Traditions of art education in Warsaw date back to the reign of king Stanisław August Poniatowski and the Painting Studio at the Royal Castle, run by Marcello Bacciarelli. He became an honorary dean of the Department of Fine Arts created at Warsaw University in 1816 – the first academic art school in the Polish capital. Following the closing down of the University, the Department was replaced by a School of Fine Arts in 1844. And towards the end of the 19th century, Warsaw art education was continued by Wojciech Gerson’s Drawing Studio, which educated the most distinguished Polish artists of the turn of the centuries.
Warsaw School of Fine Arts was created through a community effort, and opened in 1904. The Supervisory Board nominated its first director the painter Kazimierz Stabrowski. The history of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw traditionally dates back to the origins of that school (which is why it celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 2004). Among its professors were some eminent Polish artists: Konrad Krzyżanowski, Ferdynand Ruszczyc, Karol Tichy and Xawery Dunikowski. The academic school’s curriculum characteristically included also “applied art” alongside painting, sculpture and printmaking.
The School became Academy of Fine Arts only in 1932. Its curriculum in the interwar period matched those of the most innovative European art schools, thus making its mark in Polish cultural heritage. Art groups and associations, such as Ryt, Brotherhood of St. Luke, and later Ład, originated in the Academy’s milieu at the time.
Reactivated in 1945, the Academy was merged with the State Academic School of Plastic Arts in 1950. With the difficult experience of socialist realism and groundbreaking debates of the late 1950s, a faculty of professors became permanently associated with the school, including Jan Cybis, Juliusz Studnicki, Eugeniusz Eibisch, Aleksander Kobzdej, Tadeusz Kulisiewicz, Franciszek Strynkiewicz, Marian Wnuk, Czesław Knothe and Jerzy Sołtan. The academic school subsequently operated through a system of master studios, supported by outstanding art historians: Ksawery Piwocki and Mieczysław Porębski.
Today the Academy of Fine Arts consists of 9 faculties: Painting, Graphic Arts, Sculpture, Media Art, Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art, Design, Interior design, Stage Design and Management of Visual Culture. It is the largest academic art school in Poland. Besides its educational functions it plays an important part in the cultural life of the city and the nation. Its international standing has been consistently improving as a direct result of the developing co-operation with academic centres abroad.