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Fine-arts education in the Piarist schools of Warsaw (1740-1833)

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The topic of fine-arts education in the Piarist schools of Warsaw from 1740 until 1833 (Collegium Nobilium, Collegium Regium) has not yet been subject to adequate analysis. While the Piarist schools did not aim at training artists, the classes in fine arts conducted there had a major impact on the history of art in Poland. The view prevalent at the time saw drawing as the basis of all artistic education. Pupils in the Piarist schools would be introduced into the art of drawing stage by stage, in line with the recommendations of the textbook by Johann Daniel Preissler. Beside learning to 'draw forms, or figures and perspective', i.e. artistic drawing, pupils also learnt technical and cartographic drawing. They also gained a substantial amount of 'knowledge about art'. On one hand, this involved such general concepts as 'taste' or 'style', and on the other, quite specific information on the history of the fine arts: sculpture, painting, and - above all - architecture, which was based on treatises by Vitruvius and Vignola. The Piarist schools also had a wide range of classes that could be termed 'auxiliary' with regard to the practical classes of drawing and the theoretical classes in the history of art (e.g. the study of the nature of light, shade and colour.) The education was facilitated by the rich collections of the Piarist libraries, as well as by excursions to the newly opened museum of art at Wilanów. Among the teachers of 'drawing' there were monks, e.g. Marcin Eysymont, trained in Rome and Paris, author of a treatise on architecture, as well as, more importantly, lay teachers, including some artists from abroad (Johann Zacharias Frey from Austria, or Joseph Richter from Saxony), but mainly from Poland (among them Józef Caczkowski, Marcin Janiszewski, Aleksander Majerski, Kazimierz Okulicki, Józef Paszkiewicz, Jan Sikorski and Maciej Topolski). Irrespective of how we assess their artistic achievements, their professional qualifications were more than sufficient to train the youth in drawing at an elemenatry level. The preserved examples of drawings corroborate the fact that their pupils not only mastered the art of drawing, but were quite ready to make use of it in their adult life. Thus the actual effect of the Piarist schools' education in fine arts is to be seen in the large numbers of art connoisseurs and art lovers.Most of the graduates of the Piarist Collegium Nobilium later became avid art collectors (e.g. Marian Hutten Czapski, Ignacy Miaczynski, Józef Antoni Plater, or Franciszek Ksawery Puslowski), and prime among them were creators of the first publicly available art collections in Poland: Stanislaw Kostka Potocki, who established the museum at Wilanów in 1805, and Józef Kajetan Ossolinski, who launched the art gallery in Warsaw in 1814.
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  • R. Maczynski, Uniwersytet Mikolaja Kopernika w Toruniu, Zaklad Historii Sztuki Nowozytnej, ul. Matejki 28, 87-100 Torun, Poland,
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