Friday, August 11, 2006

Polish Art Collections in Michigan, Part 3 of 3

Continuing with Part 3, an excerpt of Polish Art Collections in Michigan by Stanislaw Janicki, from Poles in Michigan Vol. 1... (Part 1 appeared July 28, 2006); (Part 2 appeared August 4, 2006)
The collection of Judge Gronkowski contains an oil by the outstanding Polish painter, Alexander Gryglewski (1833-1879). It depicts the interior of a church in Krakow. Among the many paintings of the contemporary artist, Zofia Stryjenska, her Madonna dressed in Polish costume is undoubtedly her best work.

Finally, Judge Gronkowski’s collection contains fifty works of the well known engraver, Stefan Mrozewski, now living in New York, which merit our attention. His outstanding engravings are a series entitled “Monastery in Jedrzejow”.

Another Detroit resident, Mr. Witold Chrypinski, has in his possession “Christmas” by the well known artist, Sigmund Sichulski from Lwow. “Napoleon at Berezyna”, one of the best works of Jerzy Kossak, is the acquisition of Mrs. Irene Kalenkiewicz of this city.

The author has in his possession a picture of “Our Lady of Victory” from Kozielsk, published by the Polish Army field printing office in the Soviet Union sometime between 1941 and 1942. This edition was ordered to be destroyed by the Soviet authorities, and with it a very rare copy of a missal whose printing was completed on May 3, 1942, in Jangi-Jul, Uzbekistan, Siberia, in the head quarters of the Polish Army under General Anders. There were only 110 copies published; of these 45 were printed on packing paper. This missal was most likely, in the opinion of the author, the first and the last publication of a religious book in Soviet Russia.

While discussing Polish art collection in Detroit, it is necessary to mention a collection of Mr. Anatol Girs, an outstanding Polish art printer, engraver and painter, now residing in this city, whose famous “Warsaw Outbuilding” was burned during the Warsaw uprising. Mr. Girs resumed his artistic activities after his liberation from a Nazi concentration camp by the American GI’s. His graphic edition of Dr. Ruppel’s “Stanislaus Polonus” (a 15th Century Pole and a Spanish printer) is excellent. This book was acknowledged as one of the fifty most beautiful books in the first half of this century when it was displayed at the Worlds Fair in Meinz, Germany.

In the vicinity of Detroit, at Orchard Lake, is located St. Mary’s College and St. Cyrill and Methodius Seminary. The library of this Polish educational institution contains 45,000 books, half of them in the Polish language. It is undoubtedly one of the biggest Polish libraries in the United States. At the time of the establishment of the seminary, its founder, Rev. Joseph Dabrowski, received many books from all parts of the world. Some were received from Archbishop Popiel of Warsaw, Bishop Kozlowski of Zytomierz, Bishop Isakowicz of Lwow, from Rome, Rappersville, Switzerland, to mention only a few. In this library can be found a very valuable Polish dictionary by Linde; the 16th Century Kromer printed in Cologne, Germany; works by Hozjusz; 17th Century works of Piotr Skarga, published by Piotrkowszczyk in Krakow; sermons by Starowolski; and a very rare biography of St. Casimir, published in Wilno, as well as many other rarities.

The present Rector of St. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Edward Szumal, is a lover of rare books. He constantly procures rare books for both the school and his own library. He is known to personally repair and take care of these old looks. A professor of the Seminary, Rev. M. Koltuniak, owned a rare collection of old Polish documents which he recently donated to the school. He has collected about 150 autographs and handwritings of the Polish Kings and Queens, beginning from Zigizmund I (1506), as well as a letter of King Henry Walezy who ruled Poland for only one year. Father Koltuniak’s collection also includes many letters of the Polish generals from insurrection of 1830-31 and a sizeable collection of old coins, including such unusual rarities as denars of the first Polish ruler, Mieszko I (960-992) and of his son, the first Polish King, Boleslaw, the Brave.

There are many Polish art and historical rarities in Detroit and in other parts of Michigan. However, their owners are, for the most part, unknown. Much searching will be needed in order to locate and evaluate these private collections of Polish art, documents, relics and other valuable items. As time goes by, it is hoped that many of the forgotten Polish treasures will be brought to light for the enjoyment of all.

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