The Great Painters

Józef Chełmoński

- eminent painter of nature

Józef Chełmoński
Józef Chełmoński, Self-portrait, 1902, Wikipedia

Józef Chełmoński (1849-1914)

He created paintings, considered to be outstanding examples of realism in Polish painting. Fascinated by his native landscape and famous for his extraordinary, almost photographic memory, the artist painted genre and hunting scenes and rural landscapes, depicting with a great deal of authenticity the life of peasants and nobles of that time. In his atmospheric and realistic paintings, he wonderfully reproduced the colours of nature.








Józef Chełmoński


On 7 November in Boczki near Łowicz, Józef Marian Chełmoński, son of Józef Adam (the owner of the manor, alderman, gifted in music and painting) and Izabela Łoskowska was born.


he started learning in the Warsaw Drawing Class and in Wojciech Gerson's private studio



Study in Munich under H. Anschütz and A. Strähuber. There, Józef Chełmoński became involved with the Polish Munich community, especially with Stanisław Witkiewicz, Józef Brandt, Maximilian Gierymski and Adam Chmielowski.


he stayed in Ukraine, from where he returned to Warsaw, where with Witkiewicz and Chmielowski shared the studio, rented in the building of the Europejski Hotel


Józef Chełmoński went to Paris, where he gained critical and public acclaim, showing the Salons pictures of the life of the Polish countryside and famous performances of rushing horse-drawn carriages. The canvases were willingly bought by collectors from Europe and America.  


On 18 June Józef Chełmoński married Maria from Korwin-Szymanowski; after the wedding they went to Vienna, Munich, Venice and Paris


the artist became a father. In total, the spouses had seven children: Maria, Zofia, Jadwiga, Wanda, Anna, Józef and Tadeusz. Unfortunately, three children died (Józef, Anna and Tadeusz).


the artist worked with the Parisian "Le Monde Illustré" as a cartoonist-illustrator

Józef Chełmoński
Partridges on Snow, 1891, National Museum in Warsaw, Wikipedia


Józef Chełmoński returned to Warsaw with his whole family


the purchase of the manor house in Kuklówka, to which the painter had already travelled frequently before to paint

Józef Chełmoński
Departure of Cranes, 1871, National Museum in Krakow, Wikipedia


the painting "Tempest" exhibited in Krakow brought the artist the Probus Barczewski Academy of Skills award


Józef Chełmoński was awarded the Grand Prix at the Universal Exhibition in Paris


He won a gold medal at the Glaspalast exhibition in Munich and at the General Art Exhibition in San Francisco. In the same year the painter's marriage broke up: 3 older daughters: Jadwiga, Maria and Zofia stayed with their father, and the youngest Wanda, wife Maria took them to Warsaw


Józef Chełmoński was appointed Honorary President of the Society of Polish Artists "Sztuka", which brings together the most outstanding Polish artists


Józef Chełmoński was appointed Honorary President of the Society of Polish Artists "Sztuka", which brings together the most outstanding Polish artists

Józef Chełmoński
Four, 1881, National Museum in Krakow, Wikipedia

Interesting facts:

Józef Chełmoński aroused considerable sensation in Munich with his clothes - he wore red tights of Russian cavalry, a navy blue Uhlan jacket and a Warsaw-Vienna Railway conductor's cap...
From memory

The artist was famous for his almost photographic memory. During his stay in Paris, his canvases depicting lively scenes from the borderland fairs were of great interest. He painted all the paintings from memory...


In "Episode from the uprising 1863" Józef Chełmoński showed the presence of women in the insurgent unit. Soldiers during the January Uprising were not isolated cases. Unfortunately, their importance was often marginalised, suggesting more "female" activities. And even accused of "looking for a husband" in the ward. All the more so, the motive, captured by Józef Chełmoński, is unprecedented. Not only did he show the women in the insurgents' ward, but he even showed them as fully-fledged heroines.

Storks, 1900, National Museum in Warsaw, Wikipedia

About the art of Józef Chełmoński:

The centre of Józef Chełmoński's interest was invariably nature, especially animals. He was a master of depicting energetic sledges in the vast scenery of the Ukrainian steppes. He was an excellent observer of animals and showed them in their natural environment against a background of realistic landscapes.

"The artist's custom of itinerant birds raised the poetics of the idea to the dignity of a work of art." 
– recenzja z wystawy

"Starry Night" This is one of the first works by Józef Chełmoński devoid of human presence. The night landscape, full of poetic mood, in which the only "hero" is nature asleep.

"A starry sky, separated in the distance by a dark, narrow streak of land from the waters of the lake; peace and quiet. The tone of the painting is perfect. Astronomers claim that there are no such constellations as are in this painting in the real sky, that it was the imposed points that were missed - this is an accusation, not concerning the artistic value of the painting. The truth in art does not depend on the truthfulness of the presented situation - Chełmoński's sky with all its astronomical disorder is completely true.

Stanisław Witkiewicz

Józef Chełmoński was famous for his extraordinary sense of observation and talent for perceiving the most subtle phenomena occurring in nature. He showed nature with almost religious and mystical praise.

"The artist then created two atmospheric nocturnes with the motif of cranes, probably inspired by the reading of Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz. One of them is the painting just discussed, depicting a herd of cranes getting ready for their departure early in the morning before the coming winter. In the misty space of the marshy landscape, birds with graceful silhouettes are flying up and down. Among them is a crane with a broken wing."
Aleksandra Krypczyk

Józef Chełmoński
Return from the ball, 1879, Silesian Museum in Katowice, Wikipedia

At the end of the nineteenth century, Józef Chełmoński's paintings were widely appreciated by critics and the public. His works were sometimes even juxtaposed with the paintings of the master Jana Matejko.

"In his painting, the artist has spelled the mystery of Polishness (...) there is something of magic in it, there is a spell, there is a charm thrown by a real fighter in the great hunt of nature".
Maciej Masłowski

Stanisław Witkiewicz highly valued paintings by Józef Chełmoński. Even considering them to be model examples of realism in painting which "gave the illusion of reality, produced its illusion and gave an impression". The painting "Czwórka" is certainly one of the greatest achievements of naturalism in Polish painting.

"A sled of four horses, driven by a Ukrainian peasant, seems to rush straight to the viewer. The animals painted in their natural size, captured in a mad gallop, burst the surface of the painting, causing the illusion of an unstoppable, constantly ongoing movement. This impression is intensified by the contrast between the main motif and a static, monotonous background.
Wacława Milewska

Józef Chełmoński in the Museums:

Józef Chełmoński
Cross in a smoke chamber, 1907, National Museum in Warsaw, Wikipedia
galeria marzeń


  • Bytom: Muzeum Górnośląskie. Można tam podziwiać m. in.:
    • „Sanna” bez daty
  • Katowice: Silesian Museum. You can admire there, among others..:
    • Powrót z balu” namalowany w 1879
  • Kraków: Muzeum Narodowe – Galeria Sztuki Polskiej w Sukiennicach. Można tam podziwiać m. in.:
    • „Żurawie” namalowany w 1870
    • „Odlot żurawi” namalowany w 1871
    • „Na folwarku” namalowany w 1875
    • „Czwórka” namalowany w 1881
    • Na jarmarku” namalowany w 1883
    • „Droga w lesie” namalowany w 1887
    • „Żebrak warszawski” namalowany w 1888
    • „Świt” namalowany w 1892
    • „Burza” namalowany w 1896
    • „Owczarek” namalowany w 1897
    • „Dniestr nocą” namalowany w 1906
    • „Studium ptaków” bez daty
    • „Wóz z koniem” bez daty
  • Łódź: Muzeum Sztuki. Można tam podziwiać m. in.:
    • „Powitanie słońca – Żurawie” namalowany w 1910
  • Poznań: National Museum. You can admire there, among others..:
    • Zjazd na polowanie” namalowany w 1874
    • „Orka” namalowany w 1896
    • „Dymy – Jesień” namalowany w 1897
    • „Pogoda – Jastrząb” namalowany w 1899
  • Warsaw: National Museum. You can admire there, among others..:
    • „Rozpłata robocizny” lub „Sobota na folwarku” namalowany w 1869
    • „Przed deszczem” namalowany w 1872
    • „Sprawa u wójta” namalowany w 1873
    • „Babie lato” namalowany w 1875
    • Noc na Ukrainie zimą” namalowany w 1877
    • „Przed karczmą” namalowany w 1877
    • Jarmark na konie w Bałcie” namalowany w 1879
    • „Dropie” namalowany w 1886
    • „Droga” namalowany w 1889
    • „Kuropatwy na śniegu” namalowany w 1891
    • „Bociany” namalowany w 1900
    • Autoportret” namalowany w 1902
    • „Krzyż w zadymce” namalowany w 1907
    • „Kaczeńce – Wiosna” namalowany w 1907
    • „Kurhan” namalowany w 1912
    • Końskie wywczasy” bez daty
    • Kozacy” bez daty
    • Epizod z powstania” bez daty
    • Koń w zaprzęgu w saniach” bez daty
    • Studium pejzażowe” bez daty
  • Wrocław: Muzeum Śląskie. Można tam podziwiać m. in.:
    • „Portret Jana Górskiego” namalowany w 1897

Józef Chełmoński (1849-1914)

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Józef Chełmoński
Indian Summer, 1875, National Museum in Warsaw, Wikipedia