Juliusz Starzyński (1906–1974) was an art historian, poet, playwright and actor, as well as director of three institutes of art; for almost forty years he held numerous academic and administrative positions and yet, today, he is almost unknown. So many far–reaching political, cultural and academic methodological changes have occurred since his death that his works are not read today. He was born in Lviv and attended one of the best secondary schools there. He studied history of art at the University of Warsaw and simultaneously attended the famous Reduta Theatre Institute to study acting, appearing on stage all over Warsaw. After finishing his studies, he concentrated on his academic work, quickly advancing to higher levels. By the time war broke out, he had already been awarded a doctorate and was director of the Institute of Art Propaganda and curator at the National Museum in Warsaw, as well as lecturing in the Department of Architecture at the Polytechnic of Warsaw and at the National Institute of Theatrical Art. He spent the war in a Prisoner of War camp for Polish officers in Murnau near Munich. He returned to Poland in 1946 and almost immediately started work at the University of Warsaw and at the Ministry of Art and Culture. In 1949 he initiated the founding of the State Institute of Art, which was transformed in 1959 into the Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IS PAN). Starzyński was director from 1949–1960 and again from 1968–1974. During the Stalin years, he was a supporter of socrealism, but as soon as political pressure began to wane, he abandoned his own published points of view. Internationally, he was very active as a member and deputy chairperson of the International Association of Art Critics. He organised exhibitions of Polish art abroad, among other places, at Art Biennale in Venice. After being dismissed from the position of director of the IS PAN as a result of political conflict with the management, he continued to work there, living in France on scholarships, giving lectures there about correspondance des arts during the Romantic Period, and publishing three books on the subject, two in Polish and one in French. From 1950–1970 he was the director of the Institute of the Art History at the University of Warsaw, where he regularly lectured. From 1966, he was member of the Polish Academy of Sciences. His last book Polska droga do nowoczesności w sztuce (The Polish Road to Modernity in Art), published in 1973, is proof that his views on art and the methods he applied were already, at that time, considered anachronistic. He believed in the romantic–patriotic ethos of national art and sought enduring values in it. Starzyński is today remembered by some as a demagogue of socrealism, by others as a distinguished organiser of academic life during the communist years and above all as someone who helped others, often in difficult matters resulting from the political situation.
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