Matejko, Jan

Matejko, Jan


Born June 24, 1838, in Kraków; died there Nov. 1, 1893. Polish painter.

Matejko was trained at the School of Fine Arts in Krakow (1852-58) and at the art academies in Munich (1859) and Vienna (1860). From 1860 he worked in Krakow, where he became director of the School of Fine Arts in 1873. He painted chiefly multifigured compositions dealing with important moments in Polish history (often from the Middle Ages), which were commentaries on contemporary political events.

In Matejko’s early works intense and tragic images of patriots are contrasted with those of selfish nobles who betray the nation (Stańczyk, 1862; Skarga’s Sermon, 1864; Rejtan, 1866; all in the National Museum, Warsaw). By using allegory, Matejko protected himself against official criticism (Verdict Against Matejko, 1867; National Museum, Warsaw). His immense, well-composed battle and historical paintings of the 1870’s and 1880’s have an impressive dramatic quality, which, however, often borders on excessive emotion and tends to be overpowered by the setting and historical detail, for example, Bdthory at Pskov (1871-72), The Battle ofGrunwald, (1878, both in the National Museum, Warsaw), The Homage of Prussia (1882), and Kosciuszko at Ractawice (1888, both in the National Museum, Krakow). Some of Matejko’s later works reflect an uncritical attitude toward Polish history. He also painted landscapes and portraits (View of Bebek, Near Constantinople, 1872; Portrait of the Artist’s Children, 1879; both in the L’vov Picture Gallery) and executed a number of murals (St. Mary’s Church, Kraków, 1889-91). Matejko’s work was highly esteemed by such outstanding Russian cultural figures as V. V. Stasov and I. E. Repin.


Starzinski, J. Jan Matejko. Warsaw, 1962.
Ostrovskii, G. Ian Mateiko. Moscow, 1965.
Treter, M. Matejko. L’vov-Warsaw, 1939.
Bogucki, J. Matejko. Warsaw, 1956.
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