Polish Madonnas

08.30.2005 | Catholic, Fine ArtsAbout 2,500 people from all over the country have visited the Marian Library Art Gallery at the University of Dayton this summer to view "Polish Madonnas in Art and Poetry." It's a rarely seen exhibit of 50 oil paintings by Polish artist Wislawa Kwiatkowska on loan from the Diocesan Museum of Plock in Poland.

There's still time to view the vibrant paintings, which are on display for the first time outside of Poland. The free exhibit closes Sept. 8 at the Marian Library, located on the seventh floor of the Roesch Library, and the first-floor library gallery.

The exhibit is available for viewing daily 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and this weekend from noon to 5 p.m. The library will be closed Labor Day. The display also can be viewed online at http://www.udayton.edu/mary/polishexhibit.html.

"Museums in New York and Los Angeles would like to show the paintings, but the museum in Plock, Poland, wants the pictures back as soon as the UD exhibit is over," said Robin Smith, assistant to the director of the International Marian Research Institute.

The Marian Library Gallery secured the exhibit through the efforts of volunteer tour guide Danuta Romanowska. "She saw the paintings while visiting relatives in Poland and told the Plock director about the Marian Library at the University of Dayton and how it was a special venue for Marian art," Smith said. "The director was so impressed that he agreed to let the Marian Library Gallery show the paintings."

As a country, Poland has a special affection for Mary, the mother of Jesus. "Poland is a country that is dedicated to Mary, so much so that Poles call her the Queen of Poland," said the Rev. Johann G. Roten, S.M., director of the Marian Library-International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton. "There is a very strong interconnectedness between Marian devotion and all aspects of Polish life."

The exhibit is more than an example of the Polish people's devotion to the Mother of God; it is a glimpse at the cultural, religious and artistic heritage of Poland, something that remained a bit of a mystery until recently, according to Roten.

"For a long time, until the Iron Curtain came down, most of us didn't know anything about Polish art," Roten said. "What we have come to find out in recent years is that Polish art is extremely rich."

Kwiatowska's vibrant images of the Madonna are interwoven with colorful flowers,
plants, birds and animals. The colorful nature-inspired images overflow from the canvas and incorporate the painted frames. Each painting was inspired by the text of Polish poetry; many of the poems were written by the Rev. Jan Twardowski, a Polish priest and avid nature lover.

"Religion permeates the whole Polish mentality," Roten said. "It is so much a part of their daily life."

The exhibit was made possible through funding by the Marion and Irene Glass families and the Polish Heritage Foundation.

The Marian Library-International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton houses the world's largest collection of information about Mary and graduate programs in Marian studies. The collection includes rare books, art, clippings, artifacts, slides, stamps and statues.

Contact Robin Smith, assistant to the director of the International Marian Research Institute, at (937) 229-4254.