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Leon Wyczółkowski Department

The Biographical Department of Leon Wyczółkowski, previously constituting a part of the Department of Modern Art, was established in 1976.

The beginnings of the Bydgoszcz collection of Leon Wyczółkowski’s works are related with purchasing by the artist a manor house in Gościeradz in 1922. In exchange for handing over a rich collection of Eastern art to the Great Poland Museum in Poznań, he received an amount sufficient to buy the manor together with its picturesque garden. While living in Gościeradz near Bydgoszcz, Wyczółkowski established close contacts with the Bydgoszcz museum. In 1924 he offered the museum one of his collections of graphic works presenting General Władysław Jung, with a dedication saying ”for the Bydgoszcz Museum, L. Wyczół, 1924”. In 1928 the artist participated in the Exhibition of Acquisitions of the Municipal Museum in Bydgoszcz, and his first work was purchased in 1929. His inaugurational individual exhibition in the Municipal Museum in Bydgoszcz took place in 1934, and presented the works from the museum collection, from Wyczółkowski’s collection and from the collections of private persons. It displayed 73 paintings, drawings and graphic works. After the exhibition the museum purchased from the author several works related with the Pomeranian region, and one of the exhibition rooms was devoted strictly for the artist’s works. It presented 28 works, of which 16 belonged to the museum, and 12 were deposits.

After the artist’s death, his wife, Franciszka Wyczółkowska, “as a token of the warm feelings her husband nursed for Bydgoszcz (…), and wishing to create a permanent monument of his great art” – as we read in the deed of gift from 8 April 1937 – handed over to the museum a collection of his 425 works. The donation included: 217 paintings, 64 drawings, 129 graphic works, 15 sketchbooks with 496 charts, equipment from his studio and personal souvenirs. The museum committed to taking care of the collection, popularizing his works and commemorating the anniversaries related with the artist. The donated works included oil paintings, pastels, aquarelles, ink works, drawings and graphics. In 1937, Konstanty Laszczka, a friend of Leon Wyczółkowski, donated to the museum a collection of sculptures that were to be displayed together with the painter’s works. In 1939 the total number of the museum items related with the artist amounted to 458 positions, of which, according to Kazimierz Borucki 152, and according to Dariusz Markowski 145 were lost during the war (Borucki 1961; Markowski 2007). The missing works include Fisherman – a study, Woman’s head and several pastels, a few dozen aquarelles and graphic works.

After the war, on 11 April 1946, the Municipal Museum named after Leon Wyczółkowski was opened. It was also the moment when the collection started to be complimented with various purchases, transfers and donations. In 1948, on the 25th anniversary of the museum’s existence, a friend of Wyczółkowski, an engineer Kazimierz Szulisławski together with his family, donated to the museum over 100 items. The donation also included biographical collections.

Leon Wyczółkowski (1852-1936) belongs to the group of the most outstanding and interesting Polish artists. In his artistic work it is possible to distinguish several stylistic stages. He began his artistic education in 1869 in the Warsaw Drawing Class, where he studied until 1875 under the supervision of Antoni Kamiński, Rafał Hadziewicz and Wojciech Gerson. He then studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, attending to the studio of Aleksander Wagner. In the years 1877-1879 he perfected his skills in the Cracow School of Fine Arts, under Jan Matejko. In 1878, Wyczółkowski was completing his education in Paris. In the following year, the artist moved shortly to Lvov, where he met Adam Chmielowski (later known as Brother Albert). In 1880 he returned to Warsaw. A very important event in his life and a breakthrough point in Wyczółkowski’s artistic activity was his departure to Ukraine in 1883, where he stayed, on and off, for 10 years (1883-1893), living in different places in Podolia and the Kiev region, in many lordly mansions. As the artist recalled: „The wonderful Ukraine. Ukraine … my breakthrough. My place of rebirth and abandonment of academic impacts”.

During his stays in Ukraine, Wyczółkowski became fascinated with the landscape, open air, vast fields and intense light. His favourite characters were Ukrainian peasants depicted during work, digging beetroots or ploughing.

In 1895, Julian Fałat appointed Wyczółkowski to be a professor at the School of Fine Arts in Cracow (renamed in 1900 to the Academy of Fine Arts). He maintained that post until 1911, when he resigned; however, he still lived and worked in his studio in Cracow until 1929. Among his students there were: Stanisław Kamocki, Alfons Karpiński, Wojciech Weiss, Ignacy Pieńkowski. The professors from the Cracow Academy of Fine Arts, including Wyczółkowski, established in 1897 the “Art” Association of Polish Artists. It was an elite society that assembled artists from various artistic centres, representatives of the newest trends in the Polish art, and arranged numerous exhibitions.

Cracowwas the place where Wyczółkowski created numerous outstanding works representing the city’s historic buildings, including the cathedral of Wawel and its tombs. A separate group of works are the excellent portraits of representatives of the Cracovian artistic environment that depict the artist’s search for new colours and the pursuit for eliciting expression of the portrayed persons. During that period Wyczółkowski also painted self-portraits, the paintings presenting mountains, landscapes, still natures and flowers. Initially he painted in oil, and around the year 1904 he focused on aquarelle and pastel, bringing this kind of painting to perfection. They soon became Wyczółkowski’s main techniques, since they allowed the artist to achieve quick effects. He was able to produce several rough pieces of works in only one day.

Leon Wyczółkowski left considerable artistic legacy, reflecting various tendencies and trends in art in the 19th and 20th c., starting from realism, through symbolism present in the paintings deeply rooted in the Polish history, to a characteristic impressionism combined with the realistic approach to the background. What raises admiration is his innovative approach to nature, architecture, both in his paintings, drawings and graphic works.

The artist contributed to the development of graphic art, especially lithography. Since 1911, he focused completely on the graphics, becoming one of the pioneers in that field in Poland. He coloured prints, used coloured paper, introduced chalk, crayons, ink, combined lithography with other techniques. He created fifteen thematic portfolios. He used to say: “…a graphic artist designates the route to the colouristic imagination of the viewer, who introduces colours in the black and white framework and composes the colour of his own fantasy. Thus, black and white graphics provides the complete freedom of creating colouristic moods, without forcing the viewer to slavishly follow the gamut of colours selected by the artist. Introducing of colours into graphics should not cross the bound ary of the subtlest irritation of the eye, or the value of the graphic would become overwhelmed with the introduced colour”.

He actively popularized Polish art by taking part in the exhibitions organized in Paris, Vienna, Moscow and Berlin. Wyczółkowski’s prints were presented at international exhibitions of graphics in Prague, Florence, Philadelphia and New York.

The last period of the artist’s life was related with Poznań (he had a studio there since 1929), and – as it was earlier mentioned – with the region of Bydgoszcz, with Gościeradz. The beauty of the surrounding nature, the park, orchard and the vast fields provided inspiration for his artistic work. He died in Warsaw and was buried in Wtelno near Bydgoszcz, in accordance with his last will.

Since 3 July 2009, the works of Leon Wyczółkowski have been presented in the form of a permanent exhibition.

Works of Leon Wyczółkowski (1852-1936)

The exhibition was arranged based on the museum’s own collections, several deposits from the National Museum in Cracow and one from the National Museum in Warsaw.

The Bydgoszcz museum owns one of the largest collections of Leon Wyczółkowski’s paintings, drawings and graphics in Poland. The collection is complimented with numerous documents, a rich photographic archive, personal souvenirs, artistic workshop and other original items from his mansion in Gościeradz.

The works of this outstanding artist are presented in a chronological and thematic structure. The exhibition area takes up four rooms in an en suite arrangement. It has been divided into two parts: the first presents the artist’s works and souvenirs in the living room arrangement, the other shows the possible interiors of the artist’s painting and graphic studios.The additionally incorporated items from the Department of History and Artistic Crafts help to evoke the mood of that period.

From the hall on the ground floor decorated with spiral baroque columns that were depicted in several Wyczółkowski’s paintings, we move on to the “blue” salon, named after the colour of the wallpaper and portieres at the windows. The interior, besides being arranged as a painting gallery, is filled with furniture that once belonged to the artist, e.g. the eclectic 19th c. set: a table, couch and chairs.

Most of the displayed works in that salon are portraits: presenting the entire silhouettes, busts, sitting persons, sometimes in casual poses. The artist painted his own portraits, the portraits of his friends, professors, artists as well as the portraits of less known persons. He created many of them. They are compositionally perfect, full of colour and light, and represent the psyche and mood of those portrayed. The gallery is opened – starting from the right – with the Portrait of Dr Mieczysław Michałowicz, 1902 and the double Portrait of Julian and Jan Dobrzańscy, from 1879-1880, a very early work painted by the artist in Lvov, presumably as one of his first individual works, devoid of Jan Matejko’s impact. Next, we encounter the charming Portrait of a woman from 1883. On the wall opposite the entrance we find two outstanding works of the painter, Portrait of Zofia Cybulska, 1903 and the Portrait of Tadeusz Żuk-Skarszewski, 1904. Moreover, in the “blue” room we find two portraits of the artist’s friends and artists: Antoni Kurzawa and Konstanty Laszczka.

Wyczółkowski was also fascinated with architecture, especially the historic architecture of the Polish towns. In 1906 he created a series of oil views of Cracow, including The view from Wawel, 1906. The presentation of this view is twofold, on the one hand we admire the view of Cracow in the sunset, on the other we see it through a blurry window. The other paintings shown in the exhibition include the paintings of flowers, mostly roses, peonies, chrysanthemums, that Wyczółkowski created with great passion in various periods of his artistic activity surrendering to their charm. Often, in such paintings windows served as the background. This form of depiction was used in the painting titled Flowers in the vase, 1909. This is a composition presenting a bouquet of white and red roses in a crystal vase. This is an exceptionally decorative composition, with the freshness and form of flowers obtained with the use of light.

From the “blue” salon we move on to the “green” room also presenting some pieces of furniture, including two tables and a 19th c. armchair belonging to Wyczółkowski. The remaining secessionist cabinets and cupboards come from the Department of History. In this room we also find a sculpture and a vase made by Konstanty Laszczka. The paintings dis played on the walls are grouped thematically. Starting from the entrance on the right side, we see the works from the Ukrainian period, including Beetroot digging, 1903; Oxen – a study, 1891; A peasant’s head, 1890; A burial mound in Ukraine, 1894 or A view from Ukraine, 1912.  Between the windows we see a Self-portrait from 1913. Opposite the windows the views of the Tatra mountains are displayed, the subject of the artist’s numerous works. He created a cycle of pastel mountain landscapes, two of which have been placed in the exhibition. Beside, we find an aquarelle View of the Dębnicki bridge in Cracow from 1914, and, slightly further, the Portrait of Jadwiga Mikołajczykówna (Portrait of Rydlowa) from 1899, a young, 16-year-old girl from Bronowice, the future wife of the poet Lucjan Rydel. On the way out of the “green” salon, on the right side we encounter Chrysanthemums from 1909 and a colourful Pine from 1912.

As we walk towards the first floor, at the staircase we find several photographs from the rich photographic archive of Leon Wyczółkowski. The first floor is taken up by the artist’s working rooms, one of which represents his painting studio, and the other – his graphic studio. Both studios are arranged to provide an exhibition area and to represent the artist’s place of work. In the painting workshop we find the superb oil, pastel and aquarelle works, sketches and the unfinished works from the artist’s various artistic periods. Moreover, the studio is equipped with an original easel on rails, referred to by the artist as “a Gościeradz tram”, a painting cabinet, palette, paints and a sketching table. The interior is completed with oriental fabrics collected by the artist, and exhibits that served him as models for his compositions. Right by the entrance, on the left, nearly the entire wall is covered with various representations of trees. Among them we find the impressive Jagiellonian Oak, 1921-1936 depicted from the bottom in the background of a forest. A little further we find the Alley in the Gościeradz park, 1927; The interior of the Wawel Cathedral, 1911, and Figures on the roof of the Old Town, an aquarelle from 1915, as well as the artist’s favourite Twin pines in a yew grove, 1935; Sunset, 1929; Rogalin Oaks from 1925 and other. In the near proximity we see the Portrait of Erazm Barącz in Spanish armour from 1924, presented in natural size. The painter met the Armenian Barącz family in Lvov, and became friends with Erazm, an expert collector, when he was living in Wieliczka and worked as the head of the salt mine.

In the background of the windows at the end of the discussed wall we see a shiny trunk of an old tremendous Spruce in the sun from 1931 with broadly spread roots and a maze of dry branches accentuated with the rays of sunlight. Wyczółkowski used here chiaroscuro contrasts and scratched out some of the dry branches. The composition plays with the white and black colours. Beside, on the wall opposite the entrance, we see a painting portraying an equally gigantic Yew from the reserve in Wierzchlas, 1930. On the easel placed in this part of the exhibition, we find one of the series of paintings presenting the “Mickiewicz” Ship, carrying the urn with the ashes of Juliusz Słowacki, 1927. It should be mentioned that Wyczółkowski designed the decoration related with the funeral ceremony in Barbican, preceding the placing of Słowacki’s ashes on Wawel.

Vis-à-vis the entrance we come across the aquarelle Roofs of the old Warsaw, 1919; The tombstone of Sigismund II Augustus, ca. 1920; Portraits of Helena, 1911 and Konstanty Laszczka, 1921; a panoramic view of Toruń, 1928 with the dominating silhouette of a red gothic church of St. John, and floral presentations. At the wall to the right from the entrance we find another easel with the painting of The Sigismund’s Chapel in Winter, 1908. What draws our attention on the wall behind the easel is a panoramic mountain view, A view from Koziniec from 1905, and A wooden church, 1910, a sketchy Girl picking berries (?) and a series of three paintings with floral motives.

In Wyczółkowski’s graphic studio we find a display of his works and tools: a lithographic press, lithographic stones and aluminium plates. As we know, the artist experimented with various graphic techniques, from aquatint, through fluorofort, algraphics, soft varnish, stone engraving, to lithography – his favourite technique. The exhibited works have been grouped according to particular techniques. The descriptions of techniques have been placed on the walls, next to exemplary works.

As we go from the painting to the graphic studio, on the left side from the entrance we find the examples of algraphics from Lithuanian and Ukrainian portfolios, and farther, we come across two prints made in the technique of fluorofort. The artist was especially interested in that technique in the years 1903-1905. The exhibition is closed with stone engraving works including Still nature from 1921 and Cineraria in a vase from 1922.

Biographic collections

This collection features iconographic materials regarding Leon Wyczółkowski, divided into groups, depending on the content.

I Group
1. Personal documents of the artist 
2. Writings regarding Wyczółkowski
3. Handwritten notes of Wyczółkowski
4. Tributes and poems about the artist

II. Correspondence
1. Letters written by Wyczółkowski to his wife
2. Letters written by Wyczółkowski to various people
3. Letters written to Wyczółkowski (including congratulatory telegrams)

III. Documents regarding the collection of Leon Wyczółkowski in the Regional Museum of Bydgoszcz

IV. Materials regarding the artist’s death

1. Eulogies, obituaries

V. Photos from the Leon Wyczółkowski archives
1. Photos of Leon Wyczółkowski
2. Photos of Leon Wyczółkowski’s acquaintances
3. Photos from the funeral and funeral ceremonies of Leon Wyczółkowski
4. Photos from the stay in Legionowo
5. Miscellaneous photos, including artistic subjects 

VI. Personal memorabilia, including furniture

VII. Artist’s studio, work tools

VIII. Publications, posters, newspapers



Designed: Jimpenny / Programmed: FreshData