Młoda Polska – Young Poland

I didn’t expect to get so much art nouveau on this trip. When we visited St. Francis’ Basilica – right across the street from Pope John Paul II’s residence and his favorite place to pray, as indicated by a silver plaque on his preferred pew – we got to see some wonderful examples of the art nouveau movement in Poland.

I’ll let Wiki do the talking because I actually didn’t know this was a thing. Educational honeymoon! Literally cut and pasted for your convenience:

Young Poland (Polish: Młoda Polska) was a modernist period in Polish visual arts, literature and music, covering roughly the years between 1890 and 1918. It was a result of strong aesthetic opposition to the earlier ideas of Positivism which followed the suppression of the 1863 January Uprising against the occupying army of Imperial Russia. Młoda Polska promoted trends of decadence, neo-romanticism, symbolism, impressionism and art nouveau.

Wall detail in the church

In the period of Young Poland there were no overwhelming trends in Polish art. The painters and sculptors tried to continue the romantic traditions with new ways of expression popularised abroad. The most influential trend was art nouveau, although Polish artists started to seek also some form of a national style (including styl zakopiański or the Zakopane style). Both sculpture and painting were also heavily influenced by all forms of symbolism.

More wall detail – click to enlarge

It is a really beautiful church with different designs on every wall – you wouldn’t think it based on the pretty basic exterior. I had been in this church before but for some reason didn’t remember what it was like on the inside; it was fun to discover it all over again!

Polish Eagle – a little fuzzy because, as I discovered, my point and shoot is crappier than an iPhone.

In addition to the paintings on the walls, there are a lot of beautiful stained glass…es? Windows. Stained glass windows.

God the Father in the Act of Creation by Stanislaw Wyspianski 

I remember once Sarah and I were visiting Krakow and got caught in a thunderstorm. We took shelter in this church – the stained glass of God was pretty spoopy with the lighting behind it.

 

Michaels Cave

Later, Bren and I had breakfast at Michael’s Cave (Jama Michalika). The restaurant itself is decorated in an art nouveau style and is apparently where all the artists used to come – the walls are decorated with the drawings artists used to give in lieu of money.

The food was OK. We just got breakfast. Supposedly their cakes are very good but I guess we’ll have to wait until next time to find out.

Mucha

The Arts, Dance

As mentioned in a previous post, I didn’t realize that Art Nouveau took such hold in Prague and although I’ve seen Mucha’s work before I didn’t know who he was or that he was Czech.

The Mucha museum is small (and very warm) but has a great collection. No pictures allowed so I am pulling from the interwebs. Mucha was drawing before he could walk – his mom used to tie a pencil around his neck so he could draw wherever he was. In the museum there were several examples of his pencil drafts that really showed off what a great draftsman he was.

The poster that made Mucha famous in Paris

Although he was talented enough to work as an artist (and had a patron for a time), he didn’t get his “big break” until he was 34. Sarah Bernhardt, the most famous Parisian actress at the time, needed a poster made and all her usual guys were on Christmas vacation so she hired Mucha. The poster was so popular that people stole it off walls; Bernhardt signed a 6-year contract with Mucha and the rest is history.

Mucha was proud of his heritage and oftentimes Slavic motifs would appear in his work. When Czechoslovakia won independence after WWI, he wanted to give back to his country and designed their currency, postage stamps, medals, etc. His work is also on the interior of the Municipal House but for some reason we didn’t stop inside to see. 🙁 His major life’s work is called the Slav Epic, a series of 20 giant paintings about the history of the Czech and the Slavic people in general. Unfortunately, the Slav Epic is on tour.

Mucha-designed currency

One thing I found a little ironic and annoying is that Mucha was always so closely tied to his Slavic roots but in the gift shop you could only buy prints of his Parisian stuff! Not that it’s not beautiful – we got a print of Spring, below – but as a Slavic enthusiast (?) myself I actually really wanted something from that vein. But we ended up getting a print of “Spring” (below), which incidentally was also in our hotel room along with several other Mucha prints. They really go for it there.

Spring

St. Vitus cathedral has one stained glass that is done by Mucha himself, really spectacular. It shows St. Wenceslas and St. Ludmila in the middle, with scenes about the Christianization of the Slavic people (via Sts Cyril and Methodious). He completed it when he was 71!

St. Vitus stained glass detail