Seen from Mount Miedziane. Some words about The Tatra Panorama
The author of the article recalls a little known story of the making, great fame and destruction of a late 19th century panoramic painting depicting the Tatra Mountains. The huge work (115 metres long and 16 metres high) was made on a wave of a fashion, begun in the second half of the 19th century, for paintings displayed in buildings constructed especially for them, which were to create an illusion of reality thanks to appropriate lighting effects. Several such huge panoramas were painted in Poland at the time. They include The Passage of Napoleon’s Army through Berezina, Golgotha or The Siebenbürgen Panorama. However, the most famous among them was the first Polish painting of this type — The Racławice Panorama — currently displayed in Wrocław. It was the great success of this work that prompted the making of other Polish panoramas, including The Tatra Panorama.
The idea was first put forward in the early summer of 1894. A rich lawyer from Kraków, Henryk Lgocki, undertook the challenge of carrying out the project. After some consultations he chose Antoni Piotrowski, a well-known painter from Kraków, to be the artistic manager of the project. Piotrowski gathered a team of several people, who began the preparatory work, sketching a panorama of the Tatras seen from Mount Miedziane. In the autumn of 1894 the so-called Small Tatra Panorama was painted in Piotrowski’s workshop. In the spring of the following year it was used by a group of artists headed by Stanisław Janowski (Piotrowski had withdrawn from the project), who began to work on the main panorama in one of the special panorama buildings in Munich. The works were marked by the death of the outstanding German landscape painter Ludwig Boller (he fell from the scaffolding). More or less at the same time Lgocki began to construct a special building in Warsaw that would house The Tatra Panorama. The new painting was revealed during a special ceremony in Warsaw in November 1896. Art critics received the panorama enthusiastically. It was commonly regarded as the most perfect, in artistic terms, panoramic painting in Poland. Unfortunately, after three years tastes changed, the panorama ceased to be profitable and its owner sold it at an auction. One half of the huge painting was bought by an anonymous bidder, who cut the canvas into tarpaulins which were subsequently used by highlanders transporting tourists from Chabówka to Zakopane to cover their carts. The other half was purchased by Jan Styka, co-painter of the Racławice Panorama, who painted a semi-cycle entitled The Martyrdom of Christians in Nero’s Circus on the reverse side of the canvas. Thus the most valuable — from an artistic point of view — Polish panoramic painting ceased to exist. Today the National Museum in Kraków has only two fragments of the Small Tatra Panorama.