Instytut Historii Sztuki <Posen> [Hrsg.]
Artium Quaestiones — 6.1993

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http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/artium_quaestiones1993/0062
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36

PIOTR PIOTROWSKI

However, it must be stated that Constructivism simply was by its very nature in-
ternational. These artists were not interested in the question of the dialectics between
modernism and nationality. They situated themselves beyond such a problem, and were
uninterested in the “search for a modem national style” that preoccupied so many figures
in Poland and elsewhere, not only in the field of art but in politics as well. But, there
were connections between Constructivists and the Polish Communist Party, connections
which carried implications for the artists since the Polish Communist party not only
had rejected the necessity of national independence but instead supported the idea of
the incorporation of Poland into the Soviet Union. The Polish Constructivists’ identi-
fication with this anti-nationalist program surely compromised the artists’ standing with
much of the public and inexorably led to the identification of Constructivism with
bolshevism during the inter-war period in Poland. One might argue that a similar re-
ception can be observed in the West. In Poland, however, these connotations were
stronger than in other countries and had a more substantial political background. The
memories of the Polish-Soviet war (1920) and the march of the Red Army, which had
been “in haste to help the German working class,” were still very much alive. That,
of course, intensified a “nationalistic” reception of Constructivism and a political an-
tipathy to it. Nonetheless, this movement was too strong and too creative to be moved
to the margins of social life, as the Bunt had been earlier in the decade.
Although Constructivism was not marginal, neither was it at the center of the Polish
art world in the 1920s., especially the official one, supported by the state institutions.
Closer to the center was the above-mentioned Rhythm whose paintings decorated the
walls of state offices, as well as churches, banks, and similar institutions [ill. 10].
Rhythm painters even designed the most popular images of the official visual culture,
namely the bank-notes [ill. 11], the postage stamps [ill. 12], the posters, and so forth.
Not surprisingly, these artists were chosen for the most prestigious exhibitions, such
as the L’Exposition Internationale des Art Décoratifs et Industriels in Paris, in 1925.
The Polish and French press, reviewing the exhibition, claimed that it was a success
for the Polish art. Indeed, among the 251 Polish artists taking part at the exhibition,
172 received awards, included 36 Grand Prix.11 Not all of them, of course, were the mem-
bers of the Rhythm. But those who were, played a significant role in the exhibition.
The Polish part of the exhibition was opened by the Henryk Kuna’s sculpture stand-
ing on the yard [ill. 13, 14). This was, however, neither a national, nor a modem art
work; it was a rather classical sculpture. Jan Szczepkowski’s reliefs, however, were
influenced both by the native subjects or religious motifs and modem language [ill.
15]. A similar example is revealed by the panneaux of Zofia Stryjeńska, who also re-
ceived a Grand Prix [ill. 16],
French art critics have described these works in terms of modernism, mentioning
the tradition of cubism in particular.12 Polish audience and the organizers of the exhi-
bition, on the other hand, stressed the question of the nationalization of modernism.

11 M. Rogoyska, Paryskie zwycięstwo sztuki polskiej w roku 1925 [The Victory of Polish Art in 1925],
in: Z zagadnień plastyki polskiej, 1918- 1939 |The Selected Issues in Polish Art, 1918- 1939], Wroclaw
1963, p. 28-29.
12 Ibidem, p. 42 - 43.
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