Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Culture of Poland
The style and personality of Polish life has been shaped over a thousand years. The national culture developed at the crossroads of the Latinate and Byzantine worlds, in continual dialogue with the many ethnic groups in Poland. The people of Poland have always been hospitable to artists from abroad, and eager to follow what was happening in other countries. In the 19th and 20th centuries Poles' concentration on cultural advancement often took the place of political and economic activity. These factors have contributed to the versatile character of Polish art, with all its complex nuances.
Dialogue and the interpenetration of cultures have been major characteristics of Polish tradition for centuries. Customs, manners, and dress have reflected the influences of east and west. The traditional costumes worn by the gentry in the 16th and 17th centuries were inspired by rich eastern ornamental styles, including Islamic influences. Polish cuisine and social customs are another reflection of multifarious trends.
Polish towns reflect the whole spectrum of European styles. Poland's eastern frontiers marked the boundary of the influences of Western architecture on the continent. History has not been kind to Poland's architectural monuments. However, a number of ancient edifices have survived: castles, churches, and stately homes, sometimes unique in the regional or European context. Some of them have been painstakingly restored (the Royal Castle in Cracow), or completely reconstructed after totally devastation in the Second World War (the Old City and Royal Castle in Warsaw, the Old Cities of Gdańsk and Wrocław). Kazimierz on the Vistula is an example of a well-preserved mediaeval town. Cracow ranks among the best preserved Gothic and Renaissance urban complexes in Europe. Polish church architecture deserves special attention. Some interesting buildings were also constructed during the Communist regime in the style of Socialist Realism. Recently, some remarkable specimens of modern architecture have been erected.
Polish art has always reflected world trends while maintaining its unique character. Jan Matejko's famous school of Historicist painting produced monumental portrayals of events which were historic for Poland. Stanisław Witkiewicz was an ardent supporter of Realism in Polish art, its main representative being Jozef Chełmoński. The Młoda Polska (Young Poland) movement witnessed the birth of modern Polish art, and engaged in a geat deal of formal experimentation. Its main adherents were Jacek Malczewski (Symbolism), Stanisław Wyspiański, Józef Mehoffer , and a group of Polish Impressionists. Artists of the twentieth-century Avant-Garde represented various schools and trends. The art of Tadeusz Makowski was influenced by Cubism; while Władysław Strzemiński and Henryk Stażewski worked within the Constructivist idiom. Distinguished contemporary artists include Roman Opałka , Leon Tarasewicz , Jerzy Nowosielski, and Mirosław Bałka and Katarzyna Kozyra in the younger generation. The most celebrated Polish sculptors include Xawery Dunikowski, Katarzyna Kobro , Alina Szapocznikow and Magdalena Abakanowicz. Since the inter-war years, Polish art and documentary photography has enjoyed worldwide recognition. In the sixties the Polish Poster School was formed, with Henryk Tomaszewski and Waldemar Świerzy at its head.
The origins of Polish literature written in the Polish vernacular go back beyond the 14th century. In the 16th century the poetic works of Jan Kochanowski established him as a leading representative of European Renaissance literature. Baroque and Neo-Classicist letters made a signal contribution to the cementing together of Poland's peoples of many different cultural backgrounds.The early 19th century novel "Manuscrit trouvé ą Saragosse" by Count Jan Potocki, which survived in its Polish translation after the loss of the original in French, became a world classic. Wojciech Hass ' film based on it, a favourite with Luis Bunuel, later became a cult film on university campuses. Poland's great Romantic literature flourished in the 19th century when the country had lost its independence. The poets Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki and Zygmunt Krasiński, the "Three Bards," became the spiritual leaders of a nation deprived of its sovereignty, and prophesied its revival. Henryk Sienkiewicz, a Nobel prizewinner for his novel Quo Vadis in 1905, eulogised the historical tradition.
In the early 20th century many outstanding literary works emerged from exchange across cultures and Avant-Garde experimentation. The legacy of the Kresy Marchlands in Poland's eastern regions with Wilno and Lwów (now Vilnius and Lviv) as two major centres for the arts, played a special role in these developments. This was also a region in which Jewish tradition and the mystic movement of Hasidism thrived. The Kresy were a cultural trysting-place for numerous ethnic and national groups, where the arts flourished of cultures in contact with each other. The works of Bruno Schulz, Bolesław Leśmian, and Józef Czechowicz were written here. In the south of Poland, Zakopane was the birthplace of the avant-garde works of Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy).
After the Second World War many Polish writers found themselves in exile abroad, with many clustered around the Paris-based Kultura publishing venture run by Jerzy Giedroyc . The group of emigre writers included Witold Gombrowicz, Gustaw Herling Grudziński, Czesław Miłosz, and Sławomir Mrożek. Zbigniew Herbert, Tadeusz Różewicz, Czesław Miłosz (Nobel Prize in 1980), and Wisława Szymborska (Nobel Prize in 1996) are among the most outstanding 20th century Polish poets, novelists and playwrights, which also includes Witold Gombrowicz, Sławomir Mrożek, and Stanisław Lem (for science fiction). Hanna Krall 's reportage which focuses mainly on the war-time Jewish experience, and Ryszard Kapuścinski's books have been translated into many languages.
It is difficult to grasp fully the detailed tradition of Polish Romanticism and its consequences for Polish literature without a thorough knowledge of Polish history. The music of Fryderyk Chopin, inspired by Polish tradition and folklore, conveys the quintessence of Romanticism. Since 1927, the Chopin International Piano Competition, one of the world's most prestigious piano competitions, has been held every five years in Warsaw. Traditional Polish music has inspired composers like Karol Szymanowski, Mieczysław Karłowicz, Witold Lutosławski, Wojciech Kilar, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, and Krzysztof Penderecki - all of whom rank among the world's most celebrated composers. Polish jazz with its special national flavour has fans and followers in many countries. The best-known jazzmen are Krzysztof Komeda, Michał Urbaniak , Adam Makowicz , and Tomasz Stańko. Successful composers of film music include Zbigniew Preisner, Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, and Wojciech Kilar.
Graduates of the famous Łódź Film School include many celebrated directors, among them Roman Polański ("Knife in the Water", "Rosemary's Baby", "Frantic", "The Pianist") and Krzysztof Zanussi, a leading director of the cinema of moral anxiety of the 70s. Andrzej Wajda's films offer an insightful analysis of what is universal in the Polish experience - the struggle to maintain human dignity under circumstances which hardly allow it. His major films describe the identity of many of Poland's generations. In 2000 Wajda was awarded an Oscar for his contribution to cinema. In the 90s Krzysztof Kieślowski's films, such as "The Decalogue", "The Double Life of Veronica", "Three Colours", won great popularity. Other Polish film directors such as Agnieszka Holland and Jerzy Kamiński have worked in Hollywood as well. Polish animated films - represented by Jan Lenica and Zbigniew Rybczyński (awarded an Oscar in 1983) - have a long tradition, and derivie inspiration from Poland's graphic arts.
The Polish avant-garde theatre is world-famous, with Jerzy Grotowski as its most innovative and creative representative. One of the most original twentieth-century theatre personalities was Tadeusz Kantor, painter, theoretician of drama, stage designer, and playwright, his ideas finding their culmination in the theatre of death and his most recognised production being "Umarła klasa" (Dead Class).
Poland offers a wide spectrum of cultural experience. Those interested in high culture will enjoy the renowned music festivals like Wratislavia Cantans and the Warsaw Autumn. Polish museums exhibit remarkable art collections - masterpieces including Leonardo da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine in the Czartoryski Museum, Cracow; the Veit Stoss High Altar in St. Mary's Basilica, Cracow; and the Last Judgement by Hans Memling (The National Museum in Gdańsk). Ethnographic museums and open-air museums also hold attractive collections. The panorama of Polish culture is completed by a medley of local festivals.
- Culture of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1567-1795)
- Positivism in Poland (19th century)
- Young Poland - 1890-1914
- Cinema of Poland
- Education in Poland
- Holidays in Poland
- List of famous Poles
- List of Polish language radio stations
- Media in Poland
- Music of Poland
- Polish composers
- Polish cuisine
- Polish dance
- Polish literature
- Polish painters
- Polish poets
- Polish Radio and Television
- Polish theatre
- Religious denominations in Poland
- Slavic mythology
- Sports in Poland
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