Museum of Contemporary Sculpture
Józef Brandt (1841–1915)
Exhibition on the centenary of the Artist’s Death
Museum of Contemporary Sculpture
exhibition open till 25 October 2015
Curators: Monika Bartoszek, Anna Podsiadły, Jarosław Pajek
Painter of historical and genre trend, representative of the Munich school, Orońsko owner. Despite his foreign-sounding name, he felt first of all a Pole, which he emphasized by signing his paintings Józef Brandt from Warsaw.
He came from an educated family of German origins, holding newly conferred nobility with the coat of arm ‘Przysługa’ [Merit]. Since the times of Saxon kings, the Brandts had lived in Warsaw. Grandfather Franciszek and father Alfons specialized in medicine, his mother – Krystyna nee Lessel – successfully developed her artistic and musical passions.
Having completed his education at the Nobility Institute, Józef Brandt started his artistic education first in Paris and then in Munich. It was Juliusz Kossak and Franz Adam who played the greatest role in his choosing the artistic career at this stage. With time Brandt became an informal leader of the Polish artistic colony in the Bavarian capital and gained the nickname of ‘general’. The marriage to Helena Pruszak nee Woyciechowska in 1877 started a completely new chapter in his life – he became a landowner, administrator of Orońsko estate. Since then he shared his life between his atelier in Munich, where he stayed during the autumn and winter seasons, and the manor in Orońsko, where he managed the estate from spring to late autumn. Orońsko was his beloved
place on earth – this is where he relaxed, but at the same time he led a very active social life. The Free Orońsko Academy – a self-proclaimed, holiday group of residents, consisting of the master’s friends and students, was a model of contemporary open-air artistic workshops.
Brandt’s greatest passion was the history of the 17th century Poland – a century of wars which abounded in knightly epics, so aptly characterized on the pages on Sienkiewicz’s Trilogy. Combats, skirmishes, army crossing the river, lookouts, going on and returning from hunts – these are examples of motifs most often recurring in his paintings. Speaking of battle themes, Brandt grippingly told of the complex and colourful culture of that epoch, especially of the old Eastern Borderlands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – the vast steppe landscapes, architecture of small towns, genre scenes inspired by old literature, flamboyant fairs, Cossack costumes and customs. However, the main heroes of his canvasses were horses – most of the artist’s paintings were only a pretext to depict their remarkable beauty and unbridled energy. Compared with the Munich school of historical painting, in which the artificially created pompous and maudlin mood prevailed, Brandt’s canvasses impressed with their exoticism and freshness, just like the ‘oriental’ collection of the props which he had been gathering for years – militaria and objects of artistic crafts.
In terms of form, Brandt’s oeuvre initially displayed a similarity to the delicate, watercolour stylistics of Juliusz Kossak’s and then the academic rules of the Munich school. However, quite soon he became independent from their influences and with his original technique, he introduced quite a difference in the quality of Munich painting. Brandt was a painter of movement and a subtle colourist. He used bold foreshortenings, he staged particular planes of the composition in a masterly way, and harmoniously combined the formal means of expression with the character of concrete scenes. He did not have any qualms about trying out the latest trends of western art – he experimented with light and photography.
Józef Brandt’s greatest merit was creating art to cheer people’s hearts. Creating an idealized and fabulously colourful vision of the splendor of the old Commonwealth, he contributed to sustaining the hope for its revival. Which became a fact only three years after the artist’s death.
Jacek Malczewski Museum in Radom
Honorary Patronage of Małgorzata Omilanowska – Minister of Culture and National Heritage