungarian General Staff’s decision to commemorate military activities in different (also artistic) ways and to establish war cemeteries. At that time local artistic circles got started to organise. Because of Przemyśl’s ethnic and cultural complexity its artistic milieu was internally rich and various. In those days Ukrainians’ cultural conscience was awakening; they were seeking (e.g. Olena Kulchytska) their roots in folklore. The new sense and autonomy of the Jewish art, separate from its utilitarian function, were emerging, too. The following Jewish painters worked at Przemysl: Adolf Bienenstock, Anna Mieses, Maksymilian Fuering, Edward Stahl, or a sculptor Mojżesz Schwanenberg. However, one should admit that the largest and most active artistic milieu was that of Poles. The press information relating to their exhibits and creative achievements has survived in archives. Przemyśl-rooted artists were: Teofil Kopystyński, Feliks Michał Wygrzywalski, Carl Duldig, Otto Axer, Juliusz Studnicki. Some artists stayed in Przemyśl for a long time, some left the city for other cultural centres. Some grew up here and returned to Przemysl after their studies in Krakow (Marian Stronski) or Lviv (Stefania Jacyszynowna). Others settled down at Przemyśl as artistically shaped personalities (Stanisław Jakubowski, Stanisław Jankowski, Stefan Wyrwicz), and a few of them had finished their studies at foreign academies (Wanda Zabokrzycka, Józef Wilk). Artistic circles of pre-war Przemyśl had not any institutional framework; no "artistic bohamia" nor gallery nor fine arts society had existed. Among the artists active in Przemyśl Juliusz Studnicki was a member of Grupa Pryzmat (Prism Group), and Mojżesz Schwanenfeld – of Grupa Krakowska (Cracow Group). In Przemyśl never existed fine arts academy – therefore artists’ own opinion-forming milieu was impossible to exist. In this situation the Przemyśl Friends of Sciences Society in a great degree carried out the function of an artistic patronage: it organized individual and group exhibitions, published reviews in the local press and purchased artists’ works for the local museum. Most of artists presented their works also at exhibitions in other cities in Poland and abroad. Many times they gained awards and distinctions in all-Poland competitions (Juliusz Studnicki, Marian Stroński, Józef Wilk, Stefan Wyrwicz). The social status of artists in pre-war Przemyśl was rather high as they were widely appreciated and respected persons but alas this status was not reflected in their financial position. That is why apart from artistic work they often worked as schoolteachers or clerks in different institutions. Many artists advertised in local newspapers their works or drawing and painting lessons. Apart from those who emigrated from Przemyśl and in their new locations got famous all over Poland, the rest did not gain fame for they had no clout to make their artistic presence felt and seldom showed themselves as artistic vanguard. They are linked to each other with a certain genius loci, and slightly pompous yet moderate style, strongly connected with the tradition, and not too open-minded for new trends. The outbreak of the WWII interrupted city’s customary life for several years. Most of Przemyśl artists wrestled with difficulties of everyday’s life. After the war when the new reality came, some artists started their new life in other cultural centres; some of them however found it hard to understand the new world and never entirely accepted it. Only Marian Stroński and in the lesser degree Stefan Wyrwicz were the ones who received recognition for their accomplishments after the war.
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