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Early Polish Modern Art: Unity in Multiplicity
by Marek Bartelik
Manchester University Press, November 2005


This groundbreaking work examines – for the first time in one major study – four avant-garde groups that emerged in Poland towards the end of World War I: the Poznan Expressionists, the Young Yiddish, the Formists, and the Futurists, and discusses their work in the light of socio-political and cultural currents in Poland and wider Europe in the interwar period. The text focuses on the impact of the Romantic tradition on Polish art and the growing politicization along nationalistic lines of Polish artists in the early twentieth century. It examines the groups’ art, activities, and published manifestos, while relating them to a panorama of artistic practices in Russia and the West. It also addresses issues of individualism versus group identity and nationalistic versus internationalist tendencies in modern art. It will make fascinating reading for those interested in Expressionism, Futurism, Jewish culture, and cultural politics in artistic modernism. The book is helpfully augmented with a section of brief biographies of Polish artists, poets, and writers.“With the skill and evocative sweep, if not the style, of Jan Matejko's historical paintings, Marek Bartelik's book paints a vast, complex, and panoramic picture of Polish art and history during a brief, but critical, period in the rebirth of an independent modern Poland. Focusing on four major artist groups, in four distinctly different cities, this groundbreaking study expands our understanding of the reciprocal ways in which artists, their work, and their environment act upon one another in a multicultural and multi-ethnic society. In the process of grappling with these complex issues, Bartelik also provides a useful guide for examining the different ways in which mainstream art centers relate to and impact on provincial avant-garde movements.” – Tom L. Freudenheim, former director, the Jewish Museum in New York“Anyone interested in European modernism must read this book as it provides a key to the dynamic and multiple modernisms that developed in central Europe just after the Great War. Bartelik focuses on young artists living in the newly established Poland who examined the experimental, artistic visions dominating European intellectual discourse – Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism – and found ways of creating a vital and multivalent Polish visual culture. The reader will come away from this book with a new understanding of the impact of the political upon the visual.” – Rose-Carol Washton Long, Professor of Art History, City University of New York, Graduate Center“This eminently readable study covers ground heretofore little known outside Poland.” – Peter Selz, Professor Emeritus in Modern Art, University of California, Berkeley“A brilliant study… Mapping the political and cultural realities of the years 1917-1923 in Poland, Bartelik brings to light a wealth of information that has been previously overlooked by art historians. Carefully documenting links between movements and the collaborations among artists, the book opens new perspectives in our knowledge of Polish art of the early twentieth century." – Dr. Joanna Sosnowska, Institute of the Polish Academy of ScienceMarek Bartelik, an art historian and art critic specializing in 20th century art and theory of art, is the author of To Invent a Garden: the Life and Art of Adja Yunkers, The Sculpture of Ursula von Rydingsvard (with Dore Ashton and Matti Megged), OrlanRefiguration, Self-Hybridation, and other works. Since 1997, he teaches modern and contemporary art at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. He has taught art theory at Yale and MIT. Currently, Bartelik is a visiting critic at the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore. He has lectured nationally and internationally in, among other places, MoMA, the Municipal Museum in the Hague, the National Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the National Academy of Science in Warsaw. His articles have appeared in CAA Art Journal, Art in America, Art and Antiques, Gazeta Wyborcza, and Obieg. He regularly contributes to Artforum. PURCHASE