In the Polish newspaper Gazeta Polska for Dec. 18, 1938 Stefan Płużański commented on the preparations for work on historical paintings thus: Most pleasurable were the moments of searching for a style that was – in our opinion – the most suitable for our paintings. The pictures are to be (…) distinct, clear, bright, vivid in colour, not naturalistic, sharply contoured, rich in detail, crowded, without  shadows cast (…) understandable in every respect to children, adults, as well as painters. These few sentences clearly show the artist’s attitude toward art, confirming his support for ideas expressed by Tadeusz Pruszkowski. Although educated at Warsaw’s School of Fine Arts under Mieczysław Kotarbiński and Władysław Skoczylas (in the years 1927 – 1934), he was strongly connected to the followers of Pruszkowski. And he also became a member of St. Luke’s Brotherhood.

Stefan Płużański, Procesja
fot. Edward Koch

In his description, Płużański used the word: crowded. The two best known works of the artist – Kawiarnia (Café) from 1934 and Procesja (Procession) are indeed created from unnaturally crowded figures[1]. When we look at his painting Kawiarnia we see that this crowd is not a homogenous mass. The artist “gathered” different types of persons, “dressed” them in costumes in accordance with the fashion of the day, and gave them appropriate gestures. He used vivid colours and lit up the scene in such a way that it acquired a slightly theatrical form. This is how Płużański showed not only different types of people, but also different kinds of behaviour, an approach that brought him closer to the then current art movement of Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity). It had social references, was based on objective observation, cared about detail, and introduced classification[2]. In the second work mentioned above, Procesja, also from the 1930s, a ribbon of tightly crowded people surrounds centrally composed, overlapping houses. Such a way of showing architecture on canvas was also employed by other artists from the Pruszkowski circle, among them Jadwiga Przeradzka from the Warsaw School group.

This kind of depiction contains an element of presentation, and the flatness of the composition devoid of perspective gives it a modern form.

Another painting of Płużański, Polowanie (The Hunt)[3] from 1936 can be compared to the works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The similarity can be seen primarily in the highly placed horizon, wide panorama, the making of the human figures, and the styling of the trees. Our attention is drawn to the circle of people, each characterized by a different gesture, which in turn introduces a certain kind of classification. We have the impression that Płużański observes reality and people from some distance, having quite an ironic attitude to them and their behaviour, something quite plain in his works. Polowanie was acquired for the Carnegie Institute collection in Pittsburgh, where Płużański exhibited his work with his colleagues from St. Luke’s Brotherhood. In another painting entitled Wesele. Panna Młoda zemdlała  (The Wedding. The Bride has fainted) he pushes towards the grotesque.

Proj. Mieczysław Jurgielewicz i Stefan Płużański, wyk. Stefan Płużański, Bydgoszcz, fresk na tynku fakturowym w sali Gimnazjum Polskiego w Gdańsku.
Kujawsko-Pomorska Biblioteka Cyfrowa,

Płużański was also engaged in the creation of monumental paintings. He cooperated in the decoration of the Hunting Exhibition in Berlin (1936) and created a panneau of Polowanie for the dining room of the great passenger ship, the MS Sobieski (1937). Together with Marian Jurgielewicz they created murals for the new seat of the Macierz Polska  (Polish Educational Society), the Secondary School in the Free City of Danzig. On one of the walls of the lecture hall they presented a series called Down the Vistula to Gdańsk, where, among several other towns, Kazimierz Dolny was shown. On the opposite wall – By Train to Gdynia. Jan Zamoyski and Bolesław Cybis created a ceiling painting in the lecture hall entitled Polish Sky (full title: Poland and her Regions on the background of the Polish Sky, that is, the constellations and zodiacs visible from here).

After the war Stefan Płużański was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. He created murals, including at the Recovered Territories Exhibition in Wrocław (1948) and in the café at the “Polonia” hotel in Warsaw.

In 1955, he illustrated a children’s book showing the world in pictures entitled Boats, ships, and warships.

Stefan Płużański, Bitwa pod Oliwą, 1946, Narodowe Muzeum Morskie w Gdańsku

[1] Kawiarnia, 1934, oil, plywood, 95,7×120, property of the National Museum in Warsaw
[2] See S. Michalski, New Objectivity – iconography, functions, history of reception, (in) The Art of the Interwar Period. Materials from the SHS session in Warsaw in 1980, Warsaw 1982, p. 57-72; T. Grzybkowska, New Objectivity and its Polish reflections, p. 73-91; S. Barron, S. Eckmann, New Objectivity: Modern Germany Art. In Weimar Republic 1919-1933, Munich 2015
[3] Polowanie, 1936, oil, canvas on plywood, 73,7×70, private ownership

tłum. Tatiana Fuller