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Project: Wartime losses of the Municipal Museum in Bydgoszcz – Polish painting

One of the essential and on-going tasks that the Leon Wyczółkowski District Museum in Bydgoszcz (called the Municipal Museum until 1946) has been engaged in is collecting comprehensive, reliable and thoroughly-researched data on the losses suffered as a result of the Second World War. Currently, thanks to the funding from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage as part of the "Researching Polish Wartime Losses" programme, it is possible to search for Polish paintings, which before weren't listed in the Ministry’s database of looted art (www.dzielautracone.gov.pl). Given the substantial size of this collection, the project excludes drawings and prints. A preliminary search produced 144 works of art, which will be carefully examined, from establishing how they came into the possession of the Municipal Museum (provenance research) to recovering their copies.
The list of painters of the missing works in question includes:
Bronisław Bartel, Anna Berent, Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowiczowa, Michał Boruciński, Jan Chełmiński, Piotr Chmura, Daniel Chodowiecki, Stanisław Czajkowski, Leon Czechowski, Stanisław Daczyński, Władysława Augustynowicz-Dąbrowska, Leon Dołżycki, Leon Drapiewski, Florian A. Durzyński, Franciszek Ejsmond, Marian Faczyński, Julian Fałat, Stefan Filipkiewicz, Władysław Frydrych, Eugeniusz Geppert, Wojciech Gerson, Jan Gładysz, Andrzej Grabowski, Antoni Gramatyka, Wacław Gromek, Eugeniusz Gros, Adam Hannytkiewicz, Władysław Jarocki, Zdzisław Jasiński, Stanisław Kamocki, Alfons Karpiński, Leon Kaufmann, Józef Kidoń, Zenon Kononowicz, Wojciech Kossak, Aleksander Kotsis, Feliks Krassowski, Wacław Krystoszek, Józef Męcina-Krzesz, Bolesław Lewański, Albert Lipczyński, Leokadia Łempicka, Jacek Malczewski, Tytus Maleszewski, Józef Mehoffer, Antoni Michalak, Ludwik Misky, Jan Moniuszko, Tadeusz Nartowski, Ferdynand Olesiński, Aleksander Orłowski, Józef Pankiewicz, Fryderyk Pautsch, Maksymilian Antoni Piotrowski, Janusz Podoski, Stefan Popowski, Roman Postempski, Józef Rapacki, Jan Henryk Rosen, Jerzy Rupniewski, Anna Römeroiwa z Sołtanów, Ludomir Sleńdziński, Kazimierz Stabrowski, Michał Stachowicz, Franciszek Streitt, Wandalin Strzałecki, Władysław Ślewiński, Tadeusz Tarkowski, Wanda Gentil-Tippenhauer, Marian Turwid, Aleksander Radziewicz-Winnicki, Michał Wywiórski, Wacław Zaboklicki, Teodor Ziomek oraz Stanisław Żurawski.
Between 1939 and 1942, the museum’s holdings were moved around numerous times. Some paintings were displayed at exhibitions or lent to high German officials to decorate their offices. This practice reached its peak in 1943. The Lord Mayor of Bydgoszcz, Walther Ernst, issued a warrant for an immediate decentralization of artworks, which were later deposited in several manors located in the North and West of Bydgoszcz:
21.06.1943 – Morsk (pow. świecki), 100 obrazów;
24.06.1943 – Kawęcin (pow. świecki, gm. Bukowiec), 100 obrazów;
07.09.1943 – Trzciniec (pow. bydgoski, gm. Sicienko), 125 obrazów;
21.10.1943 – Piotrkówko (pow. bydgoski, gm. Sicienko), 161 obrazów;
08.03.1944 – Piotrkówko (pow. bydgoski, gm. Sicienko), 101 obrazów;
15.11.1944 – Dębowo (pow. nakielski, gm. Sadki), 100 obrazów (z Morska);
30.12.1944 – Dębowo (pow. nakielski, gm. Sadki), 4 obrazy.
Intended to be removed for safety reasons, the works of art were put on a detailed inventory list, which included their German titles, techniques employed and catalogue or accession numbers. All lists were signed by the then head of the museum, Dr. Konrad Kothe, and affixed with a seal. For easy transportation, unframed works were put in marked boxes, while sizeable pictures were wrapped up in blankets. All exhibits were transported in trucks. While the collection stored in Piotrków was returned safely to Bydgoszcz after the termination of hostilities, a different fate was in store for the rest of the works. Some of the ones hidden in Kawęcin were either damaged or looted. According to a report drawn up after the inspection of the manor, several of the works of art were used by the occupants as tablecloths, bedspreads or insulation for windows. The situation was yet again different in Dębowo and Trzciniec, where both manors were burnt to the ground by stationing Soviet troops. It was assumed, therefore, that the collections stored there had been incinerated too.
However, there is no proof that they are indeed gone for good. A note drafted after the inspection of Trzciniec calls this into doubt, as, every now and then, according to eyewitnesses, mysterious boxes would arrive from Bydgoszcz to be later exported to an unknown location. Thus, it is possible that the allegedly burnt collections from Trzciniec had actually been moved elsewhere by the Germans. Some thorough research into this matter will make it possible to accurately assess the extent and range of wartime losses. Unfortunately, there is no preserved artwork inventory from before the war and the only source of information about these pieces is a rather deficient accession log and some isolated object labels. It is the dispatch notes that provide us with the most valuable information about Bydgoszcz’s lost artworks. The search will be conducted not only within Bydgoszcz. Collections of museums and archives in Gdańsk, Warszawa, Kraków and Poznań will also be examined.
The project will be concluded this December with an original lecture initiated by the museum that will offer an introduction to the issue of lost heritage, as well as demonstrate the results of the research in the form of a multimedia presentation.
It is expected that, in the following years, research into the Bydgoszcz Municipal Museum's wartime losses will be carried out, with an emphasis on foreign paintings, drawings and prints, artistic handicrafts, African collections, as well as weapons and military accessories. It is also envisioned that a book will be published in the future.
Anna Kaszubowska
baner projektu dziedzictwo utracone

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