The Colors of Identity: Polish Art at Home and Abroad, 1890-1939

May 25 – September 17, 2006

Installation view

Installation view

By 1890, a century of occupation and several failed uprisings had impacted Polish culture profoundly, engendering a broad search for a national identity in the arts.

Driven by the Mloda Polska (Young Poland) movement, Polish art, literature, architecture, and music flourished even as the country remained partitioned under the foreign rule of Russia, Germany, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Inspired by encounters with foreign art practices, the work of Polish artists responded to the Symbolism and Synthetism of the 1890s, the Cubism of the teens, and the Neo-Classicism of the 1920s.

Though disparate in the styles they practiced, the artists united in their pursuit to create a modern art from a uniquely Polish perspective. Some Polish painters and sculptors remained in their native land, including members of Krakow's influential group, Sztuka (Art). Others – some forced into exile but most leaving by choice – worked abroad, residing in Paris, Munich, and other artistic centers across Europe.

These developments inspired a lively international exchange and resulted in a Polish modernist art movement that was remarkably diverse. With more than sixty paintings, sculptures, and drawings, all on loan from the private collection of Tom Podl, The Colors of Identity traced the complex expression of national identity and international perspective that define this critical period of Polish modern art.