Czesław Olszewski (1894-1969) was one of the most outstanding Polish architectural photographers. He captured the modernisation of the Polish state in the 1930s and its reconstruction after World War II on several thousand negatives. From 17 March, the History Meeting House invites you to the exhibition of his photographs.
The curatorial team, historian and art critic Prof. Marta Leśniakowska and photographer Tomasz Kubaczyk, have selected 95 photos from almost seven thousand (mostly glass) negatives and prints. As Leśniakowska says: “This is a valuable source of knowledge about pre-1939 architectural culture in Poland that today is either partially non-existent or degraded. [...] Czesław Olszewski was a careful observer, sensitive to the form of the object, surface texture, and the play of light, highlighted in the nuances of black and white”. He photographed buildings housing ministries and post offices, schools and hospitals, cooperative housing estates and luxury tenement houses. His pictures are both a valuable historical source and an artistic delight. He developed a style and technique that remian appreciated even today.
The exhibition at the History Meeting House is the first such a big presentation of Czesław Olszewski’s works. It comprises photographs from the archives of the Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, the National Museum in Warsaw, the Warsaw Museum, as well as the private collection of Prof. Andrzej Olszewski. It includes pictures taken in Warsaw, Gdynia, Ciechocinek and Nowa Huta and presents both pre-war and previously unpublished post-war photographs. Some of the buildings featured in the exhibition will certainly be familiar to Warsaw residents, among them the Jan Wedel tenement house, the characteristic “Tenement under the Sail” and Prudential (now the Warsaw Hotel), as well as the spectacular former modernist pavilions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Polish Fiat Salon or the 10th Anniversary Stadium (Stadion Dziesięciolecia).
Bilingual Polish-English edition of Seeing the Cityscape. Czesław Olszewski’s photography
The exhibition is accompanied by an album with photographs selected by Prof. Marta Leśniakowska and photographer Tomasz Kubaczyk. One of the contributors to the publication, Karolina Andrzejewska-Batko, wrote: “Czesław Olszewski left a huge legacy, which is one of the most invaluable sources not only for researchers of the history of photography, but also of architecture and socio-economic changes. Changes that took place in the interwar period, as well as after 1945 when the country was rebuilt from post-war destruction. His work is a fascinating photographic documentation, showing the history of Poland through the history of architecture”.
Wasza Warszawa app
Czesław Olszewski’s photographs will be available in the free Wasza Warszawa application. The app will also feature historical contexts and fun facts and allow users to go for a walk around the modernist city or visit it while sitting on the sofa at home. As the project coordinator Agnieszka Tomasińska says: “The app is almost like a time machine. With Czesław Olszewski’s photos of Warsaw located on the map, we can walk around the capital city as it looks today and compare it with historical images. We can see how a given place used to look like but also give new meanings to the places we pass by every day”.
Curators: Marta Leśniakowska, Tomasz Kubaczyk
Descriptions: Marta Leśniakowska, Karolina Andrzejewska-Batko
Project coordination and production: Julia Libera
Graphic design: Lotne Studio
Exhibition sounding: Katarzyna Białas
Production: Mateusz Wierzbicki (Willow Service)
Pre-press: Tomasz Kubaczyk
Editor: Małgorzata Purzyńska
Translation: Katarzyna Michałowska, Anna Rosiak
Proofreading: Anna Kaniewska
PR team: Agata Krajewska, Milena Ryćkowska, Dorian Widawski