Photos courtesy of the Museum of the Diocese of Plock and the University of Dayton Marian Library
This brunette Madonna holds Jesus amid butterflies and dill, a basic ingredient in many Polish dishes. Mary's concern for the Polish people touches even the smallest details of their daily life.
In a golden dress,
the Holy Mother sits in a vegetable garden,
looking after the golden green dill,
ensuring it will be plentiful.
Father Jan Twardowski
Here a royal Mary, reverenced as Mother of Sowers, wraps Jesus in her shawl of spider webs. The webs act as seed savers, thus protecting the forest home of the deer.
From the lilac heather, through the morning fog,
the wind pulls threads from the Holy Mother's shawl
and wraps them around the trees and branches,
protecting the autumn seeds.
A wintry scene shows the red-headed Madonna of the Mountains barefoot.
During the severe mountain winter,
the Madonna, buffeted
by strong winds,
walks barefoot through the snow.
The bears and birds seek shelter
near the Madonna.
In her basket, she carries two little
bears for her Son.
For this artist, the mother of Jesus is more beautiful than Cinderella, as romantic as Snow White and braver than the heroine of the classic fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Yet her Mary is rooted to the earth, nature, the seasons. She is one of us.
She is the special, indefatigable protector of the Polish people, walking with them in their daily lives and throughout their tumultuous history, especially the trials of World War II and the suffering during more than 40 years of Communism.
The mother of God is a healer, a consoler and in harmony with God’s world because she’s in right relationship with God.
Wieslawy Kwiatkowskiej took fragments of Polish poetry that deal with Mary, and with incredible skill and imagination translated them into paintings.
Fifty-four of her oil paintings will be exhibited in Ohio at the University of Dayton’s Marian Library May 17-September 9, 2005. Each measures approximately 35 x 30 inches. Her color palette is extraordinary: bold, crisp, vibrant, unique. Her fantastic yet realistic flowers, plants and birds spill out of the canvas onto the frames, in an effort to eliminate the distance between the viewer and the work.
The 93-year-old Kwiatkowskiej studied at the Academy of Art in Warsaw and in the Department of Art Preservation. These paintings are on loan from the Diocesan Museum in Plock, a section of which is now named for the artist. It’s not surprising that Kwiatkowskiej’s paintings evoke fairy tales because the artist also illustrated Hans Christian Andersen’s stories and The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
One of the oldest examples of the written Polish language is a 15th-century poem praising the Bogurodzica (the Mother of God). This poem, in addition to ones composed by Father Jan Twardowski (b. 1915) and other contemporary poets, inspired Kwiatkowskiej’s paintings. They look at Mary’s role as intercessor with her Son.
The poems began in prayer, and Kwiatkowskiej hopes her paintings will lead viewers to prayer. She offers her work as an invitation to enter a world permeated by the love of God and Mary and to rejoice in the closeness of the Bogurodzica and her Son.