For the first time, the National Gallery in London is showing paintings by Jan Matejko from the collection of the National Museum in Krakow - Self-Portrait from 1887 and a sketch for the painting entitled "Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversations with God". The works of the master of Polish realism will be available for visitors to view until 22 August.
The London National Gallery impresses audiences not only with the presence of outstanding works of art, but also with its architecture. Located in the heart of London in Trafalgar Square, the building has been rebuilt several times since 1876. In its current form, as we can read on the institution's website, over two thousand London double-decker buses could fit inside the buildings. Is it true? So far there has been no daredevil to confirm this, but certainly inside the Gallery we can find the work of great artists.
The permanent exhibition includes paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet and Johannes Vermeer. This rich collection brings over six million visitors a year to the National Gallery in London, making it one of the ten most visited attractions in the world. Now visitors will also be able to admire two paintings by the master of Polish realism, Jan Matejko; "Self-Portrait" and a sketch for "Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversations with God", owned by the National Museum in Krakow, which is making a guest appearance at the London exhibition. Painted in 1887, the self-portrait was the artist's gift to his daughter Helena on her twelfth birthday. Fifty years later it belonged to her husband Józef Unierzyński, before passing into the hands of Marshal Michał Rola-Żymirski. The work was purchased by the Museum in 1962 and is now part of the collection of the Jan Matejko House Museum. From the same collection comes a sketch for the painting called "Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversations with God". This work is the closest to the original, and the idea to create this painting was born on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the birth of Nicolaus Copernicus. Henryk Levittoux, a doctor, naturalist and close friend of the Matejko family, posed for the sketch. The original work of art was donated to the Museum of the Jagiellonian University, which had symbolic significance as it was where Nicolaus Copernicus studied.
Matejko earned the respect of Poles by documenting historical scenes which were for important the nation. His paintings served a special function at a time when the Polish state was deprived of political sovereignty as a result of the Partitions of 1772-1795. The artist shaped the minds of Poles while giving them faith in the rebirth of an independent homeland. Matejko was also active in teaching: his pupils included Józef Mehoffer, Maurycy Gottlieb, Jacek Malczewski and Stanisław Wyspiański. He also served as Director of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków. Although Matejko was appreciated by the international artistic community during his lifetime - he was an honorary member of the academies of Paris, Berlin, Prague and Vienna, as well as the Raphael Academy in Urbino - as curator Christopher Riopelle points out, the painter is not popular abroad today. The exhibition at the London Art Gallery will introduce international audiences to both the figure of Jan Matejko and the tradition of 19th-century Polish painting. The exhibition is accompanied by a publication entitled "Conversations with God: Jan Matejko's Copernicus", by NMK Director Prof. Andrzej Szczerski, curator of the London exhibition Christopher Riopelle, and American astronomer and historian of science Owen Gingerich.
Long before the exhibition, its opening was reported in the British media. The Guardian published an article in which it calls Jan Matejko the Polish national painter, and you can read more about the exhibition on the website of the National Gallery in London: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/conversations-with-god-jan-matejkos-copernicus