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Wojciech Weiss

 

Skilled equally at painting, drawing and poster design, and eventually appointed Rector of the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, Wojciech Weiss (1875–1950) was one of Poland’s leading Symbolist artists. His works express something of the decadent atmosphere in Poland around the turn of the century, but at the same time he was a forerunner of the avant-garde and Expressionism there.

Weiss was born in Leorda, Rumania, into a Polish family who had left their homeland for political reasons. At the age of fifteen the young Weiss began to study at the Cracow Academy of Fine Arts. During this period he travelled to Paris, Vienna and Budapest, working on historical subjects. In 1898, having successfully completed his studies, Weiss got to know the art critic and writer Stanisław Przybyszewski, whose Nietzschean ideas were influential in turning his work towards Expressionism. Around the same time he began to paint outside ‘en plein air’, and it is from this period that most of his Expressionist landscapes date. Weiss also joined the Polish artists’ society Sztuka (‘Art’) in 1898, and he was later to become a one of the Vienna Secessionists.

Like Jacek Malczewski, Weiss was to be one of the young Polish artists who won fame at the end of the 19th century in Poland. He was also one of Poland’s first poster designers. In 1908 he married his pupil Irena Silberberg, who was the model for many of his female portraits. Weiss was made a professor at the Cracow Academy of Fine Arts in in 1913 and was later appointed Rector. In the 1930s Weiss overhauled the Academy’s organization and opened up art studies to women. He continued to work in this position, and as an artist, during and after the Second World War and in 1948 was given an award by the City of Cracow to mark his life’s work.