The project

Young Poland: An Arts and Crafts Movement, 1890-1918 is an international research and knowledge exchange project led by the William Morris Gallery (WMG) and National Museum in Kraków (NMK), delivered in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute, London (PCI), and in association with publisher Lund Humphries. It is co-financed by the Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage within the framework of the Inspiring Culture Programme.

Through a book and exhibition, the project examines the decorative and applied arts of the Young Poland (Młoda Polska) period in the context of the international arts and crafts movement, particularly the work of William Morris, John Ruskin and their followers in Britain. The book was published on 1 December 2020, ahead of a major exhibition on the subject at William Morris Gallery in Autumn 2021.

The project is run by three Young Poland Project Curators – Julia Griffin (née Dudkiewicz), William Morris Gallery, Professor Andrzej Szczerski, National Museum in Kraków, and Roisin Inglesby, William Morris Gallery in collaboration with the Overall Project Manager Kamila Hyska (NMK).

Józef Mehoffer, Nature and Art (1901)
Józef Mehoffer, Nature and Art (1901). Watercolour on paper laid on canvas. Image courtesy the National Museum in Kraków.

What is Young Poland?

The Young Poland movement emerged in the 1890s in response to Poland’s non-existence for almost a century. From the end of the 18th-century Poland underwent successive partitions dividing the country between Russia, Austria and Prussia, resulting in the country disappearing from the map of Europe for 123 years. In the words of historian Norman Davies, Poland became “just an idea – a memory from the past or a hope for the future”. With the failure of military uprisings, culture became a means to preserve an endangered national identity.

The movement originated under the more liberal Austrian partition known as Galicia, namely in Kraków and the nearby village of Zakopane at the foot of the Tatra Mountains, and soon spread across the nation. It embraced an unprecedented flourishing of applied arts and the revival of crafts, drawing inspiration from nature, history, peasant traditions and craftsmanship to convey patriotic values.

While the diverse visual language of Young Poland was created autonomously, in search of a distinctive cultural style and identity, it simultaneously looked outwards to the rest of Europe including British. The project explores unexpected example of cultural exchange between both nations: for instance in 1848 the members of the newly-founded Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood included the Polish fighter for freedom, Tadeusz Kościuszko, on their list of ‘Immortals’ (inspirational heroes).

Discover some of the iconic Młoda Polska locations across Poland in this video by the National Museum in Kraków.