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150 Years of the National Museum in Warsaw

The National Museum in Warsaw is celebrating its 150th anniversary under the honorary patronage of the President of the Republic of Poland, Bronisław Komorowski. Established in 1862 as the Museum of Fine Arts, the National Museum in Warsaw is one of Poland’s oldest and biggest art museums. It houses items of Polish culture from various epochs, thereby revisiting King Stanisław August Poniatowski’s idea of Museum Polonicum. Besides Polish art, the collection features items of European painting, including pieces by Dutch, Flemish, Italian and French artists, all adding up to a rich and comprehensive panorama of art history from the Antiquity to date.

Successively expanded by donations or purchases, the collection consists of approx. 830 thousand pieces of Polish as well as foreign art, including paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints, photos, numismatic items, fabrics and attire, items of functional art and design.

The collection of numismatic items is one of the seven richest collections in the world, and a small, but the most valuable, part of it will be put up for exhibition in the NBP Centre of the Money in Warsaw. The National Museum boasts to have in its collection iconic works of artist of Polish Classicism and Romanticism: Brodowski, Kasprzycki, Michałowski; Historicism, including: Simmler, Rodakowski and Matejko; Realism: the Gierymskis, Chełmoński; and Modernism, including: Ruszczyc, Krzyżanowski, Wyspiański, Mehoffer, Malczewski, Boznańska and Wojtkiewicz.

Situated in the lower and upper avant-corps the Gallery of Ancient European and Polish Paintings forms a narrative whole with – still separate – Gallery of Medieval Art. European paintings and the best pieces of Old Polish art are arranged by theme, but with due observance of certain traditional chronological and geographical divisions, e.g. Silesian sculpture and paining of the 15th and the early-16th centuries. The Gallery exhibits genre paining, still lifes, landscapes, biblical and mythological scenes, nudes as well as altars. As part of the gallery, there is a separate Gallery of Old Polish and European Portrait presenting Old Polish portrait in its various renditions as part of the European portrait painting. The arrangement of the portraits brings to mind the multiple functions of art: the social, the political and the personal function.

In the new Gallery of the 19th Century Art, works by Polish painters and sculptors are juxtaposed with pieces by artists of other nationalities. The confrontation of Polish artworks with some of their European counterparts highlights the similarities in the artistic experience, in experimenting with the technique and in the artists’ internal imperative to refer to the same universal ideas or symbols. It helps bring out, equally, those features of the work that make it part of European universalism and those that give it a distinctively national character.

The former location of the Gallery of Old Italian Painting currently accommodates a friendly and spacious Gallery of Temporary Exhibitions – one of the biggest in Poland. The gallery allows such arrangement of expositions that visitors move along a thematically homogenous area, proceeding from one exhibition hall to another at the same storey. The Gallery of Medieval Art and the Gallery of the 20th and 21st centuries will be open in the second half of 2012. At the beginning of 2013, rearrangement will be fi nalised of the Gallery of Ancient Art and the Faras Gallery, as well as the presentations of craftsmanship, numismatic collections and photos.

The new galleries of the National Museum in Warsaw combine together into a coherent tale about Polish, European and World art, showing common legacy of human civilisation, while simultaneously giving due note to distinctions between epochs and regions.

A modernist edifi ce, the present seat of the museum was erected between 1927 and 1938. These days, apart from its main seat at Aleje Jerozolimskie 3, the National Museum in Warsaw has four branches: The Poster Museum in Wilanów, Xawery Dunikowski Museum of Sculpture in Warsaw’s Królikarnia palace, Museum of Interiors in Otwock Wielki and the Museum in Nieborów and Arkadia.

The National Museum in Warsaw