The Great Painters

Wojciech Kossak

- panorama painter

Wojciech Kossak
Wojciech Kossak, 1901, Wikipedia

Wojciech Kossak


He has made a name for himself on the pages of Polish art history as one of the most prolific artists - his artistic output is estimated at 2,000 canvases. Much of his paintings are in private hands, in Poland and abroad. The portraits of Wojciech Kossak's paintbrush are not limited to capturing the image of the canvas's hero. The surrounding, the landscape, and above all the atmosphere, tell the character of the model.






Wojciech Kossak

Wojciech Kossak

Own portrait with palette, Wikipedia


(31 December at a quarter past midnight) in Paris, as the first of the twins, Wojciech Kossak, son of Juliusz and Zofia Gałczyńska was born. Soon he came to Warsaw with his parents. He has been drawing a lot since childhood.


he started learning painting at the Cracow School of Fine Arts, where he was a student of Władysław Łuszczkiewicz (1828-1900)



He went to Munich to study art, from where he sent a drawing for the Sukiennice Fair. As the artist's mother wrote: Matejko), he starts to praise very much, to admire, to look at, to take out from the grey end, to hang on the honorable place...".


Wojciech Kossak started his studies in Paris


He returned to Cracow, where he fell in love with 20-year-old Maria Kisielnicka.


He married Maria Kisielnicka on July 16th. Their children: Jerzy Kossak (1886-1955), Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska (1891-1945) and Magdalena Samozwaniec (1894-1972) grew up in the famous Kossakówka (a house full of souvenirs, still in the hands of the family). All three of them will gain fame and enter the history of Polish art


Kossak's marriage served him well, he painted and exhibited a lot, and his works were very successful in Vienna, where he received a gold medal for his painting "The History of the First Uhlan Regiment".


He lived in Berlin and was considered the Emperor's court painter. For "Horse Portrait of William II" he was awarded the Order of the Red Eagle. He also received the bachelor's cross of the Order of the Iron Prussian Crown. These honors were publicized in the Polish press - a scandal broke out: in many eyes Wojciech Kossak appeared to be a traitor to the Polish cause, or at least a man devoid of patriotic feelings.


The first public show "Panorama Racławicka" took place on 5 June. The huge composition was enthusiastically received by the audience


after a few years in Berlin, the artist returned to Poland, bitten by the accusations of using Prussians


the artist's greatest easel canvas was created: "Bloody Sunday", which was shown in Vienna, London, Paris, the United States, Cracow and Lviv and enjoyed critical and public acclaim



On the initiative of Wojciech Kossak, a painting group "Zero" was established, referring to historical and patriotic values.


he was elected a member of the management of the Society of the Friends of Fine Arts in Cracow, he still painted a lot, and his works were exhibited in London, Paris, Munich, Antwerp and Rome


He became a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. In the same year he published his "Wspomnienia" - the book had great reviews and was very popular. He started selling a lot and finally he could stop complaining about the spectre of "death by starvation".


World War I broke out and although Wojciech Kossak was already 57 years old, he was conscripted into the Austrian army. He did not stop painting and composed, among other things, front scenes: "Young Hero," "Soldier's Dream," "On a battlefield.


This time in the Polish army, Wojciech Kossak became a major of the uhlans


He left for Paris and the United States with a diplomatic courier mission. In the USA he received 2 large orders for paintings: "Pulawski near Savannah" and "Kosciuszko near Saratoga". For each he received 20,000 dollars


The main source of the artist's income has become portraying the "famous and rich". His popularity was not decreasing, although his works were very uneven. Apart from the magnificent and full of momentum paintings, many auto-physicals and repetitions are also made. In the 1930s, Wojciech Kossak was very much under attack from avant-garde critics, but despite the "bad" press, almost everyone who could afford it wanted a portrait made by his hand.


The outbreak of World War II found Wojciech Kossak in Cracow. During the occupation, despite many pressures, he did not want to sell any painting to the Germans. Speaking of old age, he rejected the proposal of Governor Hans Frank, who necessarily wanted to have a portrait of Kossak's brush. And yet, the artist painted to the end and even boasted that he did not have to wear glasses. He preferred to paint Krakow craftsmen than portraits of German generals.


Wojciech Kossak died on 29 July in Cracow, leaving a lot of unfinished works.

Interesting facts:


The uprising of "Raclawice" is connected with the General National Exhibition organized in Lviv in 1894. The "Committee for the Polish Panorama" was established and in July 1893 the construction of a special rotunda in Lviv began. The canvas is 120 meters long and 15 meters wide, i.e. it covers an area of 1800 m2.

"Racławice Panorama"

"Panorama Racławicka" is the only panorama preserved. Jan Styka and Wojciech Kossak were unable to complete it in time in two. They chose helpers who were valuable painters: Teodor Axentowicz, Ludwik Boller, Tadeusz Popiel, Zygmunt Rozwadowski, Michał Sozański, Jan Stanisławski, Włodzimierz Tetmajer and Wincenty Wodzinowski.

15 signatures

Work on "Berezina" lasted 16 months. Wojciech Kossak remembered well the disputes concerning the authorship of "Racławice". Just in case, he put 15 of his signatures in different places on the canvas.


"Berezyna" has been extremely successful in Berlin, Warsaw, Kiev and Moscow. She enjoyed the same interest everywhere, contributing to the fame of Polish artists. After the triumphant presentations in various cities, however, it turned out that there is nowhere to put her. The gigantic canvas was destroyed in chests, until in 1907 Wojciech Kossak took it to himself, painted the destruction (by the way reducing the fragments painted by Fałat), cut it into pieces and sold it piece by piece.


The Panorama "Somosierra" was never painted due to the lack of consent of tsarist officials to exhibit the work in Warsaw. Four large oil sketches were made, painted together with Michał Wywiórski (he painted the landscape) and several paintings inspired by the theme of the battle.

The Battle of the Pyramids

Panorama "The Battle of the Pyramids" was a substitute subject in the absence of consent to paint "Somosierra". The canvas for "Somosierra" was already ordered in Belgium, the panorama building in Warsaw has already been contracted for 2 years, the costs half already paid, so it was necessary to paint a different panorama. The subject was to be international, excluding the Polish army. Wojciech Kossak and Michał Wywiórski went to Egypt to study the area, landscape, clothes and types of people. After their return Wywiórski painted a landscape, Wojciech Kossak painted a figural composition. They also helped in the project: Władysław Jasieński, Kazimierz Pułaski, Zygmunt Rozwadowski, Józef Ryszkiewicz and Czesław Tański. The panorama was 15 m high and 115 m in circumference. The panorama was not exhibited anywhere outside Warsaw and was soon cut into fragments.

Olszynka Grochowska

In 1915, as a result of a fire at the Mycielski Palace in Borynice "Olszynka Grochowska" burned down. Wojciech Kossak painted a replica of it during the interwar period.

Wojciech Kossak
Artillery in the back, sketch for Berezin's panorama, 1896, Wikipedia
Wojciech Kossak
Wojciech Kossak in his studio, 1926, Wikipedia

About the art of Wojciech Kossak:

The leading motif of the father's (Juliusz Kossak) and son's (Wojciech Kossak) work are horses presented in portrait, genre, battle and historical scenes. And yet, the more sensitive eye will immediately distinguish Juliusz from Wojciech. First of all, they use different techniques. While the overwhelming majority of Juliusz's works are made in watercolor on paper, Wojciech usually paints on canvas with oil paints. The unpretentious, gentle charm of Juliusz's paintings replaces Wojciech's artistic confidence and momentum. From similar or even the same elements each of them builds a different world. Juliusz's paintings make us dream about perfect harmony between man and nature. Wojciech makes us admire the fantasy and splendor of his vision.

In Wojciech Kossak's painting everything will be subordinated to the power of expression. The artist knows that for most viewers, the atmosphere is more important than a meticulous recreation of the officer's sash. The painting "Olszynka Grochowska" gives the impression of photography with a strong emotional charge. It presents only a fragment of a battle. However, the Russian troops commanded by Dybicz are present, except for the picture. The salvoes of Polish soldiers are heading towards them, and their action causes death and wounds among the insurgents. Paradoxically, such an invisible presence of the enemy causes an increase in tension.

"What to paint if it will make an impression on people?"
 – Jan Matejko

Wojciech Kossak
Kennkart Kossak March 1942, Wikipedia
Wojciech Kossak
Kossak cooks soup for the creators of Racławice, Wikipedia

At the end of the nineteenth century, in the period preceding the advent of the cinema era, the whole of Europe was embraced by the fashion for panoramas. The French, Germans and the English were exhibiting in long queues in front of the galleries in order to admire the monumental paintings, the size of which exceeded all imaginings. The fascination with panoramas also embraced Wojciech Kossak. This form perfectly suited his talent. After all, spectacular recreation of great battles is something that Wojciech Kossak likes most. The panorama "Racławice" was painted together with Jan Styka (1858-1925). They also helped in the project: Teodor Axentowicz, Ludwik Boller, Tadeusz Popiel, Zygmunt Rozwadowski, Michał Sozański, Jan Stanisławski, Włodzimierz Tetmajer and Wincenty Wodzinowski. Everyone is the author of important fragments. However, Wojciech Kossak is the author of most of the figural compositions. He also created, in the first stage of his work, key sketches "Racławic".

Wojciech Kossak
Lviv Eagles, 1926, Wikipedia

Another panorama: "Berezyna" Wojciech Kossak painted together with Julian Fałat (1853-1929). Similarly to "Racławice" Wojciech Kossak was responsible for almost all the figural scenes, Fałat dealt with the landscape. This time his helpers were: Michał Wywiórski, Kazimierz Pułaski, Jan Stanisławski and Antoni Piotrowski. During the creation of "Berezyna" Emperor William II visited the artists' studio many times and followed the progress of the works with interest. He compared Wojciech Kossak to the famous battalionist Detaille and counted him among the most outstanding painters. In 1907 the panorama was cut into fragments.

Wojciech Kossak w Muzeach:

Wojciech Kossak
Józef Piłsudski at Kasztanka, 1928, Wikipedia
galeria marzeń

Warsaw: National Museum - Polish Army Museum. You can admire there, among others..:

  • „Fragment Panoramy Berezyna” namalowany w 1894-1896
  • „Huzar francuski na śniegu. Szkic do panoramy „Berezyna”.” namalowany w 1896
  • „Dwaj huzarzy francuscy (fragment Panoramy Berezyna)” namalowany ok. 1896-1897
  • „Wyjazd na polowanie w Gödöllö namalowany w 1887
  • „Autoportret z paletą” namalowany w 1893
  • „Bitwa pod Piramidami” namalowany w 1896
  • „Defilada wojsk cesarskich przed Sobieskim” namalowany w 1898
  • „Ułan w walce z Kozakiem” namalowany w 1900
  • „Siostra miłosierdzia na linii bojowej pod Warszawą.” namalowany w 1910
  • „Żołnierz i dziewczyna – Przed Belwederem” namalowany w 1912
  • „Portret konny Marii Zandbangowej” namalowany w 1913
  • „Bitwa pod Raszynem” namalowany w 1913
  • „Sowiński na szańcach Woli” namalowany w 1922
  • „Autoportret z koniem” namalowany w 1924
  • „Kościuszko prowadzi kosynierów do ataku” namalowany w 1924
  • „Kircholm” namalowany w 1925
  • „Orlęta – obrona cmentarza” namalowany w 1926
  • „Szarża pułku ułanów” namalowany w 1926
  • „Portret Marszałka Piłsudskiego na Kasztance” namalowany w 1928
  • „Portret Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego” namalowany w 1928
  • „Olszynka Grochowska” namalowany w 1931
  • „Grunwald” namalowany w 1931
  • „Odpoczynek ułana” namalowany w 1931
  • „Portret pułkownika Edwarda Mandella House” namalowany w 1932
  • „Idzie ułan borem, lasem” namalowany w 1934
  • „Szarża pod Rokitną” namalowany w 1934
  • „Fantazja na temat jazdy konnej” namalowany w 1935
  • „Wizja Wojska Polskiego” namalowany w 1935
  • „Chodkiewicz z husarią pod murami Chocimia w 1921 r.” namalowany w 1936
  • „Wesele Krakowskie” namalowany w 1940
galeria marzeń

Wroclaw: National Museum - Panorama Raclawicka. You can admire there, among others..:

  • „Fragment panoramy. Atak kosynierów na rosyjską baterię. Wojciech Bartosz, gospodarz ze wsi Rzędowice gasi czapką „krakuską” zapłon armaty” namalowany w 1894
  • „Fragment panoramy. Oddział kosynierów biegnie do ataku. Prowadzi ich, z szablą w ręku, Jan Ślaski. Nad nimi sztandar z napisem „Żywią y Bronią”.” namalowany w 1894.
  • „Panorama Racławicka – fragment z lirnikiem” namalowany w 1894.
galeria marzeń


  • Raperswil: Muzeum Polskie
Jacek Malczewski


  • Chicago: Muzeum Polskie
  • Waszyngton: Fundacja Tadeusza Kościuszki
galeria marzeń


  • Lwów – Lwowska Galeria Obrazów – Biblioteka Akademii Nauk Ukrainy – Lwowskie Muzeum Historyczne
galeria marzeń

Cracow: National Museum - Wawel State Art Collection - Library of the Polish Academy of Sciences. You can admire there, among others..:

  • „Kościuszko na koniu. Szkic wspólny z Janem Styką do panoramy „Racławice”.” namalowany w 1893
  • „Scena batalistyczna z bronami” namalowany w 1893-1894
  • „Scena batalistyczna z furą” namalowany w 1893-1894
  • „Palenie sztandarów (fragment Panoramy Berezyna) ” namalowany w 1896
  • „Walka ułana z piechurem” namalowany w 1912
  • „Ułan przy koniu” namalowany po 1925
  • „Ułan i dziewczyna” namalowany po 1925
  • „Kawalerzyści” lub „Ułani” namalowany w 1926
  • „Wizja Napoleona” namalowany w 1914
  • „Rewia kawalerii polskiej na krakowskich Błoniach w dniu 6 października 1933 r.” namalowany w 1934
  • „Święto Kawalerii Polskiej 6 X 1933” namalowany w 1934
  • „Studium jeźdźca na koniu” bez daty
galeria marzeń

Other Polish cities:

  • Bytom: Muzeum Górnośląskie. Można tam podziwiać m. in.:
    • „Wzięcie do niewoli towarzysza pancernego – epizod z wojny szwedzkiej” namalowany w 1894
  • Lublin: Muzeum Okręgowe. Można tam podziwiać m. in.:
    • „Poczet sztandarowy. Fragment panoramy „Berezyna”.” namalowany w 1896.
  • Łańcut: Muzeum-Zamek w Łańcucie. Można tam podziwiać m. in.:
    • „Zofia, Maria i Róża Tarnowskie podczas konnej przejażdżki na krakowskich Błoniach” namalowany w 1925
  • Łódź: Muzeum Sztuki. Można tam podziwiać m. in.:
    • „Ranny kirasjer i dziewczyna” namalowany w 1908
  • Opole: Muzeum Śląska Opolskiego. Można tam podziwiać m. in.:
    • „Kuchnia polowa nad Berezyną. Fragment panoramy” namalowany w 1896.
    • „Jan Kiliński prowadzi jeńców rosyjskich przez ulice Warszawy” namalowany w 1908
  • Poznań: National Museum. You can admire there, among others..:
    • „Szarża Mameluków pod wodzą Murad Paszy. Część panoramy „Bitwa pod piramidami”.” namalowany w 1900
    • „Na straży” namalowany w 1903
    • „Portret arcyksięcia Karola Stefana Habsburga z Żywca” namalowany w 1911
    • „Portret arcyksiężny Marii Teresy Habsburg z Żywca” namalowany w 1911
    • „Rotmistrz Miełżyński przyprowadza Janowi III chorągiew husarską pod Wiedeń” namalowany w 1925
    • „Poseł Miełżyński na dworze w Sztokholmie” namalowany w 1925
    • „St. Miełżyński wypędza Austriaków z Torunia” namalowany w 1925
  • Przemyśl: Muzeum Narodowe Ziemi Przemyskiej. Można tam podziwiać m. in.:
    • „Droga z Burgos (północ)” szkic do panoramy malowany wspólnie z Michałem Wywiórskim; namalowany w 1900
    • „Szarża na baterie hiszpańskie (wschód)” szkic do panoramy malowany wspólnie z Michałem Wywiórskim; namalowany w 1900
    • „Droga do Madrytu otwarta (południe)” szkic do panoramy malowany wspólnie z Michałem Wywiórskim; namalowany w 1900
    • „La guerilla (zachód)” szkic do panoramy malowany wspólnie z Michałem Wywiórskim; namalowany w 1900
  • Szczecin: Muzeum Narodowe. Można tam podziwiać m. in.:
    • „Wiosna 1813 roku” namalowany w 1903
  • Toruń: Muzeum Okręgowe. Można tam podziwiać m. in.:
    • „Rugi pruskie (z cyklu „Duch pruski”)” namalowany w 1909


  • Górki Wielkie: Muzeum Zofii Kossak
  • Kielce: Muzeum Narodowe
  • Tarnów: Muzeum Okręgowe
  • Zamość: Muzeum Ziemi Zamojskiej

Wojciech Kossak


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Wojciech Kossak
Olszynka Grochowska, 1886, Wikipedia