Placed just 68 kilometers east from one of the most known Polish cities - Kraków, lies a beautiful little village called Zalipie. With the population of only around 700 people, it is one of the most known villages in all of Poland - famous for its unique art known in Polishas malarstwo zalipiańskie.
Visiting Zalipie in Poland is unfortunately rarely a sole reason to travel to the country, but if you find yourself near it - if you are visiting Kraków, for example - be sure to take a day to go on a unique trip to this Polish painted village. There are also plenty of hotels or places to stay near it, so finding your way around it shouldn’t be too difficult. And all it takes for you to be able to admire its beauty is to go on a walk or a ride around the village. You will see that almost every house, every wall, every possible surface (sometimes even the dog’s house!) is covered with beautifully paintedflowers and motifs from Polish folk art. Along with that, the interior of the local church pays and homage to the custom of the village.
This has all begun sometime in the 19th Century, when local women started decorating the dirt that came out from using wood burning stoves. Simple drawings were made from simple ingredients, like cooking fat and brushed made from animal hair (like cow tails). Their paintings faded quickly, so they had to repeat the process each year, getting more and more skillful as they did so. Soon the decorations spread out to become beautiful flower paintings and to represent motifs from folk art. As women became more and more creative, so has the art. They taught their daughters, who taught their daughters, and so the tradition is still strong today as it was in its beginnings.
Visiting the village of Zalipie, you will certainly have the chance to go to the museum of Felicja Curyłowa, as you will be advised so by the village hosts. She was one of the best-known Polish folk-artists, and a painter of malarstwo zalipiańskie.Some say that she was the first woman to begin painting her house that way, but the sources of this folk art date back long before her time, and are also found in other neighbouring countries. Still, Zalipie is truly one of its kind.
Felicja Curyłowa wa born in the village in 1904. She started painting at the age of 10, and then went on to spent most years of her life mastering her art and covering every surface of her three-bedroomed cottage. Besides that, she practiced a number of other decorative arts. Even during her life, her house had become a tourist attraction. She was asked to paint the interior of the Wierzynek restaurant in Kraków and the dining room on the MS Batory cruise ship. What she has drawn was reproduced commercially and sold, mostly as decorations on china.
Felicja Curyłowa died in her home in 1974. After her death, her home was purchased from her family and given to the Museum of Tarnów, which helped the house get turned into a museum as a part of their ethnography section. The estate was enriched with another building from the XIX Century and together they form a beautiful exhibition which you can visit, enjoy, and even partially take home with you in form of unique souvenirs that are being sold there.
The perfect time to go to Zalipie is during the spring, after the Corpus Christi holiday. This is when the traditional painted cottage competition is held, called Malowana Chata. This tradition started after the World War II, in 1948, when people wanted to repair the damages the World War has left behind. It is the longest running Polish folk art competition, although at first it didn’t run annually. But here and there, after spring, when the women were not as busy with their farm work, they organized a competition of their folk ark. Felicja Curyłowa was the winner of every competition held during her life. Today, the competition includes different forms of art, not only that painted on walls and interiors, but also on canvas, paper and anything else you can think of painting in this style. The exact date of the competition varies from year to year and the criteria for winning includes the colouring, the quality and how faithful the paintings are to the actual tradition.
I hope this article will make you inspired to explore the villages in Poland when your path takes you there!