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From 11 November 2023 to 19 May 2024, the Czapski Palace will host the Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw's exhibition 'Designer. Wojciech Jastrzębowski (1884-1963)'. This is the first ever monographic exhibition of the artist-designer, professor and last rector of the Academy before the war, Wojciech Jastrzębowski, who was called the 'designer of the Second Republic'.

„The exhibition, which is the first cross-sectional presentation of the artist’s entire oeuvre, takes place on the centenary of his becoming a professor at our university. In this way, we are also honouring the 100 years of the Academy of Fine Arts as a public school whose identity Jastrzębowski had a significant impact,” says the exhibition’s curator, Joanna Kania.

Divided by theme, the artist’s works are presented in three rooms: „Interiors and Furniture”, „Symbols and Everyday Life” (available until 19 May 2024) and „Composition of Solids and Planes” (available until 19 March 2024).

Interiors and furniture

Jastrzębowski created realisations touching almost all areas of life. He designed interiors – both representative ones, such as the current Ministry of Education and Science on Szucha Avenue or the headquarters of the Railway Workers’ Trade Union (today’s Ateneum Theatre), and sacred ones, such as the Church of St. John the Baptist in Radłów, which shows the artist’s predilection for forms inspired by folk art and – characteristic of art déco – crystalline, rhythmic ornament.

Elements of everyday life

Jastrzębowski’s designs for the interiors were comprehensive – they also included their furnishings. Some of the furniture has been preserved in MEiN – chairs from the meeting room and the decoration of the minister’s study with cabinets topped with crystal ornament. The exhibition features a cabinet from the minister’s study and an assistant, intended for the secretariat.

The artist also designed furniture for Polish embassies and furnishings for the transatlantic liners M/S 'Piłsudski’ and M/S 'Batory’. His designs included chapels on both ships and a salon for ladies.

He created furniture for private interiors. Direct references to folk art, prevalent during the Cracow Workshops period, are evident in two chariots from around 1916. The 1930s are represented in the exhibition by furniture for Tadeusz Hołówka and for the artist’s home (a serviette). They are a mixture of the elegance and lightness of bourgeois Biedermeier and a certain bluntness, referring to the climate of folk furniture.

An element of everyday life, designed by Jastrzębowski and accompanying Poles from 1923 until the 1990s, were coins. Before the war, there were penny coins in various denominations, and since 1958 the communist Poland’s aluminium 2-zloty coin.

Polish variety of art déco

„The realisations for the Paris Exhibition, combining Cubist and folk art inspirations, are an excellent example of the Polish variety of art déco, often described by critics as 'Jastrzębowszczyzna’. The furniture from the Paris Exhibition has not survived. We present a fireplace design from the Pavilion and elements evoking a set from the dining room of the Esplanade Inwalidów: a batik bric-a-brac analogous to the fabrics covering the walls there, a table with a decorative veneer arrangement and an alabaster vase,’ says exhibition curator Joanna Kania.

The Cracow Workshops and the Lad Artists' Cooperative

Wojciech Jastrzębowski was a co-founder and one of the leaders of Warsztaty Krakowskie (1913) and Spółdzielnia Artystów Ład (1926). Both groups had a huge impact on the development of Polish design.

For the Cracow Workshops – an association promoting applied arts – Jastrzębowski designed the lecture hall from which the double chairs for the listeners and the radiator cover on display originate. In keeping with the Workshop’s ideas, the furniture is functional, made of local, solid wood and, with its simplicity, evokes folk art. For the Workshops, Jastrzębowski also designed kilims made of natural raw materials, maintained in a geometric regime.

The post-war designs and realisations of furniture are linked by the pursuit of functionality and lighter form with the consistent use of local wood and folk art-inspired form, which distinguished the style of Spółdzielnia Artystów Ład. A set of designs for the so-called Finnish houses, which were intended to serve as dormitories (1947-1948), made as part of Ład, has such characteristics. The student furniture combined references to tradition with the pursuit of multifunctionality and convenience (folding furniture).

"Art for everyday life and for everyone".

An artist-designer, as understood by Jastrzębowski, is a professional with a wide range of skills, carrying out a variety of commissions and, at the same time, shaping the culture and aesthetic sense of society. „Art for every day and for everyone” was an idea promoted by the Professor and many of his alumni from the Warsaw academy. The artist shaped his vision of the unity of 'pure’ and 'applied’ art and its role in society during his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow at the beginning of the 20th century, influenced by the ideas of the Arts and Crafts Revival Movement (British Arts and Crafts Movement, Vienna Workshops, Polish Applied Art).

Composition of Lumps and Planes

Jastrzębowski worked at the Warsaw School of Fine Arts (from 1932 the Academy) from 1923. He was entrusted with the task of developing an introductory curriculum, which resulted in an original course in the Composition of Solids and Planes.

„The idea was that each student […] should be introduced to the sphere of general issues of plastic culture and creativity. So that he or she would acquire the courage, ambition and a certain fitness to work independently, to look for the right shape for expressing one’s own thoughts”. – Jastrzębowski explained.

KBiP classes were taught until the outbreak of the Second World War by many educators who modified the course tasks. Students often developed them in other studios, creating ceramics, furniture, fabric, sculpture or paintings. The course became a formative experience for several generations of artists, equipping them with an awareness of the universal problems of composition. The exhibits created by Jastrzębowski’s students contributed to the Academy winning the Grand Prix for teaching at two international exhibitions in Paris: in 1925 and 1937.

At the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, not only the name of the subject survived, but also many of the tasks of the programme. The composition of Lumps and Planes was taught by Roman Owidzki, Tadeusz Tuszewski (Jastrzębowski’s students), Oskar Hansen and their successors. Treating Jastrzębowski’s programme as a base, they built their own didactic system (sometimes in opposition to it), using, however, individual exercises developed there.

The third part of the exhibition, devoted to the Composition of Lumps and Planes, presents works by:

Stanisław Baj, Krzysztof Bednarski, Katarzyna Bucholc, Andrzej Budek, Dominika Cichońska, Elżbieta Cieślarowa, Elżbieta Chodyń-Bogusławska, Jan Dobkowski, Edward Dwurnik, Jacek Dyrzyński, Jakub Erol, Jan Ferenc, Tomasz Godowski, Wanda Golakowska, Karol Grams, Jerzy Jaworowski, Piotr Kopik, Łukasz Kosela, Andrzej Koss, Julia Kotarbińska, Rudolf Krzywec, Anita Kucharczyk, Henryk Kuna, Jan Kurzątkowski, Anna Libera, Edward Łagowski, Lech Majewski, Wanda Masznicz, Jan Mioduszewski, Aleksandra Murawska, Anna Myczkowska-Szczerska, Piotr Perepłys, Teresa Plata Nowińska, Agnieszka Putowska-Tomaszewska, Olgierd Rutkowski, Marek Sapetto, Aleksandra Semenowicz, Stanisław Słonina, Anna Sudoł, Genowefa Szybecka, Mieczysław Szymański, Karol Śliwka, Lech Tomaszewski, Krzysztof Trusz, Tadeusz Tuszewski, Sabina Uścińska, Witold Wawrzyński, Ewa Wieczorek, Ryszard Woźniak, Andrzej Zbrożek

Patriotic and social activity

The artist’s work was often associated with patriotic and social activity. The beginning of his activity coincided with a period of growing hopes for Poland’s regaining independence. The growing need to use national symbols and the search for 'homeliness’ in the visual arts was reflected in his works. From his earliest years he created national iconography – in 1913 he designed a medal and window stickers for the 50th anniversary of the January Uprising.

During the First World War, he designed the Badge 'For Faithful Service’, which became the symbol of the First Brigade and began a series of military and national decorations, making a significant contribution to the emerging system of symbols of the resurrected state. During the communist period, Jastrzębowski continued to design state, branch and commemorative medals and decorations, most of which retained their art déco form until the mid-20th century.

„The Polish emblem, the coats of arms of cities with a special focus on Warsaw, the logos of institutions and associations – starting from the sign of the Cracow Workshops to the post-war designs for the Institute of Industrial Design – are another significant thread in the artist’s work,” adds Joanna Kania.

Wojciech Jastrzębowski (1884–1963)

Artist-designer, active in the first half of the 20th century, during the period of Young Poland, the Second Polish Republic and the Polish People’s Republic. Born in Warsaw, graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, legionary and soldier of the Polish-Bolshevik war.Initiator and member of many artistic associations, including the Cracow Workshops or „Ład”. Co-author of the success of Polish art déco at the Parisian exhibition in 1925. An extremely versatile artist, he designed interiors, furniture, stained glass, textiles, medals and book graphics.

„Designer. Wojciech Jastrzębowski (1884-1963)”.Exhibition

Czapski Palace | Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw
5 Krakowskie Przedmieście Street

„Designer. Wojciech Jastrzębowski (1884-1963)” / „Designer. Wojciech Jastrzębowski (1884-1963)”, 11.11.2023 – 19.05.2024

„Composition of solids and planes” / „Composition of planes and spatial forms”, 11.11.2023 – 17.03.2024

exhibition open: tt. – Sun. at: 12:00-19:00
Admission free

curator: Joanna Kania
cooperation: Jolanta Gola
exhibition preparation: the team of the Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw: Jacqueline Horodyńska, Katarzyna Jankowska Cieślik, Karolina Hutna, Barbara Pawlak
consultation: Maryla Sitkowska
exhibition design: Jakub Marzoch
visual identity: Fontarte | Magdalena Frankowska, Artur Frankowski
typeface: Jastrzębowski Sans FA, designed by Artur Frankowski (Fontarte)
films and presentations: Małgorzata Bucholc, Piotr Kopik, Łukasz Kosela, Aleksandra Murawska, Audiovisual Space Study Group
conservation supervision: Anna Kowalik
conservation of objects for the exhibition: Dorota Dzik-Kruszelnicka, Zofia Koss, Anna Kowalik, Anna Szlasa-Byczek, Anna Sembiring
translations: Piotr Szymor

Organisers: Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw | Czapski Palace | Foundation of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw

Patron of the exhibition: Bank Pekao S.A.

The project is co-financed by the City of Warsaw.