The Art Behind Poland Part I

by Adam Strobejko

P-o-l-a-n-d, when you see these six letters tied up altogether, you probably think of cheap labour, vodka, beautiful women and some swear words. Yes, dear reader, I am currently accusing you of suffering the state of mind called ignorance. Ignorance that can be, to some extent, understandable. The cause of this situation is simple: my nation clearly seems to know little about Public Relations. The result is depressing in its logicality. You lose the opportunity to get to know more sophisticated connotations; my ancestors turn in their graves. The solution? I have decided to become your Virgil (or just a specific hostess, to reduce this pinching feeling of pompousness) by taking several domestic artists and highlighting interesting issues of their miserable lives. I guarantee Polish culture will amaze you with its richness and diversity.

Just being decadent.

Stanisław Przybyszewski (1868-1927)

Also known as the “Genial Pole”, “the king of bohemia”, “mystical-ecstatic Slav”, Przybyszewski was a poet and the precursor of modern intellectual Satanism. He published in Polish and German, travelling all around Europe to become especially famous in Berlin. The artist made known the terms of “art for art” and “naked soul” and praised art as the only form of absolute being. His talent made metaphysics accessible to mortals using words as a gateway.  The followers of Przybyszewski were called “the children of Satan”.  If bohemian artists had recognized any authority, Przybyszewski would have certainly been the king.

His controversial way of life became legend itself and has constituted as the unlimited source of inspiration for years. Starting off, he was an alcoholic baptised as “King Stanisław the Drunk”. He just had to be. Moreover, Przybyszewski was a heartbreaker, the record impressive in its destructiveness. His first wife, Marta Foerder, committed suicide after falling pregnant with the author’s fourth children. In 1893, Przybyszewski met and married Dagny Juel, a Norwegian artist and muse from a good family. With the poet at her side, her biography quickly became similarly interesting. Together, they were a couple that the entire bohemian populace followed. True love may be unexpected, considering his turbulent life. In this configuration, any form of fidelity just had to feel… strange. Do not worry, there was none: both of them were involved in numerous side romances. Dagny left Przybyszewski in 1900 and wandered around Europe, engaging in doubtfully moral activities. She eventually became involved in many complicated relationships – one of them included Edvard Munch.  The inspiration stemming from this specific love triangle can be seen in many works of Munch. Przybyszewski and Juel reconciled a year later and decided to go to Tbilisi together. Przybyszewski did not keep his promise. Dagny Juel was shot by a young adorer.

Seemingly sad Przybyszewski in Munch’s “Jealousy”

Stanisław quickly found consolation in the arms of Jadwiga. She was the wife of his friend (Kasprowicz, another famous poet) that Przybyszewski seduced when enjoying his hospitality. In 1924 he accepted the job in Civilian Office of Polish President and started living in the Royal Castle. Year later he received the order of Polonia Restituta, the second highest civilian decoration. Controversial his life may have been, we cannot deny Przybyszewski’s genius. Together with his works, the poet forms an irreplaceable part of the Polish history.

Photos courtesy of wikimedia and ingmabergman

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