Fulbright Hays Fellowship Brzyski

Grants and Contracts Details


This proposal seeks support for the completion of the research stage in the preparation of a 'critic of Polish art criticism published between 1875 and 1914. The period under consideration witnessed the emergence and gradual mainstream acceptance of modernism in Poland. The art criticism published during this time in Polish press reflected shifting attitudes among critics and artists towards fundamental questions regarding meaning, purpose, value, and function of art, which were brought on by new developments in art theory and practice at home and abroad. The differences in attitude towards those issues focused on the tension between modernist emphasis on individual freedom, unencumbered self-expression, and originality and the conservative critics' insistence on social relevance and responsibility of art. The proposed anthology will investigate how these two positions were articulated and negotiated across a range of texts produced during the period under investigation. It will examine how the discussion of modem art evolved and shifted over time in response to the changing situation, especially, how critical discourse correlated with and was influenced by the activities of the artists, whose strategic promotion of themselves and of modem art played a key role in transforming modernism from a marginal to not just mainstream, but a dominant artistic tendency in Poland by the first decade of the 20th century. In particular, the anthology will focus on the impact of nationalism on evaluation, ideological inscription, and validation of Polish modem art. The partition of Poland, which placed the country under foreign occupation for the duration of the 19thcentury, forced Polish intellectuals to assign unprecedented national significance to all aspects of cultural production. The commonly held view that despite loss of statehood the nation lived on as long as its spirit found expression in native art, literature, and music, informed all critical responses to Polish art. The widely held perception of modem art as a foreign import, and therefore a potential threat to the integrity of national culture, played a key role in shaping the direction of the critical debates that surrounded the emergence of Polish modernism. Although modem art was initially greeted with suspicion and even outright hostility, by the final years of the 19thcentury, it not only became the program of Polish academic art education, receiving full mainstream acceptance, but was also routinely portrayed as a completely native phenomenon --the latest flowering of the national artistic genius. The anthology will examine the process by which this radical shift in critical perception occurred. It will trace changes in the conception of national art that took place within discussions surrounding Polish modernism and investigate how different critics dealt with the issue of modem art's "foreign" origins. It will also examine how Polish art's affinity with Western stylistic tendencies was turned from a liability to an asset, and what role was played in this process by growing recognition of the importance of international competition and heightened awareness of the reception received by Polish art abroad. Within consideration of those issues, the relationship of between the critical discourse and activities of the exhibiting society founded by the modernist artists, the Polish Artists Association "Sztuka," will be of particular interest. The proposed anthology will make available for the first time in English a representative selection of Polish late 19thand early 20th century art criticism. More significantly, however, it will provide a critical framework for examination of the discourse as a system of meaning and value conferral. In other words it will function as a specific case study, but one with broad ramifications for understanding of the impact of nationalism on the discursive inscription of modem art in the region of Central and Eastern Europe and beyond. It will be organized into roughly chronological sections preceded by introductory essays. The introduction to the volume as well as introductory section essays will create a rich critical and historic context for the translated selections. Each translated text will be preceded by a brief introduction that will link it to other statements within the section and issues under consideration. Individual texts will be fully annotated to elucidate unfamiliar references and, where appropriate, accompanied by reproductions of cited works. The volume will also contain a biographic appendix that will identify individual authors, trace their affiliations and provide a brief overview of their activities as critics. During the initial five months of the fellowship period, I will canvas the period literature (newspapers, periodicals, journals, books) to finalize the selection of texts to be included in the anthology. I have already completed a significant portion of this work and anticipate no problems in being able to finish the selection process by the end of November 2003. As I make the final selection, I will also finalize the organization of the anthology into sections and make decisions regarding abridgement. The reminder of the fellowship period will be spent conducting background research for the introductory essays, text annotations, and the bibliographic appendix. I will also complete drafts of the introduction, introductory section essays, and introductions to individual text, as well as identify necessary illustrations, and begin contacting prospective publishers. The bulk of the research will be conducted in Krakow in affiliation with the Institute of Art History at the Jagiellon University, with shorter visits to Wroclaw and Warsaw. At all stages of the project, I will seek advice and input of my Polish colleagues. The final phase of the project involving translation of the Polish texts into English will be carried out after the end of the fellowship period. I will seek for this purpose additional funding ITom appropriate agencies and foundations, such as ACLS, NEH, the Getty Foundation, the Clark Institute Research Grant Program, and the National Center for Humanities.
Effective start/end date7/1/0312/31/04


  • Department of Education: $60,580.00


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