FUTURE EVENTS




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Young Poland: The Polish Arts and Crafts Movement
An illustrated lecture by Julia Griffin
Sunday, October 3rd, 2021 at 2:00 pm EST
Zoom Event open to all!
*Please note only WMSC members will receive a link to the AGM





Karol Kłosowski, At Bobbin Lacemaking (Legend), undated. Private Collection. By Descent from the Artist

The Young Poland movement emerged in the 1890s in response to Poland’s non-existence for almost a century. From the end of the 18th-century Poland underwent successive partitions dividing the country between Russia, Austria and Prussia, resulting in the country disappearing from the map of Europe for 123 years. In the words of historian Norman Davies, Poland became “just an idea – a memory from the past or a hope for the future”. With the failure of military uprisings, culture became a means to preserve an endangered national identity.

The movement originated under the more liberal Austrian partition known as Galicia, namely in Kraków and the nearby village of Zakopane at the foot of the Tatra Mountains, and soon spread across the nation. It embraced an unprecedented flourishing of applied arts and the revival of crafts, drawing inspiration from nature, history, peasant traditions and craftsmanship to convey patriotic values. While the diverse visual language of Young Poland was created autonomously, in search of a distinctive cultural style and identity, it simultaneously looked outwards to Britain and the rest of Europe.

The first part of the October 3rd lecture will chart the artistic achievements of Stanislaw Wyspianski (1869–1907), arguably the greatest design reformer in Poland’s history, who was William Morris’s closest counterpart. The two artists came from different generations and never met. However, they had a lot in common in terms of their reformist outlook, remarkable creative versatility as applied arts designers and interior decorators, shared interests, commitment to similar causes, and last but not least their character traits and work ethic. As J.W. Mackail, the author of Morris’s first official biography The Life (1899), perceptively stated, Morris’s two greatest inspirations were history and nature; the same was true for Wyspianski. In fact, Wyspianski’s ‘intention was to play the same role in Poland as Morris did in England.’

The second part of the lecture will illuminate Karol Klosowski (1882–1971), a Polish Arts and Crafts designer with a Morrisean genius for ornament. Klosowski’s charming repeating patterns of animals, birds, insects and plants were his means of practising cultural democracy. He stated: ‘pragmatism only serves the sustenance of a vegetative form of human existence. It is beauty which gives life fullness, dignity and worth.’ Unlike Wyspianski, who lived in the city of Kraków, Klosowski chose to settle down in the village of Zakopane, at Silent Villa, where he led the sort of quiet rural existence that Morris longed for but could never experience at Kelmscott due to pressing duties in London.

Julia Griffin is academic co-editor of 'Young Poland: The Polish Arts and Crafts Movement, 1890–1918' and co-curator, with Andrzej Szczerski and Roisin Inglesby, of the exhibition of the same name at the William Morris Gallery (9 October 2021 to 30 January 2022). Julia is a Courtauld-trained art historian specialising in British art, design and cultural history. Her PhD explores Rossetti, Morris and the cultural place-making of Kelmscott Manor. Previous roles include Principal Curator of Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London, Collections Manager of the Society of Antiquaries and Assistant Curator of Watts Gallery.






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