Poland • 1838−1893

Biography and information

Jan Aloysius Mateiko (June 24, 1838, Krakow - November 1, 1893, Krakow) - Polish painter, an outstanding representative of romanticism and historicism.

Features of the artist Jan Mateyko: Jan Matejko became the first Polish artist to devote his work to a national idea. He became famous for his works, the plots of which were the bright pages of the history of the struggle of Poland for independence. The outstanding Russian critic Vladimir Stasov considered Jan Mateiko "one of the largest artistic values of 19th century Europe" and the "mighty head" of Polish art.

Famous paintings by Jan Matejko: Stanchik, Lublin Union, Stephen Batory near Pskov, Copernicus. Conversation with god.

National patriotism in the family of immigrants

The music teacher, Francis Xavier Mateiko, came to Poland from the Czech Republic around 1807, and his spouse John Caroline Rossberg was from a German family. The spouses Mateyko had 11 children, Jan was the ninth child. Mother passed away when he was seven years old, and since then the children grew up under the supervision of her aunt, her sister. His father did not particularly go into questions of upbringing, but still allowed Yana to do what the boy loved most — drawing.

National patriotism in this family of emigrants was held in high esteem: two elder brothers Yana took part in the revolutionary events of the “Spring of Nations” in 1848, and another older brother Franchishek Mateyko, a historian by education, awakened his interest in antiquity and folk traditions. And Krakow itself, with its medieval architecture, the Royal Castle and the tombs of the Polish rulers, contributed to the fascination with national patriotic ideas.

Poor vision creativity is not an obstacle

Since childhood, Mateiko had poor eyesight, so when working on paintings, he used a magnifying glass for the first time; the acquisition of glasses solved this problem and allowed Yana to work comfortably and continue her studies. In 1852, Jan Matejko entered the Cracow School of Fine Arts. For six years spent within its walls, he studied and sketched all that pertained to Polish antiquity with great diligence and attention. His teachers, Yusef Kremer and Vladislav Lushkevich, strongly supported and guided the talented young man. The collection of documentary sketches of Polish life, costume, architectural elements Jan Matejko replenished throughout his life; the artist himself called them his “Dictionary” and drew in these sketches the naturalism of the details when working on paintings of the historical genre. On the basis of them in the early 1860s, he prepared and published an album of engravings "Polish Costume".

After graduating from the School of Fine Arts, Matejko received a scholarship and went to continue his education in Munich, where he studied for two years at the Academy of Arts under the guidance of Professor Hermann Anschütz. The Munich Pinakothek became the main point of attraction for the young artist. Here he spent long and delightful hours, getting acquainted with creativity Tintoretto and Rubens, Durer and Van dyck... His idols are masters of historical painting, contemporaries Paul Delaroche and his student Karl Theodore von Piloti. They Mateyko learns to snatch and depict in the picture the most dramatic moment of a historical event, evoking the maximum emotion in the audience. After Munich, Jan went to Vienna, but was dissatisfied with the level of training and returned to his homeland in 1860.

Return to native Krakow and the first recognition

In Krakow, Matejko rented a workshop on Krupnichy Street and plunged into work. Two years later, he presented to the public his painting “Stanchik” - his first famous canvas. In 1863, the people of Poland revolted; the artist did not take a personal part in these events, but provided material support to the rebels. His impressions of these events, which ended in failure for the rebels, were reflected in the film “The Sergia of Skarga”, marked by the main award of the Paris exhibition.

For each of his work, Jan Matejko spent about two years. Of course, he painted portraits and landscapes, but his main creative passion remained epochal canvases related to the history of the struggle of Poland for its independence. Hard work of a talented master did not go unnoticed: Mateyko is famous. His painting “Reian. The decline of Poland "(1867) was acquired by King Franz Joseph for 50 thousand francs.

Do not marry childhood friends

Unrequited love for her childhood friend, young Theodore Gebultovskaya, tormented the young Mateiko for years. Beauty Theodore, as well as her brothers, studied music in childhood from Father Matejko-Francis, their families were friends for many years. Dreaming of the operatic stage, she didn’t immediately descend to the ardent passion of a young but already famous artist. In the end, Theodora's family inclined the obstinate daughter to a favorable marriage: by that time Mateyko repeatedly received major awards at the Paris exhibitions, his paintings were sold, and the artist could provide a future wife with a comfortable life.

The wedding took place in 1864, the newlyweds spent their honeymoon in Paris, and a year later Matejko's first child was born. Motherhood and family life did not bring much joy to the young wife, who turned out to have a difficult and rather quarrelsome character. Her face is depicted in many paintings by Jan Matejko in the form of historical heroines. Theodora was very jealous, arranged scenes, did not allow other women to pose for her husband's pictures. After a while, Jan started talking about suicide, later about divorce ... He had to put up with his wife's escapades, because he dearly loved their children - sons of Tadeusz and Jerzy and daughters Helena and Beatu.

Over time, Theodora’s health began to deteriorate, and her mental illness worsened after the death of their fifth child, Regina’s daughter. In 1882, Theodora Mateyko was placed in a psychiatric hospital for treatment. After a year and a half, there was an improvement in the clinic, but not for long. Mateiko himself was forced to bring up children. One of his daughters, Helena, inherited her father’s talent and later also became an artist.

At the crossroads: Academy or School?

The financial situation of the family was not particularly strong: Mateiko often donated his paintings, sold them for symbolic amounts, helped the poor, and besides, his wife’s treatment was worth a lot. And yet, over time, he managed to cope with a constant lack of funds, and the family moved to a more spacious house.

At the age of 35, Jan Matejko was offered to head the Prague Academy of Arts. But he made a choice in favor of the School of Fine Arts in his native Krakow, which at that moment was on the verge of closure. The artist not only headed the school - he literally saved him and gave many years of his life in the name of the glory and prosperity of the School. The preservation and restoration of the historical monuments of Krakow were one of the priority tasks to which Matejko devoted time, strength and partly financed.

Jan Matejko lived only 55 years. He was recognized during his lifetime, became an honorary member of the most significant European Academies of Arts - in Prague, Vienna, Berlin, Paris. For his contribution to the art, Jan Matejko became a Knight of the Commander Cross of the Order of Franz Joseph, a Knight of the Order of the Legion of Honor and Commander of the Order of Pius IX. He passed away in his beloved Krakow, where he was buried.

Author: Rita Lozinskaya