Sztuka: Zarys jej dziejów (Art: A Survey of Its History, 1872) [chapter]

Magdalena Kunińska
2022 Periodization in the Art Historiographies of Central and Eastern Europe  
The mechanisms of structuring art history survey textbooks can be viewed as signs of the times within the discipline's development. In the nineteenth century, such textbooks, as Mitchell Schwarzer argues, 'embodied the vision of history to unify the art of the past into a coherent and relevant story for the present'. 1 This chapter refers to Sztuka: Zarys jej dziejów; zarazem podręcznik dla uczących się i przewodnik dla podróżujących (Art: A Survey of Its History; A Textbook for Students as
more » ... as a Guide for Travellers), published in 1872 by Józef Łepkowski, who had been appointed as the head of Poland's first archaeology department at the Jagiellonian University, Kraków, in 1866. Łepkowski's textbook is a good starting point both for the investigation of narrative strategies and historical assumptions and as a key moment in the history of the discipline in Poland. Throughout his career, Łepkowski adopted the strategy of transferring or 'autonomously translating' the methodological and substantive achievements of Western art history and placing them in the Polish context. It seems that one of his chief goals was to reposition Polish art within the rewritten universal history, extending the area previously covered by German research. Meanwhile, early art history in Poland pursued two main ends: on the one hand, to demonstrate the distinctive and unique characteristics of Polish art and thereby prove the autonomous status of the Polish nation; 2 on the other hand, to preserve its kinship with Western Europe. In the contemporary language of the Hegelian philosophy of history, Western Europe was classified as the 'dominant' civilization -although Daniel Preziosi has described it scathingly as the 'brain of the Earth's body'. 3 Łepkowski's Sztuka: Zarys jej dziejów is no exception to this. The author divided the development of art into broadly defined periods, whose rhythm was marked by stylistic changes. This approach was somewhat problematic, making it especially difficult to appropriately position Islamic, Byzantine and post-Byzantine art, among others. Thus, Łepkowski shared the perspective of the German allgemeine Kunstgeschichte (general art history) textbooks by Karl Schnaase, Franz Kugler, Anton Springer and Wilhelm Lübke, which served as his main reference points. More importantly, his work was the first and only survey of its kind: the next generation of academic art historians rejected survey texts in favour of monographs on individual monuments which, moreover, were limited mainly to Polish examples. The first of these was the 1876 monograph on the ruins at Ostrów Lednicki by Marian Sokołowski, who 6 Sztuka: Zarys jej dziejów
doi:10.4324/9781003178415-10 fatcat:kn77r4vgz5hgligmnjjdjiosky