Jan Matejko—painting, history, modernity – A lecture by Prof. Andrzej Szczerski, director of the National Museum in Krakow, Poland

What: Jan Matejko—painting, history, modernity - A lecture

Who: Prof. Andrzej Szczerski, director of the National Museum in Krakow, Poland

When: Wednesday, May 31, 2023, 7:00 PM

Admission: Free and open to the public/ Space is limited/ Registration is required.

This event is part of #PolishHeritageDays and The Year of Jan Matejko celebrations. The painter has been declared the patron of the year 2023 by the Senate of the Republic of Poland.

Lead image: Jan Matejko, Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversations with God, 1873. Source: Muzeum Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego Collegium Maius.

The Kosciuszko Foundation and the Polish Cultural Institute New York invite you to a lecture “Jan Matejko—painting, history, modernity” with Professor Andrzej Szczerski, the director of the National Museum in Kraków. 

Despite being part of the canon of Polish art history, the work of Jan Matejko has been overshadowed in Poland’s cultural life for many years. On one hand, the artist was given a prominent place in museum exhibitions and included in school textbooks, but on the other hand, his work was treated as a closed chapter, referring to the 19th-century world and the realities of the partition period, which has little to offer to today’s audience. This paradoxical absence of Matejko and a consistent attempt to change this situation inspired the National Museum in Kraków to propose the idea of ​​establishing the year 2023 as the Year of Jan Matejko, which was officially declared by the Senate of the Republic of Poland. The date is not accidental and refers to the 185th anniversary of the artist’s birth, the 130th anniversary of his death, and the 125th anniversary of the founding of the first biographical museum in Polish lands – the Jan Matejko House, a branch of the Kraków Museum. The Year of Matejko is primarily an opportunity to take a fresh look at the painter’s work and confirm the relevance of his message for our contemporary times.

During the lecture, a preview of the monographic exhibition entitled “Jan Matejko – painter and history,” will be presented. It is currently being prepared at the National Museum in Kraków, and it will open in June 2023. In this context, the issues of the artist’s painting will be discussed from the perspective of contemporary research on historical narratives and their significance in public life. The complexity and visual language of Matejko’s painting forms will be emphasized, confirming his importance as a painter and creator conducting extensive educational activities through his works. The lecture will also remind us of the international reception of Matejko’s works and the recognition he enjoyed during his lifetime, unmatched by the success of any Polish artist to this day. Jan Matejko will be presented as a creator fascinated primarily by the history of Poland and the entire Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and also, which is particularly important today, the region of Central and Eastern Europe. The lecture will conclude with an author’s interpretation of the painting “Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversations with God” and an analysis of the discussion that the presentation of the work sparked at the National Gallery in London in 2021.


Professor Andrzej Szczerski (born 1971 in Krakow) completed his studies in art history at the Jagiellonian University, where he later obtained his doctoral and post-doctoral degrees. He has received scholarships from Polish and foreign research organizations and institutions. In 2016-2018, he was deputy director for scientific affairs at the National Museum in Krakow. From 2009 to 2017, president of the Polish Section of the International Association of Art Critics AICA. He is a member of the program boards of many cultural institutions, including the Zachęta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw, the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw, the Gdynia City Museum, and the Museum of Architecture in Wrocław. Curator of exhibitions in Poland and abroad, including “Symbolism in Poland and Britain” at Tate Britain in London (2009), “#heritage” at the National Museum in Krakow (2017). Author of numerous publications on contemporary art and 20th-century art – books and articles in thematic catalogs and magazines. In 2018 honored with the Award of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage in the category “Protection of Cultural Heritage.” Since 2020, he has served as Deputy Chairman of the Social Committee for the Renovation of Krakow Monuments (SKOZK). Co-author of the exhibition “Young Poland: The Polish Arts and Crafts Movement, 1890-1918” at the William Morris Gallery in London (2021). Originator and co-curator of the exhibition series “4 x Modernity” at the National Museum in Kraków. Director of the National Museum in Kraków since January 2020.




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