Polish painting is a domain of the arts that tends to meet with the greatest interest of local collectors. This trend is evidenced by information about numerous old collections and those being created at the moment as well as auction catalogues and the offers made by art galleries and antique shops during the last decade or so. After all, this is a relatively recent phenomenon - simplifying things, we might agree that it is slightly more than a 150 years old. It was in the wake of the publication of Rastawiecki's 'Slownik malarzów' (Dictionary of Painters) that the Poles ultimately became aware of the existence of something which may be described as the 'Polish art milieu'. The author presented a synthetic sketch of the origin and shaping of an awareness of the presence of independent Polish art and the reflection of this process in the selections made by Polish collectors. A universal recognition of the existence of the 'Polish school' took place at the time of the partitions and was closely connected with a struggle for national survival and the regaining of liberty. Crucial importance was attached to the aforementioned 'Slownik malarzów polskich, tudziez obcych w Polsce osiadlych lub czasowo w niej przebywajacych' (Dictionary of Polish Painters and Foreign Artists Settled or Temporarily Residing in Poland) by Edward Rastawiecki (1850, 1852, 1855), patriotic publicistics dating back almost to the early nineteenth century and, first and foremost, artistic reality - the oeuvre of the Munich school, Matejko, Gerson, and, finally, the Young Poland artists. The author proposed a parallel discussion on prime tendencies in Polish art collections, which in about the mid-nineteenth century were, as a rule, associated with works ascribed to representatives of great European schools: Italian, French and Flemish (the collections of Tomasz Zielinski, Andrzej Mniszech, Karol Hopper, the Przezdzieckis, the Zamoyskis, and the Krasinskis). The collection of Polish paintings belonging to Rastawiecki was a sui generis exemplification of his publication. The popularity of Polish painting continued to grow during the successive period, until it became almost an exclusive component of the artistic predilections of the Poles. A considerable role was played by collections amassed by the bourgeoisie, financiers and entrepreneurs as well as the prosperous intelligentsia and representatives of the 'freelance' professions, mainly from Warsaw (the Kronenberg, Bloc, Epstein, Bersohn, Rosenbaum, and Rotwand families). The turn of the century and the first decades of the twentieth century signified probably the peak of Polish art collections. This was the time of the origin of possibly the most important collections in the history of Polish painting - those belonging to Ignacy Korwin-Milewski, Edward Aleksander Raczynski and Feliks Manggha-Jasienski. These unique examples were not alone, and in the first half of the century they were accompanied by several hundred smaller or larger collections representing a similar orientation. Their progress was halted by the second world war and ended during the era of the People's Republic of Poland. A renascence of private collections, which survived in the form of relics or were created by emigres, could not take place until after 1989.
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