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Narodowe Muzeum Morskie w Gdańsku

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The museum complex on the Motława river

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Henryk Baranowski - a reporter with a palette

18.05.2015 |

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m.s. Prosna, 1983, oil, hardboard, private collection

Henryk Baranowski is a central figure of the 13th edition of the "Polish Artists and the Sea" cycle. Baranowski was a seascapist, a continuator of Antoni Suchanek and Marian Mokwa's tradition, as well as a commodore serving in the navy. Organized on the 10th anniversary of painter's death, this year's exhibition is an occasion to commemorate his individuality and artistic work.

Henryk Baranowski was born in 1932 in Starogard Gdański. His passion for art originated in his family house: his father owned a prosperous painting and decorating business and employed Kazimierz Ostrowski, who later became an outstanding professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk. As an apprentice of Jan Falkowski, an arts conservator, Baranowski worked on his technique. The studies of a future painter at the Faculty of Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sopot were interrupted by a call-up into the army.

Baranowski decided to continue his military service: his new profession did not stop his artistic career, on the contrary, it helped to develop it further. The artist established an art room in an officers' club by Gdynia beach. As a part of his professional duties, under a kind supervision of the Polish Navy, he painted the port and the shipyard, scenes of manoeuvres and training ground activities, and also recorded images of the navy fleet.

Due to ocean voyages conducted on vessels of the Polish Navy, the artist acquired his most valuable experience. "I have always thought that the sea can be painted from ashore. Now I know that it is not enough. I have experienced its true flavour, its power and constant changeability." Voyages to various European ports, to Israel, Libya, Turkey, Siberia, Tashkent, Lake Baikal resulted in oil sketches and paintings created on the spot.

Baranowski also enjoyed portraying people, genre scenes and side streets, e.g. in Port Said and Alexandria. He did not stop working even during his few month' stay in the Middle East in 1977 serving as a UN observer or once gone into retirement in 1992.

Seascape painting played a major role in the artist's collection of works, which is rich in respect to the variety of topics as well as to the number of paintings (around 3500 works of art). Most frequently, Henryk Baranowski painted views of the picturesque Polish coast, in particular of the cliff in Orłowo, complex battle pieces of the Polish Navy trainings on land and at sea, images of ships and vessels, views of ports and shipyards, Middle East motifs, scenes from the life of fishermen, vedute, mainly presenting Gdynia and Gdańsk, landscapes of the Kashubia and Kociewie areas. He also created a series of portraits of the Polish Navy commanders and ordinary soldiers. Moreover, the painter employed historical topics related to the sea and, among others, created a series of paintings devoted to the Battle of Vistula Lagoon of 1463 as a part of his cooperation with the Polish Maritime Museum (currently: the National Maritime Museum) in Gdańsk.

The artist used mainly oil paints, watercolours, gouache and pastels. As for his style, he always remained faithful to a realistic way of depicting the world, occasionally experimenting with colour and texture. As a continuator of Suchanek and Mokwa's seascape painting tradition, Baranowski was inspired mainly by sea, seaside, sailing, ships, vessels and ports.

When the majority of painters preferred abstract art, he remained a realist and therefore, his paintings present everyday life and the world the way he perceived them. A genuine interest in the world and people – this was Baranowski's chief quality, he was a great observer of the surrounding nature, as well as of the cities he visited. Therefore, he more than earned to be called 'a reporter with a palette', which is a nickname given to him by art critics.

The artist used to say: "The sea has no ability to pose, it is in constant movement. You have to capture what you aim to paint quickly...". And so he painted spontaneously, on the spur of the moment, enthralled by surrounding colours. He felt an unremitting need to paint wherever he was: in an art room or plein-air, at work or during his leisure time, upon commission or just for pleasure. He worked until the end of his days, despite his illness.

Henryk Baranowski participated in a number of exhibitions, both in Poland and abroad, including around 40 individual exhibitions. His works constitute a part of Polish and foreign museum and private collections. He was granted with numerous awards, medals, diplomas and honourable mentions, including the awards of the Minister of Culture and Art and the Minister of National Defence.


"Sea, Harbours, People. Painting of Henryk Baranowski"
The Granaries
22.05.2015 – 30.08.2015


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