Degree Date

2020

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History of Art

Abstract

This dissertation focuses on the landscape art produced by artists of the Młoda Polska (Young Poland) movement, active ca. 1890-1914. This period of art-making coincides with the condition of non-sovereignty. Poland as a nation-state ceased to exist from 1795 to 1918, partitioned by imperial Austria, Prussia, and Russia. Landscape, as a set of textual and visual practices addressing questions of national identity and belonging, is uniquely suited to address Polish identity and its construction during this period of statelessness.

Trained internationally and working across partition lines, Young Poland produced landscape art as a central part of their artistic practice. Despite this, the topic has received little focused attention in scholarship. Rather, landscape art is considered primarily through the lens of influential stylistic movements, for example European Impressionism or Symbolism. Landscape art as a medium capable of eliding and uniting these stylistic differences moves past an account only of these stylistic phenomena in Polish art. It addresses the fundamental paradox of Polishness of the period: what articulated Polish identity at a time when Poland did not exist? This dissertation examines four topoi of Young Poland landscape art as intersections between the different cultural practices that constituted and created Polish identity. These are the ghost landscape, as in Stanisław Wyspiański’s Capsheaves; the garden as hortus conclusus and hortus deliciarum as in Józef Mehoffer’s Strange Garden; the sublime landscape as in Wojciech Weiss’ Radiant Sunset; and the framing and screening of the landscape through the self in Stanisław Wyspiański’s View from the Artist’s Studio Window. Together they represent a set of landscape poetics through which Young Poland addressed the fundamenta condition of non-sovereignty. The landscape works simultaneously mourn and remember the lost Poland while anticipating and mapping its reconstitution. They do so by proposing new temporalities and new relationships to subjectivity. At the same time, they explore innovative iconography, experimental painting, and questions of representation itself.

Against the broader nineteenth-century European context of landscape art, Young Poland landscape art is equally progressive. This study yields new insight into the relation between perceived center and periphery, and proposes a recalibration of mutual influence.

Author permissions (for dissertations limited to Bryn Mawr)

Open Access Version to be uploaded in May 2022

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