Chodowiecki and Grass House

Currently under construction, the Chodowiecki and Grass House is planned to be located in the 18th c. former orphanage complex at 6-8 Sieroca Street built in the historic Gdańsk Osiek district. It is going to be a multidisciplinary centre exploring the touchpoints between literature and visual arts dedicated to Günter Grass and Daniel Mikołaj Chodowiecki, the House namesakes. Planned to replace the 4G gallery, the House will hold permanent and temporary exhibitions, meetings and discussions, and implement literary and artistic residency projects as well as cultural and education activities.

The Charity and Orphans House was built in 1699 based on the design by Barthel Ranisch; since then, it has been rebuilt and changed its purpose several times. Initially, it was a refuge for the city’s poor and homeless where they were able to stay and work for a living. Later it became an orphanage where orphaned and illegitimate children were raised and trained for work; in 1788, it had as many as 426 wards under its care. In 1906, the orphanage was moved to a newly built location in the Wrzeszcz district while the complex served medical purposes. During the interwar period, it became the headquarters of a publishing house issuing Danziger Volksstimme, the daily paper of the Free City’s social democrats. Damaged during World War II, the complex was officially recognised as a historic monument in 1967. Despite that, the buildings were neglected and deteriorated until 2016 when Gdańsk authorities decided to move the tenants and undertake a major overhaul of the complex, turning it into an artistic and cultural institution dedicated to Chodowiecki and Grass.

The renovation project will be carried out in two stages. The first stage, which is going to be commenced in Autumn 2021, will focus on securing the buildings against further corrosion. The next stage will include adaptation of the interior to its cultural functions under strict supervision of the Voivodeship Conservator of Monuments. The design and architectural work have been commissioned to two renowned local studios: Restudio Jacaszek Architekci (https://restudio.com.pl/projekty-architektoniczne/) and Gzowski Architekci (https://www.architekci-gzowski.pl).

The Chodowiecki and Grass House is planned as a multidisciplinary meeting place for Tri-City writers and artists, which will also invite Polish and international creators for artist-in-residence programmes. The House will focus on education and cultural activities related to its two namesakes: Nobel-winning writer and artist Günter Grass and 18th century illustrator Daniel Chodowiecki. The works of these two famous Gdańsk residents will be shown on a permanent exhibition which will occasionally feature works of contemporary artists.

Günter Wilhelm Grass was born on October 16, 1927 in Gdańsk and died on April 13, 2015 in Lubeck. He was a German-Kashubian writer and the 1999 winner of the Nobel Prize in literature. He was awarded the Doctor Honoris Causa title from the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań (1990) and Gdańsk University (1993) for his outstanding literary work and contribution to the Polish-German reconciliation. In 1993, he was granted the Honorary Citizenship of Gdańsk. He was a member of the German PEN Centre and author of the famous Gdańsk Trilogy: The Tin Drum, Cat and Mouse, and Dog Years. Günter Grass was also the founder of the Daniel Chodowiecki Foundation at the Berlin Academy of Arts.

Daniel Mikołaj Chodowiecki was born on October 16, 1726 in Gdańsk and died on February 7, 1801 in Berlin. He was a Polish-German painter, draftsman and etcher. He lived in Gdańsk until 17 years of age, where he was trained to become a tradesman. For that purpose, he later left for Berlin where he lived until his death. However, rather than a tradesman, he turned out to be an outstanding artist; eventually his talent led him to become the director of the Prussian Academy of Arts in 1779. Because of his Huguenot mother, Chodowiecki identified with his French ancestry, yet he also felt strongly about his Polish and Gdańsk connections. After the first partition of Poland in 1772, he wrote to Countess of Solms-Laubach: “From my father’s side, I am Polish, a descendant of a brave nation which will soon vanish”. He left nearly 4 thousand drawings and over 2 thousand prints, mostly etchings, and a number of genre scenes from the life of townspeople made by the ink and feather technique. Among other, he illustrated the early works of Johann Wolfgang Goethe, plays of Friedrich Schiller, poetry of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, philosophical works of Johann Kaspar Lavater, poems of Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock or a four-volume compendium for young people written by Johann Bernhard Basedow. In 1773, Chodowiecki travelled to his birth city; the trip was immortalised in a book of 108 drawings entitled Journey from Berlin to Danzig, now an invaluable source of knowledge of the 18th century Gdańsk. In his works he often made reference to his Polish ancestry painting portraits of Polish kings, such as Mieszko I, Bolesław the Brave, Casimir the Great, Konrad of Masovia, Jan Sobieski or Stanisław Leszczyński, or depicting the sessions of the Polish Four‑Year Parliament and proclamation of the Polish Constitution of 3 May, as well as scenes from everyday life of Polish nobility and townspeople.