Xawery Dunikowski Collection

Xawery Dunikowski (1875-1964) was an outstanding sculptor and pedagogue who decided to transfer his works, to which he referred as his children, under the protection of the Polish State. A jubilee exhibition of his creative output staged by the National Museum in Warsaw at the turn of 1948-49 offered him an opportunity to donate the displayed works to the Polish People’s Army. The gift included 151 sculptures, 20 paintings and 25 drawings. In return, the Ministry of Culture and Arts was to hand over to him the Królikarnia building in Warsaw to be used as his studio, apartment and a museum of his work. However, the process of reconstruction of Królikarnia, destroyed during the war, took so long that it was only on the first anniversary of his death that an exposition of his works presented by Marian Spychalski on behalf of the People’s Army took place. The donation contained “works and souvenirs of the Master of Polish Sculpture, Constructor of People’s Poland Professor Xawery Dunikowski bequeathed by him to the society and the Polish State”. In the following years, the Museum received gifts from institutions as well as private people (including Antoine Cierplikowski and the artist’s daughter Maria Xawera Dunikowska) and made acquisitions. Apart from 108 paintings, 246 sketches and 380 drawings, the collection of the Museum features more than 500 sculptures from all the periods of Xawery Dunikowski’s artistic career, starting with terracotta sculptures created in his student years, Portrait of a Cousin and Miser (both 1896) to sketches for his last monument, Polish Soldier (1963). The most interesting objects from the early period include his diploma work awarded with the gold medal of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow – an impressionistic Portrait of Henryk Szczygliński (1898), a realistic Portrait of Mother (1899) and expressive Prometheus (ca. 1900). This last composition forecast the next stage in his creative work in which the artist addressed  new subjects in Polish sculpture problems of human existence, the mystery of birth and passing: Breath (1903), the Pregnant Women cycle (1906) Eve I (1906) and Eve II (1918). New content required searching for new formal solutions. Simplification of form, expressive accumulation of shapes and dualism of figures of Fate (1904) and Motherhood (1904) are typical of these works. The most noteworthy pieces from this period include portraits, highly valued by his contemporaries, e.g. those depicting Kazimierz Kamiński (1907), Franciszek Mączyński (1912), Ludwik Solski (1912) and Ignacy Daszyński (1912) as well as less known sacred sculptures: Annunciation (1907), Madonna (1910) and projects for the portal of the Jesuit Church in Krakow (1910-1912).

The second important period in Dunikowski’s work was the Parisian period of 1914-1922. Two monumental compositions regarded as masterpieces, Self-Portrait (1917-1920) and Bolesław Śmiały’s Tomb (1917), were created in Paris. Numerous portraits inspired by ancient Greek sculpture, including Carthage Woman, Head of a Greek Singer and many portraits of Polish, American and French women akin to the Art Deco style, also come from this period.

In the 1920s and 30s, the artist competed in contests for monuments to Józef Dietl (1936), Kazimierz Pułaski (1938-1939) and Marshal Józef Piłsudski (1938-1939). Drawn and sculptural sketches for them are part of the collection. The artist also accepted commissions from churches: Evangelists for the Krakow seminary, figures of Saint Barbara and Saint Felix for a never completed tympanum in the Katowice cathedral as well as Saint Francis and Saint Felix for a church in Marysin Wawerski. The famous cycle of the Wawel Heads (1924-1929), to be mounted in coffers in the Envoys’ Room at the Wawel Castle, is exceptionally valuable. Over 60 sculptures constitute a comprehensive gallery of human types. The set contains portraits of Polish kings and national bards (Mickiewicz, Słowacki), friends (Władysław Jarocki, Ludwik Solski, Józef Kuczyński) and students of the sculptor. The artist continued working on the cycle from 1954 to 1961, creating a Pantheon of Polish Culture. It features portraits of personalities from the world of art and theatre (Wyspiański, Boznańska, Modrzejewska), science (Śniadecki, Curie-Skłodowska) and politics (Waryński, Marchlewski, Dzierżyński).

In the 1930s, Dunikowski debuted as a painter and it was in this period that he created self-portraits, portraits of his daughter Xawera and her mother – Sara Lipska.

Dunikowski spent the years 1940-1945 as a prisoner of the concentration camp in Auschwitz. The collection contains drawings displaying the interior of the carpenter’s workshop where he worked and portraits of his fellow prisoners. His traumatic experiences from the camp were expressed in a cycle of paintings known as the Auschwitz Cycle, which includes Christmas in Auschwitz in 1944, Orchestra, Grates and Road to Freedom amongst others. After the liberation, Dunikowski spent a year in hospital but he created his first post-war sculpture, Worker, already in 1946. The sculptor wanted to erect monuments. Sketches, projects and models for the best-known works (Monument to the Act of Insurgency on Saint Anne’s Mountain and Monument to the Liberation of the Region of Warmia-Masuria in Olsztyn) constitute valuable research material. Controversial projects for the Monument to Marshal Josef Stalin (1954) and portraits of Vladimir Lenin (1949) are highly interesting. The collection of Dunikowski’s creative output is complemented with an archive containing biographical and artistic materials, correspondence and photographs. The Museum in Królikarnia also houses equipment from the sculptor’s studio (including modelling stands, chisels, palettes, brushes, etc.), personal mementoes as well as an interesting collection of Hutsul art (chests, pottery and candlesticks), greatly valued by the artist.