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

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https://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/artium_quaestiones1993/0061
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ART AND INDEPENDENCE: POLISH ART IN THE I920S

35

art, a movement appeared with the will to create a Polish independent style.”7 This
aspiration, however, turned out to be a unrealistic dream because the group had been
established by artists who expressed different programs and attitudes. Indeed, the Form-
ists had experienced inner contradictions almost from the beginning, and these tensions
continued to increase until, in 1922,.the group dissolved. Coincidentally, at that same
moment, the above-mentioned group of Bunt, also disappeared from the Polish art scene.
In terms of social reception, these two movements did not enjoy the same status.
The Bunt, acting without national identification, was soon marginalized to the fringe
of Polish society. The nation needed modernism, but a local Polish one and not an
international one. Such a social demand was fulfilled much better by the Cracow-based
Formists than by the Bunt. The disintegration of the Formists in 1922, then, was a result
of the contradictions and tensions among artists and not the effect of external pressure,
as was indeed the case for the Bunt painters. The break up of the Cracow group, how-
ever, did not mean that the needs it apparently fulfilled disappeared in Poland with
the Formists. Certainly, they did not. Moreover, the another group, the Rythm, was
established in 1922, and continued grappling with those issues which had characterized
the activities of the Formists [ill. 6],
The artists belonging to Rhythm undertook, likewise, the task of combining mod-
ernism with national identity. These artists were understood by their inter-war Polish
audience as successors to the Formists.8 It is true that several former Formists joined
this artists’ group; but, mostly. Rhythm attracted much more conservative painters. Con-
sequently, the art of the Rhythm was less ambitious and more modest.
We have to remember that the situation of modernism in Poland at this moment
was not too different from that in Europe at large. In France, for example, modernism
during the 1920s. was fundamentally different from modernism at the beginning of
World War 1. One can observe a kind of return to classical features, a kind of retour
a l’ordre.9 Modernism was, so to say, “conventionalized” or “domesticated” and thus
became easier for a larger audience to accept. The Polish Rhythm should be seen in
this context. Many art works made in Poland as well as in France adapted themselves
to a classical tradition, employing modernist formal elements as stylization [ill. 7].
There were, of course, some quite modem currents in Polish culture during the twen-
ties. Polish Constructivism, for example, postulated some fundamental questions of mo-
dem art, and continued the revolutionary debates that had been initiated in Russia: on
the one hand, the question of the analysis of the picture, its visual pure structure (e. i.
Strzemiński and his Unism, where a material surface of the painting has been identified
with the painting itself [ill. 8]) and, on the other hand, the thoughts of utilitarianism or
Productivism, where the laboratory experiments of Constructivism had been used in the
real social and political fields (e. g. Szczuka and his posters [ill. 9]).10

7 A quotation from: H. Anders, Rytm. W poszukiwaniu stylu narodowego [The Rhythm. In Search of a
National Style], Warszawa 1972, p. 127- 128.
8 Ibidem.
9 See: Le Retour a l'ordre dans les arts plastiques et l’architecture, 1919 - 1925, Université de Saint-
Etienne, Travaux Vil, 1975.
I0A. Turowski, Konstruktywizm polski [Polish Constructivism], Warszawa 1981.
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