Exhibition POLAND 1840-1918. PAINTING THE SOUL OF A NATION at Louvre Lens

25.09.2019 to 20.01.2020.


99, rue Paul Bert 62300 Lens

The year 2019 marks the centenary of the signing, on 3 September 1919, of the agreement between France and Poland ‘relating to emigration and immigration’. It led to the arrival of large numbers of Polish workers in France, notably in the mining region in the north of the country. Between 1919 and 1928, 280,000 work contracts were signed following this international agreement. It was made possible by Poland’s return to independence in 1918, after 123 years of partition.

On the occasion of this key event for the region’s identity, the Musée du Louvre-Lens is organising a large retrospective of 19th-century Polish painting, in association with the National Museum in Warsaw and the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. It is the first exhibition in France to cover this century that was so critical to Poland’s history.

The exhibition retraces that particular moment in the history of Polish culture, in which despite the country’s division between the Russian empire, Austrian empire and the kingdom of Prussia, artists created a veritable Polish identity, a sense of ‘Polishness’. It reveals the way in which artists, by drawing inspiration from national history, landscapes and rural life, fashioned images of Poland for Poles and also for the rest of the world. Their rich, evocative, striking paintings marked the European art world of the time.

Thanks to prestigious loans from Polish national museums and private collections, the exhibition brings together almost 120 paintings – dating from between 1840 and 1918 – by the leading representatives of Polish painting, including Jan Matejko, Józef Brandt, Jacek Malczewski, Józef Chełmoński and Olga Boznańska.

Exhibition organised with the National Museum in Warsaw and the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, as part of POLSKA 100, the international cultural programme accompanying the centenary of Poland regaining independence. Co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland as part of the multi-annual programme NIEPODLEGŁA 2017–2022.