Jan Matejko (1838–1893)
Kościuszko at Racławice, 1888
Purchased from the collection of Poles from the three partitions and donated to the National Museum

material: oil on canvas

dimensions: 465 × 897 cm

description: The painting was bought thanks to voluntary donations from Poles living in the three partitions and transferred to the National Museum in Krakow in 1888. Among those who sat for the artist were peasants from villages around Krakow. The painting commemorates the Battle of Racławice fought by Poles under Tadeusz Kosciusko in 1794 against the Russian Army. Thanks to a daring charge of Polish scythe-wielding peasants, the Poles were victorious. The battle did not have an impact on the outcome of the war, but it was not Matejko’s intent to illustrate history, but rather to present his own commentary to the historic event, which would be coherent with his own view of history and its philosophy. The main axis of the painting is the look exchanged by Bartosz Głowacki – a peasant who showed special bravery on the battlefield - standing next to the cannons, and the Uprising’s commander, sitting on horseback. The artist did not follow the typical principle of academic painting, whereby the main character was always pictured in the centre of the canvas, at the same time indicating both creators of the victory at Racławice as national heroes. Kosciusko is wearing an American uniform instead of poor homespun clothes as was customary in the artistic tradition of the time. In Matejko’s eyes, the uniform became a symbol, standing for the American equality of all citizens before the law. In this way, Matejko makes a reference to the widely propagated idea of social solidarity.

exposition: The Gallery of 19th Century Polish Art in Sukiennice,
The Cloth Hall, 1, Main Market Square

key: Around the academy >>>

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