Painting on glass / pure form

Photo from an opening day of the exhibition
murowany 4. piętrowy gmach w stylu zakopiańskim


Main Building

a branch of the Tatra Museum in Zakopane

Zakopane, ul. Krupówki 10

Painting on glass / pure form exhibition

July 31 – November 13, 2022

The exhibition Painting on glass / pure form reminds us of the beginning of the twentieth century, when native art forms such as painting on glass were considered ‘of equal importance to fine art’in the understanding of art. This took place in the context of the new artistic movements that were occurring in Europe at the time, which questioned the existing canon of academic realism and the ideal of beauty. In Poland, it was called formism, and the artist Witkacy, announcing the theory of Pure Form, outlined its meaning and influence. He stated that: “the essence of painting was and is to create formal structures, and not to imitate a piece of the outside world in its randomness and chaos”. Zbigniew Pronaszko, on the other hand, emphasized the directness of the representations and believed that folk artists “guided by intuition and an innate, unusual, artistic sense, were able to create works of art that give us artistic experiences analogous to famous works of art and famous artists”. They fascinate with their symmetrical compositions that fit a specific type, representations that are naïve but strongly expressed, lapidary drawing, contrasting colour schemes, lack of depth in perspective and their own kind of harmony, as well as a certain convention in presenting shapes. What academism considered to be a formal error in paintings on glass turned out to be an advantage for the Formists. Until the end of the nineteenth century, paintings on glass were considered “daubry”. According to the artist and art critic Stanisław Witkiewicz, they were “terrible”, “gloomy” and “naïve”. And yet, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the artistry in them was noticed. In 1917, the Formists organized their first exhibition in the building of the Society of  Friends of Fine Arts in Krakow, where they presented their works along with twenty-eight paintings on glass. Only a few words were devoted to them in the catalogue: “Podhale glass paintings, from the collections of the noble Stecki, Ostrowski and Lustgarden families”. They were an introduction to the works of the Formists, which were the focus of the exhibition. On display today, for the first time after conservation work, are numerous nineteenth-century paintings on glass from the collection of the Tatra Museum, and selected items from the National Museum in Krakow. This time we have reversed the narrative, so that it is the works of the Formists that now complement the paintings on glass. So, let us take a look at the images on glass that inspired the creative interpretation of their “pure form”, perceived through the prism of the evaluation of formal, and not content-related values.


Magdalena Kwiecińska – exhibition curator

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