Anna Bilińska was the first Polish female artist to gain international recognition. Her first solo retrospective at the National Museum in Warsaw takes place just now, in 2021, but it’s better late than never. Bilińskaused oil paints, pastels and watercolours to create portraits, still lifes, genre scenes and landscapes in the style of European realism. The artist brilliantly mastered the basics of the painting technique, evidenced by her academic studies of models, which strike the viewer with their synthetic approach to the form and with their casual technique of painting. Of course, the artist also simultaneously continued the clear contour style, exemplified by her Male Nude Study (1885), Study for a Male Nude (ca. 1884-85) and Boy Nude (ca. 1884-85). Sketches for the historical and biblical compositions which Bilińska created in her youth have similar qualities but also display a bold expression of colour juxtaposition, as exemplified by Joseph Interprets Dreams (1883) and Inquisition (1884). Bilińska’s mature works consist predominantly of portraits and portrait studies of various ethnic types which were fashionable at that time. These pieces merge the refined simplicity of realism with an academic discipline of the painting technique, such as Head of a Serb (ca. 1884) or Old Man with a Book (ca. 1890s).Bilińska’s self-awareness and thoughts on the artist’s position in the world, which manifested itself in, among others, the representation of her own image in self-portraits, make her works so powerful. And still, the artist’s entire oeuvre and life story have yet to be thoroughly analysed and rediscovered…
The exhibition is on view until 10th of October 2021.
The National Museum in Warsaw is worth a visit in general! Here are some of my favourite artworks, especially from the 19th and 20th century galleries, from Józef Mehoffer’s enchanting Stange Garden to Jacek Malczewski’s prophetic visions.
MDC Cosmetic is the local Berliners’ heaven of all things skincare and beauty. And now, the store has expanded in its Prenzlauer Berg location to a “next door” space. Through constant personal contact with its chic clientele, MDC Cosmetic has grown with the times we live in. The key lesson from 2020 is that in the course of the newly discovered domesticity, a growing demand for beautiful objects, small furnishings, precious accessories and unique jewellery has sprung. MDC Next Door is therefore designed and run as a cabinet of curiosities for objects of everyday use. “At MDC, well-being is at the centre. There are other doors to take in beauty: eyes and touch are equally important to me as the sense of smell or the sensitivity of the skin to touch“, Melanie dal Canton says about her concept for MDC Next Door. Oloid II.2.a, a perfume developed by MDC’s owner in collaboration with Geza Schön, has its own sphere at MDC Next Door, just as the matching bar of soap in the shape of the eponymous oloid. New collaborations by Melanie dal Canton with illustrator Kitty Kahane (fabulous, hand-painted porcelain) and Sabrina Dehoff (off-kilter hair accessories) are presented for the first time at MDC Next Door, too. Another novelty the refined coffee space serving great espresso made from coffee beans from a Mexican plantation that is, to a certain extent, family-owned – but in the sense of the extended family concept cultivated at MDC.
The Jaszczórówka wooden church constructed by Stanisław Witkiewicz in Zakopane
The Tratra mountains in Poland aren’t just beautiful nature, but as well an important epicenter of Polish culture. The origins of the Zakopane Style go back to the late 19th century, when the Arts and Crafts Movement was in full bloom. It was created by Stanisław Witkiewicz, who settled in Zakopane in 1890. The Zakopane Style was the first Polish national style that went beyond the framework of theoretical postulates and could be carried out in practice, not only in Zakopane, but also in many other places in Poland, particularly in the Austrian and Russian partition zones. Stanisław Witkiewicz came across this idea in 1898. The inspiration for the Zakopane Style was therefore more the Ruthenian Style, which the artist could have encountered in 1868–1872 during his studies in St. Petersburg. In 1886, after his first trip to Giewont, he wrote: “…the highlander hut is a higher sort of construction in which the practical features are decorated in an expression of certain aesthetic needs. This is less raw material than a fairly developed style from which one might evolve a new and independent type of building.”
The first home in the Zakopane Style was Zygmunt Gnatowski’s Koliba Villa, which Witkiewicz built in 1892–1894. Witkiewicz considered the highlander carpenters and woodcarvers to be co-creators of the architecture he designed. The Koliba Villa was meant to settle all doubts as to the possibility of reconciling folk architecture with the requirements of the more complex and refined demands of comfort and beauty. According to Stanisław Witkiewicz’s precepts, the Podhale hut was to be the model for the Zakopane Style villa, which the Polish artist sought to make the Polish national style. Furnishing the hut with stylish furniture and other everyday items of his own design was his point of departure. His main task was to use the characteristic attributes of folk furnishings, “artistically employing” the constructions themselves. Ornament was shifted to background, though in many cases it was an important element. Podhale folk ornament, much like that of other regions, was mainly limited to geometrical and plant motifs. In the Zakopane Style this repertoire was expanded with motifs of the flora of the Tatra Mountains.
Willa Koliba & Willa Oksza
The first attempts to use Podhale ornament in artistic crafts involved carving ornament on wooden furniture – chairs, beds, and a screen. Based on designs by Magdalena Butowt-Andrzejkowiczówna and adapted by Franciszek Neužil, this furniture was produced by the Professional School for the Wood Industry in Zakopane for Countess Róża Krasińska in the 1885/1886 academic year. Beginning in 1887, this decorative movement was promoted by the school and was called the Zakopane Style. Stanisław Witkiewicz was critical of this furniture, mainly for its construction “without regard for the shapes of the original highlander pieces.” The failed attempts of the Wood Carving School inclined him to adopt the “highland style” himself. In the course of five years the first villa furnishings in the Zakopane Style, some to his designs, emerged in the Koliba, Oksza, Zofiówka, and Pod Jedlami villas. Attempts were made to harmonize the furnishings with the villa architecture, while “every detail” was to be “covered with highlander ornament or given highlander shape” to fill the interiors, while also creating designs “that had never been seen in highlander huts.”
The Zakopane style dominated architecture in the Podhale region for many years. Although the cutoff date for buildings designed in the Zakopane Style of Architecture is usually held to be 1914, many new pensions, villas and highlander homes are built according to the architectural model devised by Witkiewicz to the present day. The museum of the Zakopane Style of Architecture located in the Villa Koliba provides visitors with information on the Zakopane style.
Willa Oksza (Witkacy’s paintings), store with local craftsmanship & Bachleda Resort Hotel.
Can’t believe I’m finally finishing my coverage from our French Riviera road trip, which took place back in January! I just can’t not write about the beautiful Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, located on a hill just a few kilometres from Cap Ferrat. The villa of Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild houses a rich fine and decorative arts collection (the owner had collected well over 5,000 pieces ranging from fine furniture to paintings, statues, and porcelain dinnerwar), all exhibited in a Belle Époque, Italian-style palazzo. Hiring and firing at least ten architects during the seven-year building period, it reflects her taste perfectly. She used it as residence and party villa until the 1930s before bequeathing it to the Institute de France for use as a fine art museum. The magnificent park with nine distinct gardens is equally attractive year-round (we’ve been there in January, although it felt like it’s mid-spring!). The mild weather of the Côte d’Azur ensures that there are always flowers in bloom but spring and high summer see the most vibrant colors. Visitors may wander through the gardens at will but do pick up a map of the garden. Following the suggested route, you can stroll through the gardens with Villefranche-sur-Mer views before scaling a small hill and descending next to the waterfall into the French garden in front of the villa. Spending an afternoon here feels like a dream.
We’ve ended our car trip in Italy with a plate of salami, parma ham, artichokes and cheese in Bologna, where we’ve been to last summer for a couple of days. What I’m definitely adding to my address list in this gorgeous, gorgeous city? Frida’s Flower Store. The photo above says it all…