Jan Matejko ( Polish pronunciation (help·info)) (also known as Jan Mateyko; June 24, 1838 – November 1, 1893) was a Polish painter known for paintings of notable historical Polish political and military events. His most famous works include oil on canvas paintings like Battle of Grunwald, paintings of numerous other battles and court scenes, and a gallery of Polish kings. He is counted among the most famous Polish painters.
Matejko born on June 24, 1838 in the Free City of Kraków. His father, Franciszek Ksawery Matejko (Czech: František Xaver Matějka) (b. 1789 or 13 January 1793, d. 26 October 1860), a Czech from the village of Roudnice, was a graduate of the Hradec Králové school; who later became a tutor and music teacher. He first worked for the Wodzicki family in Kościelniki, Poland, then moved to Kraków, where he married the half-German, half-Polish Joanna Karolina Rossberg. Jan was the ninth child from eleven that his parents had. After the death of his mother in 1846, Jan and his siblings were taken care of by his aunt, Anna Zamojska. From his earliest days Matejko showed exceptional artistic talent that allowed him to advance from grade to grade, although he had great difficulty with other subjects. He never mastered a foreign language and did not do well even with his native Polish language. As a result, the public appearances he was obliged to make all his life must have been difficult for him. At a young age he witnessed the Kraków revolution of 1846 and the 1848 siege of Kraków by the Austrians, the two events which ended the existence of the Free City of Kraków. His two older brothers served in them under General Józef Bem, one died and the other was forced into exile. He attended St. Ann's High School, which he dropped out of in 1851 because of poor results. Despite that and because of his exceptional talent he studied at the School of Fine Arts in Kraków from 1852 to 1858. His teachers included Wojciech Korneli Stattler and Władysław Łuszczkiewicz. During this time, he began exhibiting historical paintings at the Society of Friends of the Fine Arts there (see e.g. Sigismund I Bestowing Nobility on the Professors of the University of Kraków in 1535.). After studying under the historical painter Hermann Anschütz in Munich (1859) and then briefly and less successfully in Vienna, Matejko returned to Kraków. It would be however years before he would gain commercial success; for a time he was the proverbial "starving artist", who celebrated when he sold a canvass (Tsars Szujscy) for five gulden.