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In the first half of the 20th century the artistic life flourished mainly in big cities such as Cracow, Lvov, Poznań and Warsaw. All the new theories, artistic groups and manifests were born there. Sanok, even in the micro scale, could not be regarded as that kind of artistic centre. In the beginning of the 20th century there was not a single fully shaped artist in Sanok and in fact there were no artists who could be described in more detail. Jan Nepomucen Gniewosz from Nowosielce, a drawer and a painter, died in the 19th century whereas Lutka Pinkas was born in Sanok but her family moved to Vienna. The amateur painters established The Circle of Fine Arts Friends in the early 20th century and organised an exhibition of paintings and decorative art with a vernissage. The most interesting works belonged to such artists as Karilanówna, Daneko, Hickiewiczówna, Flakowicz, Krasuskiego, Wrześniowski, Rozwadowski, Rylski and Prochaska. Significant for Sanok was Prochaska's collection passion for all his life he gathered paintings and graphic art of Polish artists working in France as well as some foreign authors. He offered one part of his collection to the National Museum in Warsaw and the remaining part to the Historical Museum in Sanok in 1963. During the Interwar Years the artists from Sanok tended to create very provincial pieces of art, as they remained indifferent to the main trends of Polish and foreign art. The exhibition organised in 1930 presented 324 works of such artists as Maksymilian Brożek, Maksymilian Freund, Leon Getz, Władysław Lisowski and Rev. Władysław Lutecki. The artists connected with Sanok were also Emil Regenbogen, sculptor and painter Józef Sitarz, as well as Jadwiga Lorenc.
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The artistic situation was changing gradually after the Second World War. The Historical Museum was established before the War in 1934 and was called the Museum of the Sanok Region. It concentrated on exhibition organisation and started collecting the works of local artists. The first exhibition showed the works of Stefan Pajączkowski, Władysław Lisowski, Bronisław Naczas, Tyrsus Wenhrynowicz, Juliusz Łaba, Genowefa Stepek, Ewa Nowotarska, Krystyna Rozebejger, Marian Kruczek, who discovered ‘his own technique’, his own style and artistic language, built his compositions by ‘drowning’  some items in concrete and coloured plaster and adding some items and Tadeusz Turkowski, the artist connected with Sanok since his childhood.
Bronisław Naczas, Anna Turkowska with her weaving workshop using a technique of Polish tapestry and Władysław Szulc with his watercolour paintings, worked in Sanok after the Second World War. Roman Tarkowski's sculptures show monumental tendency and frequent feature of movement. Eugeniusz Waniek from Ustrzyki Dolne was a member of the Cracow Group. His works result from personal interpretation of Cubism and Pablo Picasso's art. Zbigniew Kaszycki created mainly artistic photography but was also fascinated with short-wave radio, amateur film, tourism and working with young people. In turn, Zbigniew Osenkowski generally practiced graphic and drawing art but did not stand aloof from the easel painting and medal art. The architect Jerzy Wierzchowski commemorated the early Sanok.

Zdzisław Beksiński was the most popular Sanok artist worldwide. The biggest collection of his works including paintings, graphic art, photographs and sculptures is displayed in the Historical Museum. Read more ...Beksiński became popular when he started creating his visionary compositions resembling dreams and imaginary visions. His technique became more varied later. In some of his works the figure excavated from the space is almost three-dimensional, resembling the previous sculptures. In other works forms result from the coloured line tangle and the painting seems to be rather drawn not painted. There are also works of very painting, synthetic nature.

Except for the above mentioned Leon Getz, several Ukrainian origin artists were connected with Sanok. Tyrsus Wenhrynowicz was a graphic artist using the convex printing technique. Michał Dziadyka concentrated on the easel painting in his works. Young Ukrainian artist Siergiej Michniowski also revealed his Sanok connections. Not only professional artist with large outputs, but also amateur artists worked and work in the Sanok Region. Among late artists with great painting passion and some successful works there are such names as Józef Penar, Władysław Kwaśnicki and also Andrzej Strzelecki.

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Barbara Bandurka, born in 1948, practices figurative painting, very close to the abstract one and belongs to the younger generation of artists. She is also a very talented poet. In turn, Artur Olechniewicz works as a prose writer and a painter.
Jerzy Wójtowicz, a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, initiated the ‘Sanok’ Group which was taken care of by the Historical Museum. The main goal of the Group was organisation of team exhibitions, local art presentation and creating artistically inspiring atmosphere. The members of the ‘Sanok’ Group in November 1981 were Wiesław Banach, Jacek and Ryszard Rogowscy, Władysław Szulc, professional artists Anna and Tadeusz Turkowscy as well as Jerzy Wojtowicz. The ‘Sanok’ Group stopped functioning after the Martial Law and all the members focused on their individual work.
The youngest of the present day artists working in Sanok are Andrzej Gąsieniec, Oksana Kulczycka, Ewa Michałowicz-Smarzewska.
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The last 100 years of the artistic life in Sanok brought several changes. In the first part of the late century the artists were exceptions but now there is a great number of them. Numerous artists of Sanok origin live and work all over Poland and abroad e.g. Edward Baran.
There is a great number of exhibitions in Sanok and the amateur artists present their works in the local Cultural Centres. The Town Library prepares frequent graphic art and ex libris presentations. The young generation artist – Anna Pilszak – works in the Cultural Centre in Sanok. The vivid Cultural centre in Lesko displays the works of amateur artists from the Bieszczady Mountains in the synagogue and the Brzozów Museum organises frequent contemporary art exhibitions.
However, the Historical Museum in Sanok has played the most important culture-shaping role for over 70 years. The existing gallery, storing frequently bought or given works of art, organises temporary exhibitions promoting young unknown, talented artists. The Museum stores, gathers, restores, scientifically describes and displays properties of culture ranging from archaeology, history, artistic craft, Orthodox Church art as well as ancient
and contemporary painting. In 1945-2004, 300 temporary exhibitions took place there, 60% of which were the artistic exhibitions. Present day plans aim to reconstruct the castle wing where a great collection of Zdzisław Beksiński's works will be displayed. Another artistic institution "˜Biuro Wystaw Artystycznych – Galeria Sanocka", focusing on the contemporary art promotion, was established in the moment of this volume preparation.

Krystyna Gawlewicz
Translated by: Joanna Wydrzyńska


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The main part of the modern art collection are the works of art made by Polish artists in France. That kind of collection character was determined by a marvellous gift, which was donated by Franciszek Prochaska (1891-1972) to the Historical Museum in Sanok. The artist, who came from Sanok, after short studies in The Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow under the supervision of Józef Pankiewicz and participation in the First World War in Józef Piłsudski’s legions, moved to France as a military attache in 1920. Józef Pankiewicz had a basic influence on Franciszek Prochaska, when we talk about forming his painting in the convention of painting in which the colour is decisive (the colourists’ painting). Apart from the painting, Prochaska was also interested in graphics, like: woodcut, cooperplate and etching. After the Second World War he opened a small printing house with a handy-fold up type and he published books with a beautiful structure and in small bibliophile editions, which generally were ilustrated by his own graphics. His art room in Rue Campagne Premiere on Montparnasse in Paris was visisted by many artists from the so-called Polish “colony”, which comprises the artists who were permanently connected with France. He was also visited by young people, who had visited the world capital of art. Józef Pankiewicz, Jan Wacław Zawadowski (1891-1982), Ludwik Lille (1897-1957) were the artists who were in the circle of his close friends. Some of the exhibits he gifted to the National Museum in Warsaw, and some of them he donated the Historical Museum in Sanok in 1963.

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Among works of art, which originted at the beginning of the 20th century there is “The landscape from Brittany”, painted in 1907 by Wacław Żaboklicki (1879-1959), the artist who was in touch with Pont-Aven School created by Paul Gauguin. In those days his way of painting was very synthetic and its distinguishing features were gentle transitions of colourful tones and discreet poetics. Two following paintings (bought by museum), painted in the interwar period in Poland, had not been yet in a style elaborated in Pont-Aven. In the Prochaska collection for a while there were two paintings of Władysław Ślewiński – one of the main exponent of “Ecole de Pont-Aven”. In opposition to the synthetic way of Gaugain and “Pont-Aven School” was Józef Pankiewicz’s creation (1866-1940), which was changing from impressionism, through inspirations of Cézanne and painting based more on positive aspects than colouring ones. In the Historical Museum collection there are works, which come from the end of the 1920s and 1930s, when the artist brought closer to Renoir’s and Renaissance masters’ painting. “The landscape from La Ciôtat” was painted during the common location painting of Pankiewicz and Prochaska on the Mediterranean See. In the “View of Florence from Fiesole” we can observe what was most characteristic of the later period of his creation, which means – building the space by gentle gradations to keep almost monochrome, blue key.

After the First World War the artistic life in Paris was mainly concentrated on Montparnasse. Among many famous Polish people connected with this quarter, there was a prominent marchant Leopold Zborowski, the artists’ friend, the protector of Modigliani, Soutin and Utrill. Zborowski was interested also in painters coming from Poland. His death disturbed him in introducing in Paris milieu a young Polish artist with expressionistic verve – Emil Krcha (1894-1972), whose breathtaking landscape of Paris from that period (1930) is in the Historical Museum collection. Among painters known on Montparnasse in the legendary period of this quarter there was Modigliani’s friend – Jan Wacław Zawadowski (1891-1982), also one of Pankiewicz’s student. Zawadowski painted landscapes, still life and acts using very dynamic spots, which gave spatialness to the objects, or in the later period flattening the painting. The basic problems of his creation were colour and light. After Modigliani the artist inherited the art room, then he lived in Provence, more than once painting Cézzann’s theme – St Victoire’s mountain. He was on good terms with Prochaska, until his death in 1972. Zawadowski signed his paintings using the contraction of his surname – “Zawado”. Among Montparnasse bohema there was also an excellent Chilean painter Manuel Ortiz de Zarate, whose two paintings are in the museum collection.

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A famous and ugly art room called Ulem – La Ruche by de Danzig passage was almost a free shelter to the poor artists who came from Eastern European countries. Stanisław Grabowski (1901-1957), the artist associated with avant-garde Polish-French magazine “L’Art Contemporain – Sztuka Współczesna” and the Academy of Amadée Ozenfant and Fernand Léger lived there for a while. S. Grabowski firstly created abstract paintings, then by various formal experiments he was searching for his own means of expression. Later on forlorn and lonely, in the end of his life he got to the poorhouse in Chartres. In many of his paintings with still life encircled by lines “lonely” objects lead their silent dialogue. After the war this art room was inherited by Mieczysław Janikowski (1912-1966), who came from London. This artist in geometrical abstraction reached unique colour, form and sensitivity, as well as interaction of lines creating tenseness or introducing in contemplation by their concentric system.

In the Historical Museum collection there are also paintings of two excellent painters, connected with France, like Olga Boznańska (1865-1940), whose “Portrait of unknown woman” is one of the most beautiful work of art in our collection, and Tadeusz Makowski (1882-1932). “Still life with flat bowl” from Prochaska’s collection painted by Makowski circa 1923 in a great array of brown, is a work from the period when the artist was fascinated by Netherlands painting, especially “Small Dutchmen”, when he had not developed his own style yet. The beautiful oil sketch “Country workshop” with subtle, full of light balance between warm and cool tones comes from his mature period. Among works of graphic artists, who were associated with Paris milieu, there are works of a great loner – Konstanty Brandl (1880-1970), and also a portrait of Helena Rubinstein done by Louis Marcousis (1878-1941). Ludwik Lille (1878-1957), who was a co-founder of Lviv group “Artes” came to Paris before the Second World War. Twelve engravings copied from the artist’s plates published in bibliophile book Franciszek Prochaska, when the artist’d already died. Anonymous people without faces, gesticulating and acting everyday life are often exposed to the strong light or the influence of shadow.

The capist, who came to France in 1924 had also some connections with Prochaska’s art room. Among works of art, which Prochaska gave to our museum, there is a beautiful gouache painted by Hanna Rudzka – Cybisowa (1897-1988) in Paris, and also a drawing of Jan Cybis (1897-1972). This collection increased due to the purchase of another gouache created by Rudzka – Cybisowa, and the post-war landscape of Jan Cybis and almost abstract one produced by Artur Nacht Samborski (1898-1974) and “Still life” of Janusz Strzałecki (1902-1983). In 1966 the Leprette family from Paris donated some paintings of Józef Jarema (1900-1974) , what was very valuabe for the collection connected with capists. There are works which originated after the Second World War, when the artist lived in Rome, and then, since 1951, in Nice. In those days Jarema completely gave up capists’ aesthetic point of view, and he decided on abstract art, radical tearing away from nature. Both geometrical paintings, and the compositions without subject but full of colourful expression, were for him a kind of supplement of philosophical meditations as the emanations of new beings structures.

Apart from Jarema’s works, the Leprettes gifted also works of Maria Sperling (1898-1995), the artist, who had left Poland in the early 1920s and after that lived in Nice and Paris. Her abstract creation was formed under the considerable influence of Jarema’s views and paintings. Among donors there is also one important, but hardly known name – Jan Ekiert (1907-1993). This artist was born in nearby Kombornia and moved to Paris after the war. With his wife, a painter as well, he lived in Montparnasse. Due to the studies in “École d’André Lhote” his painting went through the cubism lesson. With unique sensitivity he assimilated the achievements of French impressionism and postimpressionism to Bannard and Matisse. With captivating landscapes owing to their composition and colouring , Ekiert also painted unusually sensitive and subtle abstract compositions. He gave his and his wife – Eleonora Reinhold-Ekiert (1905-1984) works to the Historical Museum in Sanok. The collection was enriched also with the gifts of professor Krystyna Łady Studnicka, her husband Juliusz Studnicki’s paintings (1906-1998), and also the gifts from artists associated with Rome – Maria Szulczewska de Regibus (1904-1998) and Józef Natanson. In the last few years our collection of modern art was enlarged because of some new works, such as works of Arika Madeyska (1920-2004) who worked in Paris (Arika’s paintings were donated by her daughter Honorata Jonquiére) and works of Edward Baran (born in Lesko in 1934), who also lived and worked in Paris.

The works produced by the artists connected with Sanok occupy the sizeable part of the collection of modern art. Emil Regenbogen (1892 – died during the Second World War), Józef Sitarz (1885-1942), Władysław Lisowski (1884-1970) and the most prominent of them Leon Getz (1896-1971) worked in Sanok before the war. At present a few artists are associated with our town. The scenery of Sanok often appears in drawing and painting of Tadeusz Turkowski (born in 1923), but also in artistic tapestries of his wife Anna Turkowska (born in 1926) and in subtle water-colours paintings of Władysław Szulc (born in 1933). There are also works of Marian Kruczek (1927-1983) who was an indywidual artist and made compositions with various materials. The artists worth mentioning who create in Sanok are Barbara Bandurka, Anna Maria Pilszak, Jerzy Wojtowicz, Artur Olechniewicz. Zdzisław Beksiński’s creation is of great worldwide popularity. The artist was born in Sanok in 1929 and studied architecture in Cracow. He lived and worked in Sanok up to 1977. Firstly he was interested in artistic photography then in drawings, sculptures, abstract painting and finally figurative one. His visional painting soaked with tragedy arouses interest, delights or makes us angry. His painting comes out of subconscious processes and concerns death, suffering, passing of time. Beksiński’s paintings were created by traditional technique, with precise drawing and detail molding. His painting is in some measure out of all modern art trends. On the 21st of February 2005 Zdzisław Beskinski was murdered in his flat in Warsaw. In accordance with his testament the only one inheritor of his works became the Historical Museum in Sanok. The museum inherited a few thousand of his photographs, drawings, computer graphics and paintings. Moreover, in 2008 Hanna Zawa-Cywińska (born 1939) donated to our museum the big collection of her works.

Wiesław Banach

Translated by: Diana Bilińska
Proof reading: Marzena Rachwał-Schabowska

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