TROT, WALK, GALLOP
Without a horse, a Pole is like a body with no soul
Ryszard Grzyb, Andrzej Kwietniewski, Andrzej Świetlik
Curator: Leszek Golec
20 June – 6 September 2015
Without a horse, a Pole is like a body with no soul – our ancestors used to say.
The motif of the horse in art is one of the most important and longest-lasting besides the representations of human figure. We have been finding its illustrations since time immemorial, starting with pre-historic cave painting. It was depicted as a travel and work companion, a symbol of status, fidelity and vitality. It has always enjoyed the highest esteem in Poland where it remains a significant part of our national consciousness, the power and pride of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Extolled in songs, shown in films, it is a magnificent expression of the beauty and freedom we always long for.
Poles’ love of the horse has found its reflection in art. The first representations appeared in the 16th century painting. Yet, it was the 19th century that brought the paintings which became part of our national heritage. Michałowski’s, Matejko’s or Kossaks’ paintings, glorifying the splendor of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, was a crucial element in the shaping of patriotic attitudes. Grey, black and chestnut horses extolled the pride of our army. They became an attribute of the Polish identity. Orońsko patron – Józef Brandt also specialized in painting horses; he presented riders in the thick of the fighting or during hunts; the Lisowczycy – Polish light cavalry, Cossacks and Tatars at a trot, gallop and walk, and also such accessories as harnesses or saddles. Researchers emphasize his relations with orientalism, which was fashionable then; it is best confirmed by his Munich atelier full of the countless number of eastern props. From the western point of view, Brandt could have been regarded as an orientalist. Through his canvas he led a whole procession of eastern figures (…), as well as Arabs, steppe horses. He presented our national past in a remarkably colourful way. Henryk Sienkiewicz wrote that the view of his paintings brings to mind old traditions, old songs and knightly tales, (…) enchanted by the spell of poetry! Brandt is simply a poet of the steppe, just like Goszczyński, Zaleski or even Słowacki in his Beniowski. The extinct past is revived under his brush, and the moment you see one episode, the whole world of knights and Cossacks comes to life in your mind.
The interwar period reinforced the ethos of the horse and the rider; Piłsudski’s legions, his famous chestnut mare and lancers became a Polish romantic icon. The general adoration is also confirmed by the presence of equestrian motifs in decorative arts, also in sculpture. It has to be emphasized that making a good effigy of a horse required from the sculptor a sound knowledge of anatomy and great talent, but it also posed considerable challenge to the bronze worker. The Łopieński Brothers – the most famous bronze working company, were the masters in this field. The artists taking part in the exhibition in various ways continue these dreams about power and show the horse as a symbol of victory, strength, beauty and unbridled freedom.
 Henryk Sienkiewicz’s The Trilogy, filmed by Hoffman, and especially Sir Michael (Pan Wołodyjowski) as well Andrzej Wajda’s The Birch Wood became a symbol of Poland and Polish Romanticism.
 Irena Olchowska-Schmidt, Józef Brandt, Kraków 1996, p. 15.
 Rana Kabbani, Regarding Orientalist Painting Today, in: The Lure of the East. British Orientalist Painting, 2008–2009, Tate Britain, London, p. 41.
 Dr Monika Bryl, Artissima_Wierny_towarzysz.pdf