Celebrating the year of Stanislaw Wyspianski

The year 2007 is the hundredth anniversary of the death of Stanislaw Wyspianski, one of the most intriguing and broad-minded Polish artists.

The phenomenon of Wyspainski consisted of his versatile activity, fascinating even today because of the variety of concepts employed during his short 38 years of life.

He studied at Krakow’s School of Arts (1884-1885 and 1887-1895) and at Jagiellonian University (1887-1890 and 1896-1897). As a student he helped Matejko (together with J. Mehoffer) to create polychromes of Mariacki Church (1889-1890). His creative activity, realized mainly through pastel technique (portraits, landscapes, flowers) was dominated by symbolism and the secession style. The main means of expression was a twining line along a contour of depicted items, which were marked through colored stains. His polychrome projects and stained glasses characterized the motif of blazing flame and calligraphically treated plants. In literature he is known as one of the best drama writers, especially tragedies.

Referring to ancient tragedy, he showed the role of fate as a main motive of action, often localized in national historical reality. In the late period of his artistic activity (from 1900), apart from historical and political polemics against contemporary life (among others “The Wedding,” “Liberation”), there appeared a trend to philosophically interpret Polish history (“The Legion,” “Boleslaw Smialy,” “November Night”) and to show mythological stories (“The Odys Return”).

Wyspianski was not submissive; he could be classified as incorrigible and a rude artist. For almost all his short life (he suffered from syphilis) he fought against parochial styles of thinking and middle-class conformism. Stanislaw Wyspianski died on Nov. 28, 1907 and his funeral in Deserved Crypt at the Church on the Rock became a huge national demonstration.
The 100th anniversary of his death is the occasion of several artistic events at the National Museum in Krakow: exhibitions, theater plays, multimedia shows. There also are lectures and books about Wyspianski and his artistic activity.
The main building of Krakow’s National Museum has an exhibition entitled “Stanislaw Wyspianski’s Great Theater.”

The multimedia show runs through March 2 and features static and motion pictures, sounds and light, etc. Video screenings include parts of theater, television and film adaptations of Wyspianski’s dramas. Exhibition visitors can stand inside scenery reconstructing the scene from the premiere of “The Wedding,” built according to the author’s stage direction. Janusz Walek, creator and custodian of the exhibition, says that the unusual character of the show casts a spell on visitors, expanding their imagination and allowing them to see Wyspianski as a whole.

Through March 9, the National Museum will display at a Szolayski tenement house in ul. Szczepanska 11 an exhibition entitled “You Pile the Stake Yourself?” The idea is to remind visitors of the ceremonial funeral of the artist and at the same time Krakow’s last huge funeral ceremony organized by the city council.
Laznia Nowa, a theater in the Nowa Huta District, joined the celebration of the anniversary. A music-theater festival, “Wyspianski Liberates,” showed Wyspianski’s other faces and ran from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2.

Also at the festival was a poster display covering more than 30 billboards with such slogans as “Krakow is not enough developed!” and “I was beaten and that is why I won.” The festival also included a play directed by Paul Passini, “Resting,” and concerts in which artists challenged Wyspianski’s texts. “We do not want to embalm a mummy; we will not close Wyspianski in a crypt” said the artistic director of Laznia Nowa. “He was a Pole who tore off the comfortable masks of his compatriots. He was frustrated, furious and defiant.”

Another exhibition worth mentioning is “Stanislaw Wyspianski in the Art of the Disabled.” It is at Kotlownia, the Gallery of Krakow University of Technology in the ul. Warszawska 24.
The exhibition will continue through Dec. 14 from Monday to Friday at 09:00 to 16:00. There you can find 105 works made in different techniques: painting, drawings, graphics, ceramics, weaving.

The cultural events connected with the anniversary of Wyspianski’s death are very popular among foreigners living in Krakow.

“I am delighted by the talent presented by Wyspianski,” said Inge, a Swedish student living in Krakow for two years. “I did not know him before. Now after participating in two projects and visiting some galleries I will probably write my MA on the topic of his nonconformist way of living and creating.”

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