Jan Matejko – the most prominent Polish artist stated: ‘Art must not be separated from love of homeland’ (...). Art is connected with love to the country in God’s love’. It is important, wise and beautiful statement surely refers to the collections of many museums, but especially to the Warsaw National Museum

The National Museum in Warsaw has been opened again after a renovation nearly a year ago, and, more precisely, its three most important parts. These are: Gallery of Polish Paintings, Gallery of the Old-Polish and European portraits and Gallery of European Paintings. There are still closed: Gallery of Ancient Art, Gallery of Middle-Age Art, Gallery of Art of XX and XXI century and Gallery Faras.

150 years of Fine Art Museum

For the last few dozen years, the most important Polish museum has been led onto the verge of its collapse through the lack of money, light-heartedness and stupidity of clerks responsible for culture, and sometimes even through a bad will. Such a bad will was shown, among the others, by the previous manager of the museum, who, instead of rescue actions, decided to change the profile and shape of collections completely, so that it would not be the National Museum any more. Luckily it did not happen so due to many protests. In 2012 the museum celebrates its jubilee – it was founded 150 years ago as the Fine Art Museum. At that time in 1862 Poland was not on the Europe map. After regaining its independence in 1918, the National Museum was an important object of the culture of the Second Polish Republic. The present collections are over 800 thousand of works of the Polish and world art from the ancient times to XXI century. Among them there are masterpieces of Józef Chełmoński, Stanislaw Wyspiański, Jacek Malczewski, Julian Fałat, Olga Boznanska, Józef Mehoffer, Henryk Siemiradzki, Maksymilian and Aleksander Gierymscy and many others, whose compositions is the Polish memory and identity, and the national heritage.

Matejko present and absent

If the ‘National’ is the most important museum in Poland, its most important part is the Gallery of Polish Paintings and the hall of Matejko in it. Here there is a picture no1 of the Polish paintings – ‘A battle of Grunwald’ by Jan Matejko. Two years ago the valuable picture was taken down from the exhibition and subjected to thorough conservation because due to deliberate actions and stupidity it was even endangered by destruction. At present ‘Grunwald’ can be admired again, but the conservatory works are going to take a few months. The monumental masterpieces of Matejko have not only Polish but also the European significance, and are an excellent artistic vision of the history, show Poland and Poles at the times of glory and failure but they were always painted through patriotic premise.

Such masterpieces are undoubtedly ‘A sermon of Priest Skarga’ and ‘Stanczyk during a ball on the court of the queen Bona when the news comes after the loss of Smolensk’. It is not known why the full name of the picture disappeared from the signature and it is, after all, the signature of the very Matejko! Do the long hands of Kremlin reach the National Museum after the catastrophe in Smolensk on 10 April 2010? But these are not the only changes in the Matejko hall after the renovation of the National Museum. Here the auto-portrait of the artist ‘A verdict against Matejko’ was sent ‘temporarily’ to Moscow. And, after all, in Moscow and Petersburg there are thousands of art works which were stolen in Poland by the Russians and have never been given back to us, according to the Russian political doctrine which used to be tsar’s and later the soviet one: ‘What is ours, is yours and we can discuss about yours’.

The disappearance of other works of Matejko after the renovation of the ‘National’ is also surprisingly strange, such as ‘Bohdan Chmielnicki with Tuhaj-bej at Lvov’ and ‘King Zygmunt August with Barbara in Vilnius’. The bust of the very Matejko was also taken from the Matejko hall and in the warehouses the ‘Russian homage’ is hidden, that is, ‘Szujscy tsars brought to the Warsaw seym to Zygmunt III by Żółkiewski in the year 161’. This all is not accidental!

After the renovation in the main hall of the National Museum two (!) enormous portraits of the tsar Mikołaj II have been exhibited, who had ordered to hang relentlessly the heroes fighting for the freedom of Poland, including Stefan Okrzeja.

On the side track

Two pictures of Jacek Malczewski ‘At the stage’ and ‘Sunday in Siberia’ were moved from one of the most important halls of the ‘National’ to a small dark room and literally hidden there. It is a suggestive painting testimony of the extermination of Poles by the Russians not only in the XIX century. In a similar way the masterpiece of the Renaissance painting ‘A battle of Orsza’ was removed from the main hall of the museum and taken to the second floor rarely visited by tourists. Certainly the painting shows a great victory of Poland over Russia in 1514. It was the Russian cannons gained by the Polish armies at Orsza from which the bell of Zygmunt in Wawel was moulded for the immemorial glory.

For incomprehensible reasons the masterpieces of Stanislaw Wyspiański were hidden in a side, small and dark room from a wide audience. These were, among the others, wonderful portraits of children, famous ‘Motherhood’ and ‘Mulch’. Wyspiański is one of the most important Polish artists – we must not omit his unique paintings in the main exposition of the National Museum! The same concerns paintings of the only woman Olga Boznańska in the Polish painting, a prominent impressionist. She was also omitted and pushed aside ‘onto the side track’ of the National Museum.

Stalin, Hitler and...Piłsudski

An absolute disgraceful political scandal is a new exhibition hall after the renovation – fortunately only temporary – of the National Museum, showing totalitarism and authoritarianism in art. Here the genocide criminals Stalin and Hitler are presented near each other, as well as Bierut and beside them – the father of the Polish freedom Józef Piłsudski. It is incredible that in the National Museum in 2012 the Marshal Józef Piłsudski – the commander-in-chief of State and the Chief Leader and the tamer of the Red Army in the battle of Warsaw was placed near the criminals! This soviet and communist vision of the history of Poland at the times of the Polish People’s Republic! It is strange that the present management of the ‘National’ has used it. It must be changed immediately; it is not the Polish national heritage but the soviet one, this is the Russian, not the Polish raison d’etat to compare Józef Piłsudski with Stalin and Hitler!

It may only be a stupidity of art historians, not the conscious activity of the Russian agents. But it is possible that it is even worse and all changes in the Warsaw National Museum are only the element of the reconciliation between Putin’s Russia after the Smolensk catastrophe on 10 April 2010!

* * *

Józef Szaniawski – dr in history, a political scientist, a publicist in Poland and America, professor at the University of Social culture and Media and the University of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, the author of monography ‘The empire of evil – Russia against Poland and Europe’ and ‘The Marshal Piłsudski in the defence of Poland and Europe’. In the martial time, he was arrested by the Security Service and sentenced for the independence activity for 10 years of imprisonment, evicted and acquitted by the Supreme Court in 1990 as the last political prisoner of the Polish People’s Republic; in the years 1993 – 2004, as a proxy of the colonel Ryszard Kukliński led to his rehabilitation and rejecting the disgraceful verdict of death penalty from the martial law.


"Niedziela" 26/2012

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl