The religious painting of Pia Górska

Anna Sieradzka

University of Warsaw



The religious painting of Pia Górska, a Polish artist active in the 1920s and 1930s, is sparsely preserved and little known. Her most outstanding works include two images painted in 1938-1939: Holy Virgin of Loreto (Patron Saint of Aviators) at the Church of St Francis of Assisi near the Warsaw airport of Okęcie and St Jude Thaddaeus in the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw. The paintings are characterized by their original treatment of iconography, which combines the dictates of tradition with the artist’s lyrical realism.

Keywords: Pia Górska, religious painting, St Jude Thaddaeus, Holy Virgin of Loreto


As an artist, Pia Górska (1878–1974) is nowadays largely forgotten;[1] she is better remembered for her writing, especially her written memories of Józef Chełmoński and the autobiographical volume Paleta i pióro (The Palette and the Pen),[2] than for her painting [fig. 1]. Born in Wola Pękoszewska as the youngest child of Jan Górski and Maria Górska, neé Łubieńska, rich landowners whose manor house served as the venue of vibrant cultural and social life up until the First World War, she was named after Pope Pius IX, who had died shortly before her birth.[3] The Górski family was very religious and the artist’s eldest brother, Ludwik, acted as an unofficial go-between for the Catholic Church of the Kingdom of Poland and the Holy See (for which reason, the family palace in at 8 Foksal Street in Warsaw was often referred to as “the Polish Vatican”).[4] The youngest of four brothers, Konstanty Maria Górski, was a well-known art historian, writer and literary scholar, who had a significant impact on young Pia’s intellectual and artistic development.

Her art education began when several young painters, such as Eligiusz Niewiadomski, Feliks Cichocki, Józef Rapacki, Sylweriusz Saski, and Józef Mehoffer started vacationing at her family house during the summer holidays. Mehoffer suggested that the young disciple should primarily focus on studies from nature. From 1894 onwards, Wola Pękoszewska also welcomed frequent visits from Józef Chełmoński from the nearby village of Kuklówka, the artist that Pia respected the most, if not utterly idolized, and to whom she was indebted for an interest in landscape painting, evident in her early work.[5]

Her further education in the 1890s included visits to the ateliers of famous Krakow-based artists such as Jacek Malczewski, Jan Stanisławski, Leon Wyczółkowski, Józef Mehoffer, and Adam Chmielowski (Albert Chmielowski’s brother), organized through her brother Konstanty (Kocio)’s extensive network of contacts.[6]

Translated by Urszula Jachimczak


[1] No entry on Górska, Pia is to be found in Słownik artystów polskich i w Polsce działających. Malarze, rzeźbiarze, architekci, vol. 2, Warszawa 1975; in post-WWII publications, the artist is briefly mentioned in: W. Skrodzki, Polska sztuka religijna 1900–1945, Kraków 1989, p. 81; W. Bartoszewicz, Buda na Powiślu, Warszawa 1966, pp. 101–104; E. Charazińska, Maria Pia Górska, in: Artystki polskie, exhibition catalogue, ed. A. Morawińska, National Museum in Warsaw, Warszawa 1991, pp. 166–167. An extensive chapter on Górska is included in a popular monograph by A. Okońska, Żywoty pań malujących, Warszawa 1981, pp. 151–184. The most detailed and insightful analysis of the life and work of the artist can be found in Beata Patała, Pia Górska (1878–1974) – zarys monografii, Warszawa 1999, unpublished MA thesis written at the University of Warsaw under the supervision of  Anna Sieradzka, typescript available in the library of the Institute of Art History at the University of Warsaw.

[2] P. Górska, O Chełmońskim, Warszawa 1932; ibidem, Paleta i pióro, Kraków 1956.

[3] M. z Łubieńskich Górska, Gdybym mniej kochała. Dziennik lat 1889–1895, Warszawa 1996, p. 21.

[4] T.S. Jaroszewski, Pałac Zamoyskich na Foksalu, Warszawa 1987, p. 92.

[5] Patała 1999 (fn. 1), p. 32.

[6] Ibidem, pp. 9–10.

[7] P. Górska, W kraju ciszy i burz, typescript in a private collection; quoted after: Patała 1999 (fn. 1), p. 11.

[8] J. Wendorfówna, Chwalebny dyletantyzm, “Tygodnik Ilustrowany”, 1910, no. 19, p. 375.

[9] Górska 1956 (fn. 2), p. 65.

[10] Ibidem, p. 226.

[11] Górska (fn. 7), p. 57.

[12] Patała 1999 (fn. 1), pp. 16–25.

[13] The manuscript of Pia Górska’s autobiograpy for the editorial board of the Polish Biographical Dictionary, private collection, p. 9, quoted after: Patała 1999 (fn. 1), p. 47.

[14] Ibidem, p. 28

[15] Ibidem.

[16] Ibidem, pp. 59–68.

[17] Besides the Autobiografia, private collections include the typescript of: Kraj mojej młodości, W kraju ciszy i burz, Wspomnienia i pamiętnik.

[18] These include: Po zachodzie, 1899, National Museum in Krakow, and Portret we wnętrzu (Portrait of Róża Raczyńska), 1936, Raczyński Family Foundation in Rogalin, affiliated with the National Museum in Poznań.

[19] The Three Wise Men, oil on metal, unsigned, presented at an exhibition in Warsaw’s “Zachęta” in 1930 (“Przewodnik Towarzystwa Zachęty Sztuk Pięknych”, 1930, no. 50, p. 17, item 1), reproduced in: “Bluszcz”, 1930, no. 5, p. 11.

[20] Visitation (Mary and Elizabeth), oil on canvas, unsigned, presented at an exhibition in Warsaw’s “Zachęta” in 1930 (“Przewodnik Towarzystwa Zachęty Sztuk Pięknych”, 1932, no. 71, p. 18, item 232), reproduced in: “Tygodnik Ilustrowany”, 1932, no. 8, p. 15.

[21] Oil on canvas, 150 × 100 cm, unsigned.

[22] J. Duchniewski, entry: Loretańska Matka Boża, in: Encyklopedia katolicka, vol. 10, Lublin 2004, p. 1379.

[23] Skrodzki 1989 (fn. 1), p. 81.

[24] Oil on canvas, 50×40 cm, unsigned; the painting is only briefly mentioned in the monograph devoted to the church, see: E. Kowalczykowa, Kościół Świętego Krzyża, Warszawa 1975, p. 100.

[25] Pia Górska’s letter to Jadwiga Górska, neé Strojnowska, Krakow 17.12.1959, manuscript at the Krasiński Library in Warsaw; quoted after: Patała 1999 (fn. 1), p. 46.

[26] Pia Górska’s letter to Jadwiga Górska, neé Strojnowska, Krakow 12.10.1957, manuscript at the Krasiński Library in Warsaw; quoted after: Ibidem.

[27] M. Jacniacka, entry: Juda Tadeusz, in: Encyklopedia Katolicka, vol. 9, Lublin 2000, pp. 196–197; R. Knapiński, Credo Apostolorum w średniowiecznej i nowożytnej ikonografii kościelnej, in: Symbol apostolski w nauczaniu i sztuce Kościoła do Soboru Trydenckiego, ed. R. Knapiński, Lublin 1997, pp. 331–401.

[28] Skrodzki 1989 (fn. 1), p. 81.

[29] J. Lubos-Kozieł, Wiarą tchnące obrazy: studia z dziejów malarstwa religijnego na Śląsku w XIX wieku, Wrocław 2004.

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