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Jacek Malczewski


Jacek Malczewski (1854–1929) was a leading Polish exponent of Symbolism. The crucial feature of his works is the way they combine the painting style of the period with themes depicting dramatic events and the fate of his fellow Poles.

Born in Radom in central Poland, Malczewski attended the Krakow School of Fine Arts from 1873 to 1876. He was initially taught by Władysław Łuszczkiewicz and Feliks Szynalewski, and from 1875 worked exclusively under the supervision of the highly respected history painter Jan Matejko. In 1876– 1877 Malczewski studied under Ernest Lehmann at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1880 he went to Italy and in 1884 was given the opportunity to travel as a draughtsman with an archaeological expedition to Asia Minor, visiting Vienna, Trieste, the Albanian coast and Athens on the way.

Wherever he worked, Malczewski always surrounded himself with intellectuals who defended the cause of Polish nationalism. During his first period he painted sombre, realistic works showing the influence of his teacher Matejko, but from 1890 on his palette grew lighter. He made allegorical self-portraits in a Symbolist manner and large-scale paintings referring to the plight of his country. The most important of these was Melancholia (National Museum, Poznan´ ), an allegorical work painted between 1890 and 1894 representing the tragic situation of Poland and the suffering of generations of people who fought fruitlessly for their ideals.