The Krakow's Historical Museum's collection contains few thousands of paintings. They're divided for two sections. The most important two are portraits and the city sights: Most of them have been painted using various techniques from the end of the 18th till the 20th century.
In Krakow, the beginnings of the landscape and townscape paintings are related to Michal Stachowicz, who recorded historical events like the often repeated "Kosciuszko's oath" on Krakow's main square or "Ceremonial parade on Krakow's main square on day of paying tribute to priest K. Auerspergowi" (1796). In the background of these historical events we can find detailed realities and architecture of contemporary Krakow.
His son Teodor Baltazar (1800-1873) continued father's work with huge passion but unfortunately with a smaller talent. He used to paint using his father's drawings and his little painting immortalized no longer existing buildings. The museum owns several tens of his works.
In the first half of the 19th century in painting romanticism ideas based attitude dominated. In this period the Krakow and its monuments were appreciated on account of their vividness. The Krakow used to inspire artists who searched here for afflation and poetic atmosphere. Very interesting is the effect of short visit of Wilibald Richter, who painted romantic and idyllic water paintings titled "The sight from the west" (sight from the way which runs between St. Margaret chapel and St. Salvadore Church) (1830) during his time in Krakow. The other one is "Sight from town hall tower, after the town hall has been demolished" (1820).
Other artists used to work in Krakow. They were as follows: appreciated landscape painter Jan Nepomucen Glowacki (1802 - 1847). He was known as an author of landscaped of Ojcow, Pieniny and Tatra Mountains - "View of the St. Peter and Paul Church" (1853) and specialized in townscapes Marcin Zaleski (1796-1877) - "View of the north side of the Krakow's main square" (1843). Very similar character used to have John's Kanty Hruzik (1810 - 1891) - "View of the Krakow from the South, from the Krzemionki Podgórskie", Aleksander Plonczynski (1820-1858) and Saturnin Swierzynski (1820-1883).
Close to the half of the century time the need to record monumental buildings and the most interesting parts of the city occurred. The need was related to idea of Krakow's Historical School's environment to resurgence the past. From among painters of architecture Aleksander Gryglewski was distinguished: "Wawel Castle's cathedral from the South with Sigismond and Waza Chapel" (1870) and interiors - "Interior of the Swietokrzyska Chapel in Wawel Castle's cathedral" (1870) and "Interior of the St. Cross Church" (1875). All these are surprising with precision, perfect perspective and caring for the details.
Erazm Rudolf (1826 - 1892) and Stanislaw Fabijanskis (1865 - 1947) exhibited very similar interests during their work in Krakow at the end of the 19th century.
The emotional aspect started to predominate again. It can be seen in works of Stanislaw Fabianski and Stanislaw Tondos (1854 - 1917) who started to look for scenic themes. The word scenic is probably the best description of Stanislaw's Tondos art and the "St. Barbra Church" is an example of his talent. He used to work gladly with Juliusz Kossak, for example the "Interior of the St. Mary's Church" and the collection of colourful lithographic views.
Not only the "Planty" but also the "Kazimierz" district area became the often subject of atmospheric portrayals. The painter who especially took a fancy for the Kazimierz district was Waclaw Koniuszko (1854 - 1900), but other painters used to paint it too. For example already mentioned herebStanislaw Fabijanski, author of the "The Kazimierz's town hall on the Wolnic square"(1897) and the "The Wolnic Square with the Church of the Corpus Christi"(1897).
Krakow at the turn of the century had a very powerful artistic environment, originating from of the local School of Fine Arts that was renamed a Academy in 1900. Jan Metejko, was one of the strongest personalities amongst Krakow's artists of the second part of the 19th century. He mainly painted historic events. Most of his apprentices were from the Young Poland generation. Many of them used to paint Krakow too.
In the museum, there is a very interesting self-portrait of Jan Matejko's successor--the provost - Juliana Falata (1853 - 1929) with his studio in the Academy in the background.
The independent group contains works, which are the painting reconstructions. For example, paintings of Zygmunt Wierciak: "Krakow's panorama from approximately year 1700" and the series of views of the city gate and the city tower were painted exactly as they were before demolition. More important however, is the educational rather then artistic value of these.
The major parts of the museums Polish painting collection are portraits. The most notable are portraits famous in our city people. These are portraits of very influential people in Krakow as well as the ordinary and often even anonymous people from various social classes. They were usually painted by the most distinguished artists. Most of these are from the 19th and the beginning of 20th century but there are also very interesting later portraits.
In spite of the regulated with the aesthetic standards subject priorities in the 19th century, the portrait was the very important area of the times and it is a kind of certificate of the history for us.
The oldest in the collections is the portrait of Elisabeth Toriani. She was a cracovian patrician. It was painted in the first half of the 18th century. It is a superb example of realistic bourgeois art.
Moreover, portraits painted at the turn of the 18th and 19th century by Michael Stachowicz (1768 - 1825) such as his self-portrait (approx. 1800 year). Its general form and the precise characteristic, which let us, see his strength and the genuineness of the art expression.
The most dynamic development of the art of portraits ensues in the first half of the 19th century. To the group of most famous Krakow's artist such as Josef Peszka (1767 - 1831) joined Josef Brodowski (1780 - 1853) then. He was the author of portraits of i.e. Stanislawa Wodzickiego (1817 year) - president of the Krakow's Republic Senate.
The other very famous portrait artist in the middle of the 19th century was Wojciech Korneli Stattler (1800 - 1875). He painted the famous portrait of Mikolaj Zyblikiewicz (1848 ?), later the president of the Krakow, which is one of the most distinguished paintings. A very good technique of this portrait calls to the sensitivity of the viewer.
At the end of the 19th century, the artist started to break with the old traditions and brought in new features. The portrait of Antonina Hoffman was painted according to the traditional style. She was an actress of the Krakow's theatre. Andrzej Grabowski (1833 -1886) painted the portrait in 1875. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, we can observe the artistic, philosophical and ethical breakthrough. The Young Poland (Mloda Polska) period had begun. You will find very interesting examples of portraits painted at this time by the most prominent artists such as acek Malczewski, Julian Falat, Teodor Axentowicz and Stanislaw Debicki.
Especially interesting seems to be self-portrait of Julian Falat (1853 - 1929) painted in 1903. In the background of this portrait, there is a view of Krakow.
During the interwar period, new and surprising trends occurred again. Instead of new trends, the old and traditional ones were still present. The superb representative of traditional art style was Wojciech Kossak (1856 - 1942). A lot portraits of famous people in Krakow like the town clerks, various representatives of social establishments, artists, scientists and economists originate from this period.
At present, art portrait is much less important however, very often we see interesting artistic solutions, just like the ones in portraits painted by Izabela Delekta - Wicinska and Zbyslaw Maciejewski which you can find in our collection.
The independent exhibition of portraits of Krakow's Shooting Guild's kings. This is the biggest collection in Poland. Also interesting are portraits of Krakow's actors from the 19th and 20th centuries because of what they represent as well as their artistic character.