Wartime Losses: Polish Painting-Oil Paintings, Pastels, Watercolours lost between 1939-45 within post-1945 borders of Poland
In 1991 the Office of the Government Commissioner for Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad was established within the Ministry of Culture and Art. One of its primary aims is to make extensive efforts to sum up cultural theft by registering losses, comprising library collections as well as works of historical and artistic nature, which were destroyed or displaced as a result of the war. All of the museums and other institutions situated on Polish territory which owned art collections before 1939, as well as religious groups, above all Catholic churches and Diocesan museums, took part in the project. Art stolen from synagogues and collections of Judaica were also taken into account.
Specialists such as historians, art historians and archivists have been collecting data from museums and from Regional Centres for Studies / Research and Protection of Cultural Heritage The data mainly concerns losses suffered by private people, museums which do not exist any more, and by the Catholic Church.
The research, which began in 1996, made it possible to register over 50, 000 works of art damaged, taken abroad or lost in unknown circumstances. The resulting report, while incomplete, reflects the present state of knowledge about this subject - knowledge based on what has survived of the archival records.
The results were subsequently published. The catalogue of wartime losses of Polish painting is the first of a series of publications of this type, which covers other fields of art, including non-Polish works in Polish collections.
The publication is unusual because it presents works that have been lost or destroyed beyond hope of recovery, known only from black and white reproductions. Its aim is not only to help in the possible identification of the lost pictures, but above all to show the scale of losses and the kind of works that were lost. The catalogue comprises over 440 paintings from the 17th to the 20th century. The catalogue did not include many renowned and rich collections, such as those owned by Ordynacja Zamojska in Warsaw, of which information was obtained only after the catalogue was completed. The omitted entries will be included in the next volume on losses of paintings. Of the 4,600 lost works by Polish painters that have so far been registered, less than 10 percent have found their way into the catalogue.
From the geographical point of view, the catalogue includes only those areas which in 1939 were part of the present Polish state. Territories which were lost by Poland after 1945 were not included, due to the legal problems involved, as well as to treaties and agreements signed with neighbouring countries.
The project was overseen by Anna Tyczynska and Krystyna Znojewska in the Office of the Government Commissioner for Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad within the Ministry of Culture and Art of the Republic of Poland, in cooperation with the authors, Monika Ochnio and Tamara Richter. In English and Polish.
Other volumes published in the series are: Wartime Losses: Foreign Painting, Wartime Losses: Ancient Art vols I and 2, Wartime Losses: Historic Bells; Wartime Losses: Jacob Kabrun's Collection, Vols 1-3. They were all published in Poznan 2000 under the same imprint as Wartime Losses: Polish Paintings.
Monika Ochnio and Tamara Richter, Wartime Losses: Polish Painting-Oil Paintings, Pastels, Watercolours lost between 1939-45 within post-1945 borders of Poland, Gazeta Handlowa Sp. z o.o., Poznan 1998, pp. 10-12.
Details of the paintings, their images and provenance are available in the Object Database on this site.
The catalogue was first available in its entirety on-line (in English) through the Polish American Congress: <http://www.polamcon.org> accessed 1 November 2002. Since February 2011 it has been available at http://www.mkidn.gov.pl/pages/strona-glowna/dziennikarze/newsletter/wartime-losses.php