Zbigniew Hornung (1903–1981) belonged to the first generation of Polish art historians who specialized in the study of Baroque art. Although he had also engaged with the art of the Renaissance, and published several papers on the major works of art of this period in Poland, his main achievements concern Baroque sculpture, architecture and painting in the former Eastern Borderlands of Poland. Throughout his life, he invariably used the classical method of combining historical and archival research with that of a stylistic and comparative nature, and rescued from oblivion the sculptor Antoni Osiński, the painter Stanislaw Stroiński and the architect Jan de Witte, to whom he dedicated separate monographs. He also published a monograph on the sculptor Pinsel, but did not manage to access all the material on the subject. Together with T. Mańkowski, he should be merited with discovering a new phenomenon in art, on a European scale of importance, namely the Lviv’s Rococo sculpture. It should be noted that although banished from his hometown of Lviv after the war, Hornung spent the second half of his life in Wroclaw, where he re–organized Polish museology and art historical studies and remained faithful to borderland issues. In addition to monographic studies on artists and their works, he also undertook some attempts at syntheses of Renaissance sculpture and Baroque architecture in Poland. The most original and at the same time the most controversial was “The problem of Rococo in church architecture of the eighteenth century”, published in 1972. He had the courage to formulate daring hypotheses which did not always find support, causing heated debates. Insensitive to new methods and changing research fashions, he was primarily interested in the form and not the subject of the work of art. We can see in this a fascination for the Wölfflinian method, but also for abstract art, which was born in his lifetime. Hornung’s research also reveals his aesthetic and patriotic motivation, understandably so for the first generation of citizens of the newly reborn Poland. Due to his faithfulness to his principles, he was considered a conservative, even an outsider, at the end of his life.
Go to article