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Białostocki, Jan

    Image Credit: Wikipedia

    Full Name: Białostocki, Jan

    Other Names:

    • Jan Bialostocki

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1921

    Date Died: 1988

    Place Born: Sartov, Tyumen’ Oblast, Russia

    Place Died: Warsaw, Masovian Voivodeship, Poland

    Home Country/ies: Poland

    Subject Area(s): Baroque and Renaissance


    Scholar of Renaissance and Baroque art history, Director of the Warsaw Museum of Fine Arts. Bia?ostocki was born to Jan Bia?ostocki (Sr.), a musician and composer and Walentya Wereninow. In 1928 the family moved to Grodzisk Mazowiecki (Poland). He grew up in Poland during the years of ever-increasing German dominance and finally invasion. His first art-history article was a piece on Mattias Grünewald published in 1938. He graduated from a gymnasium in 1939 and intended to study philology, but the invasion of Poland by the Germans that year forced him to attend the underground university run by Stanislaw Maykowski, where he studied Greek and Latin. He studied studied under the philosopher Tadeusz Kotarbin´ski (1886-1981) and the esthetician Władysław Tatarkiewicz (1886-1980) also in the clandestine university. There he met his future colleague Andrzej Jakimowicz. After the 1944 uprising in the Old Town of Warsaw, he and his father were arrested and sent to concentration camps in Linz. After the country’s liberation in 1945, he returned to Poland as an assistant at the University in Warsaw and the Warsaw National Museum (Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie) under Michał Walicki. In 1946 he wrote his master’s paper on “The Role of Knowledge in Experiencing a Work of Art” under Tatarkiewicz. In 1950 Walicki was arrested by the Stalinist regime and Bia?ostocki was fired from his positions by reasons of association. Stanislaw Lorentz replaced his teacher (only officially) and Bia?ostocki was granted his Ph.D. the same year with a dissertation topic on Flemish landscapes of the mannerist period. He continued to research and publish, teaching at the Warsaw School of Drama (until 1957). He was appointed a privatdozent in 1955. That year, too, his two-volume catalog on the Museum collection, Galeria malarstwa obcego, was completed. In 1959 he returned to the University of Warsaw art department, then chaired by Juliusz Starzynski, and as Curator of European Painting at the Museum again where be began teaching courses on “post-medieval art”. In 1960 he published the second of his works on the primitifs Flamands, a catalog of the museum’s permanent collection. He also developed a course on art theory for the Institute of Art History, becoming a professor there in 1962. In 1966, Bia?ostocki authored volume nine in the corpus of early Netherlandish painting, Primitifs flamands: Corpus de la peinture des anciens Pays-Bas méridionaux au quinzième siècle, part of the Belgian Centre national de recherches “Primitifs Flamands” (Internationaal Studiecentrum voor de Middeleeuwse Schilderkunst in het Schelde- en het Maasbekken), begun by Paul Coremans and Jacques Lavalleye. He was chosen to edit the revision of the Propyläen Kunstgeschichte volume on the later gothic age with Fedja Anzelewsky. In 1971 he was given his own chair of renaissance art and the following year, made full professor. He delivered the Wrightsman lectures at New York University for the 1972-73 year. His Art of the Renaissance in Eastern Europe, 1976, is an example of his ability to write wide-ranging essays on art history. In 1978, Bia?ostocki delivered lectures at the Colllège de France where he made a memorable case for art history as a humanistic discipline. During the declaration of martial law in Poland in 1981, he successfully negotiated the release of several academics. In 1984 he was appointed director of the Institute of Art History, which he held until his death. He collapsed at the 1988 meeting of the Polish Academy of Sciences and was hospitalized for a neurological condition. He died on Christmas day. His students included Juliusz A. Chroscicki, Zygmunt Wa´zbi´nski, Maria Poprzęcka, Sergiusz Michalski, Lech Brusewicz, and Ma?gorzata Szafran´ska; he co-supervised Irma Weber. His wife, Jolanta Bialostocka, was also an art historian.Bia?ostocki’s principal method is that of iconography, akin to Erwin Panofsky. Other works focus on the epistemology of art history and the historiography of the Late Gothic (Spätgotik). His distinction between “style” and “modus” in art history helped clarify this approach to art history. Bia?ostocki’s connoisseurship technique was instilled by Walicki. According to Skubiszewski, it was Bia?ostocki who introduced the term “encompassing theme” to art history. His film review of Miloš Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest transferring his art analysis to other media.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Flemish Landscapes in the Mannerist Period (1520-1620), An Attempt at a Synthesis. Warsaw, 1950; “La méthod iconologique et l’érudition française” Information d’Histoire de l’art. no.3, 1973 pp103-106; The Art of the Renaissance in Eastern Europe: Hungary, Bohemia, Poland. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1976; Dürer and his Critics, 1500-1971: Chapters in the History of Ideas, including a Collection of Texts. Baden-Baden: V. Koerner, 1986; and Walicki, Micha?. Europäische Malerei in polnischen Sammlungen, 1300-1800. Warsaw: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy (PIW), 1957; The Message of Images: Studies in the History of Art. Vienna: IRSA, 1988; and Anzelewsky Fedja. Spätmittelalter und beginnende Neuzeit. Propyläen Kunstgeschichte 7. Berlin: Propyläen Verlag, 1972; Stil und Ikonographie. Studien zur Kunstwissenschaft. Dresden, VEB Verlag der Kunst, 1966; Interpretacja dzie?a sztuki: studia i dyskusje. Warsaw: Państwowe Wydawn. Naukowe, 1976; Bruegel: pejzażysta. Poznań: Państwowe Wydawn. Naukowe, 1956; Malarstwo Niderlandzkie w zbiorach Polskich, 1450-1550. Warsaw: Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie, 1960; Les Muse´es de Pologne (Gdan´sk, Krako´w, Warszawa). Primitifs flamands: Corpus de la peinture des anciens Pays-Bas méridionaux au quinzième siècle 9. Brussels: Centre national de Recherches “Primitifs flamands,” 1966; Galeria malarstwa obcego. 2 vols. Warsaw: Sztuka/Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie, 1954-55; and Poprzęcka, Maria, and Ziemba, Antoni. Teoretycy, historiografowie i artys´ci o sztuce, 1600-1700. Warsaw: Wydawn. Naukowe PWN, 1994.


    Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art: de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, p. 224; The Dictionary of Art 3: 918; Chroscicki, Juliusz A., ed. Ars auro prior: studia Ioanni Bia?ostocki sexagenario dicata. Warsaw: Panstwowe Wydawn. Nauk., 1981; [obituaries:] Skubiszewski, Piotr. “Jan Bia?ostocki” Burlington Magazine 81 (1989): 422; Chroscicki, Juliusz A. “In Memoriam: Jan Bialostocki (1921-1988).” Artibus et Historiae 10, no. 20 (1989): 9-14.


    "Białostocki, Jan." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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