All texts included in this volume of Sacrum et Decorum focus on the complex problems of sacrum in the 19th and 20th century art, and show certain aspects of the phenomena, perceived from different research perspectives.
The opening article of the volume, by Joanna Lubos-Kozieł, presents a synthetic picture of the research problems connected with the 19th century sacred painting; it emphasizes the necessity of delimiting the area of realizations of devotional character in academic research. The author proposes general postulates concerning the research methodology and the criteria of sacred artworks evaluation, and signals the difficulties and obstacles involved in dealing with these issues.
In an article devoted to the formation of iconography connected with the 19th century Marian apparitions, Piotr Krasny analyses the network of cultural conditions that imply a crisis in the sacred art of the time, torn between the aspiration to the ideal, supersensual beauty, and the limited capabilities of artistic expression. The French examples, discussed by the author, have their analogies in Poland, e.g. the cult of the Divine Mercy painting, and the associated way of thinking of sacred art still influences its development.
A broad and multi-aspectual analysis of the perception of modern sacred art is offered in the article by Ewa Klekot; it has been written from the perspective of post-modern cultural anthropology. The author considers the questions of artwork evaluation with regards to religious art, including religious kitsch, and points to the numerous conditions that shape the aesthetic attitudes of the modern man. This work invites a reflection on broadening the research horizons of traditional history of art, chiefly with respect to formulating the criteria of artwork evaluation that include also extra-artistic premises.
The observations Ewa Klekot presents mainly concern the modern culture, and it is indeed the art of the last century that the main part of this volume refers to. It is dominated by borderline themes, concerning the presence of sacrum in the areas of art which are connected neither with cult nor with the stylistic convention normally associated with devotional artistic creation.
The main body of this volume begins with the article by Tadeusz Boruta, a well-known painter and art-theoretician. Although the article is an exegesis of John Paul II’s reflections on artistic creation – a kind of poetic contemplation of a sacred painting masterpiece – it allows for a universal reflection, concerning the presence of God in art, not necessarily confined to the liturgical or religious function.
The text by Renata Rogozińska, the author of synthetic articles on modern, chiefly sacred art, presents the artists who seek to express transcendental matters in a manner inspired by the theology or the form of an icon. This article discusses solely works unrelated to religious cult; putting together works of over ten famous artists and recalling dozens of others clearly shows the importance of this current in Polish modern-art, which is the search for sacrum, inspired by the forms of imagery of the Christian East. The author analyzes and systematizes the unusual diversity of content- and form-related, direct and indirect references to the representational tradition typical of the Byzantine tradition, present in the modern Polish art; she thus creates another synthesis, encouraging further exploration of the issue, discussed in detail in her recently published monograph.
The text submitted by Michael Brötje is accompanied by the articles by Mariusz Bryl and Michał Haake, two researchers representing the academic circles of Poznan, who popularize the German scientist’s theories among the Polish art-historians. Michael Brötje suggests a deepened, and slightly controversial analysis of a work of abstract art, created in the middle of the past century; before the eyes of the reader, he reveals subsequent layers and aspects of interpretive options of the discussed work. Brötje reads the metaphysical contents of the work, which refer to the Absolute and its relation with the individual being, and then includes the viewer and his capability of perception in the thus-created structure of intra-pictorial relations.
The article by Mariusz Bryl, preceding Brötje’s text, is an introduction to his theories, which are not yet wide-spread, and are frequently received with reservations by Polish art historians. On the other hand, the article by Michał Haake can be seen as a kind of continuation, or elaboration of Brötje’s thought concerning the possibility of bringing sacrum into being through abstract art forms. This brilliant analysis of a cycle of modern works, placed in the context of the suprematist theory and its realizations in the early-20th century art, articulates and orders the elementary aspects of the subject, and provides an inspiration for further reflections.
A summary of the subject of the above-described articles is the text by Grzegorz Sztabiński – an artist, a philosopher and an art-theoretician. He traces the connections between aesthetics and spirituality in art, from ancient to modern times. Concentrating on the phenomena of the 20th century, the author discusses the peculiar change of paradigm brought by abstractionism, in the aspects which are of special interest to the author, and the spiritual crisis in the art of the end-of-the-century era of unreflective consumptionism.
The editorial board would like to extend the core of the nine articles, preceded with the introduction, with a new section including: reports on events important to the development of research into modern sacred art, reviews of important publications on the topic, presentations of distinguished contributors to the research into the 19th and 20th century sacred art, and free reflections on the issues connected with the subject of our periodical.
In this volume, we inform about the creation of the Centre for Documentation of Modern Sacred Art, established in the Faculty of Art of the University of Rzeszów. The report is supplemented with a text by the spiritual patron of the new institution, professor Andrzej K. Olszewski, who donated to the Centre the effects of over thirty years of his work.
The editors hope that the new volume of Sacrum et Decorum will be received kindly and with great interest.
Translated by Anna Ścibor-Gajewska