Polish Arts represents culture of a country that once has been a powerful empire. Under the name of Rzeczpospolita it stretched down to the Black Sea where it directly contacted civilization of Middle East and later that found a reflection in both works of Polish writers of XIX century (in poetry of Juliusz Słowacki, in the novel ”Pharaoh” of Bolesław Prus) and artists of same epoch (”oriental equestrians” of Aleksander Orłowski, beautiful women and garments of Maurycy Gottlieb, born in Drogobych, Ukraine).
Destitute of independent statehood for more than a century, Poland looked for internal support in reminiscences of its tough and heroic past. Writers and artists poetized it like some echo of the ”lost paradise”. Stories about noble knights and glorious battles fill poems of Adam Mickiewicz and canvas of Jan Matejko (he, by the way, also ”looked East” and painted views of Constantinople). They both well appear as mouthpieces of national spirit in the Polish culture.
At the turn of XIX century national art was greatly affected by impressionism that in the creative work of the artists combined with sincere interest in culture of other countries nationalities that lived in Poland (Kazimierz Sihulski, Jan Stanislawski). And further Polish arts were notable for its intrinsic independence and love of freedom.
In the second half of XX century Poland was by force involved into the block of satellite pro-Soviet countries. However national fine art retains its identity, perhaps for the greatest extent among all countries of that block. Modernist tendencies, absolutely impossible and unimaginable in the culture of the USSR, and all the more of the Soviet Ukraine, got more development and even blossomed locally. In that period the most fruitful were achievements in graphics and cinema and theatrical posters. (A triumph of Polish cinematography in visual culture of which lessons of national masters were evident is a separate topic). In painting generally abstractionist trend prevails (starting from the so called Krakow group). But still there was enough room for the perfectly figurative satire (in the pictures by Erzy Duda-Gracz).
At the modern stage Polish artistic culture naturally combines strong realistic tradition and search and often on the edge of crispy grotesque, and rather with a pinch of refined eroticism. Its accommodation within the worldwide art-process is indisputable. Having mastered new genres Polish artists perform brilliantly at international artistic forums (installations by Monika Sosnowska). And the contests of young artists fascinated with new technologies are often held in even provincial towns (such as Stalowa Wola).
And as earlier Polish art – with all core of its self-consciousness – os open to the world and to its artists especially. For instance, we see cooperation of Polish and Ukrainian artists in some projects (Erzy Tarasiewicz and Tiberiy Silvashi, Yuri Onukh with his exposition ”Steppes of Europe”). Quite a number of ethnic Ukrainians joined the ranks of Polish culture, such representatives of Ukrainian Lemkian community as Nikiphor Drovniak and Erzhy Nowoselski, masters of naïve and religious fresco painting respectively. In its turn Poland bestowed to Ukraine classics of XX century lyrical poetry (Maksym Rylskiy) and furthermore classics of national political thought (Vyacheslav Lipynskiy).
Oleh Sydor-Hibelynda, art critic