Everyday Life of Warsaw 1915-1918.
Glass plate negatives from the collections of the Tchorek-Bentall Historical Studio


The history of the 23 previously unknown glass plate negatives is a bit puzzling – we have no exact information about who and when made them.

These extraordinary documents of the everyday life of Warsaw, of its architecture and residents, have been stored in the Tchorek-Bentall Historical Studio and will be exhibited for the first time. The photos depict the city during World War I, when it was under German occupation. Glass plates allow to enlarge the image, while maintaining high quality, bringing you closer to the fascinating details of the of the life of a street in Warsaw: lettering on signboards and advertising poles, articles of clothing, and architectural details. However, the images still hold many secrets, so we are counting on the keen eye and knowledge of the enthusiasts of old Warsaw, as they should add new insights to the photo descriptions. Did an author want to document the most characteristic places in the Kingdom of Poland’s capital, or were the photographs taken with another purpose in mind? Was the author German or Polish, or maybe a member of another nationality? Most likely, the set of negatives was larger –glass plates, however, are very fragile. Nevertheless, thanks to the efforts of Katy Bentall, 23 unique images of the city from the period have been preserved.

The original intention was to present the exhibition on the historic campus of the University of Warsaw. That plan was made 8 years ago, but for organisational reasons it could not be executed. Today, we are implementing the project in the digital world, a form more feasible in the epidemics-related circumstances of limited mobility.

Interactive map of the “Everyday Life of Warsaw 1915-1918. Glass plate negatives from the collections of the Tchorek-Bentall Historical Studio” exhibition

Hover over a selected item in order to learn more. Every week we will examine a new photo of pre-war Warsaw.

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Detailed plan of the “Everyday Life of Warsaw 1915-1918. Glass plate negatives from the collections of the Tchorek-Bentall Historical Studio” exhibition.

36 Smolna Street – Tchorek-Bentall Historical Studio

The studio at 36 Smolna st. was founded in 1951 by Karol Tchorek (1904-1985), a sculptor and collector, who used it as his work space, but also a place to store the artistic and historical artifacts he collected (incl. items from the period when he had been the curator of the “Nike” Art Salon). Today it can be interpreted as a contemporary Kunstkammer, where the three following narratives converge: the collection of Karol Tchorek, the archive of his son Mariusz (1939-2004), an art theorist, and the artistic vision of Katy Bentall – Mariusz’s wife and the current caretaker of the Studio, who interprets the historical space and comments on it in her art.

In 2004 Bentall, following her husband’s death, inherited the contents of Karol Tchorek’s sculpture studio. It contained the remains of the art and antiques collections, as well as the “Karol Tchorek Collection”, i.e. the late artist’s output: sculptures, drawings, photographs, inventoried in 1985 by his son.

The interior of the studio was inventoried 6 years later. In 2004, the studio was in such a bad shape that in the following year, Bentall, treating it as a “found object” and an element of her artistic practice, undertook a complete and meticulous reconstruction of the interior, with the help of Małgorzata Wagner, a Warsaw-based architect. She carefully organised, or rather recreated the space so as to preserve the spirit of the old studio, creating a Wunderkammer of a kind. She continues to regularly intervene in this space, by changing the position of the exhibited objects, or adding new, often her own works, arranging and rearranging them to create new combinations.

The goal of her endeavours was to breathe new life into the old studio and create what could be described as a “living museum”. The result is a space, where numerous objects and archives accumulated over the years can continue to (co-) exist in intimate proximity. The “cross-section view” of the successive eras that Bentall was able to preserve here is particularly valuable for the future research on Warsaw’s culture, art and heritage.

Over the past 14 years, her work generated great interest among visitors, as well as many Polish and foreign researchers, who carried out a variety of studies and queries.
In November 2019, the Studio was entered on the list of Warsaw Historical Studios. Its ongoing operation is supported by the Friends of Tchorek-Bentall Studio Association, run by Małgorzata Wagner, who was also responsible for the architectural renovation of the space.

For more information, please contact: Małgorzata Wagner – malgorzatawagner@wp.pl


The Studio collections have been used in many research studies, exhibitions, workshops, artistic projects and popular presentations of cultural history, including publications, conference papers, exhibitions, workshops, diploma theses, meetings and lectures in the Studio.:


Mark Dorrian, Ella Chmielewska. Warszawa. Divisible City. Edinburgh 2018

Ella Chmielewska, Agnieszka Chmielewska, Mariusz Tchorek, Paul Carter, A Warsaw address: a dossier on 35, Smolna Street, „The Journal of Architecture” 2010, nr 15, s. 7-38.

Ella Chmielewska, Warsaw Afterimages. Of Walls and Memories w: red. Andrea Mubi Brighenti i Mattias Kärrholm,  Urban Walls. Political and Cultural Meanings of Vertical Structures and Surfaces,  London – New York 2018

Ella Chmielewska, Pamięć miejsca. Tablice. Archiwum. Pracownia, w: red.  Agnieszka Tarasiuk, Alicja Gzowska, Figury retoryczne. Warszawska rzeźba architektoniczna, 1918-1970, Warszawa 2015, s. 81-108

Mikaela Gallinger, Jerzy Elżanowski, Studio 10a / 36 Smolna Street. Statements of Cultural Heritage Value, 2018

Katarzyna Kucharska-Hornung, Pomocnik konserwatorski. Wskazówki do pielęgnacji domowych zbiorów sztuki opracowała Katarzyna Kucharska-Hornung, Warszawa 2019

Obraz opowieść. Archiwum K. i M. Tchorka, „Konteksty. Polska Sztuka Ludowa”, 2018, nr 4


Conference Papers:

Agnieszka Chmielewska (CE UW, Warszawa), Karol Tchorek, czyli o pożytkach płynących z uprawiania biografistyki; referat na konferencji naukowej p.t. ‘Rzeźba w Polsce (1945-2008)’, Centrum Rzeźby Polskiej w Orońsku oraz Instytut Historii Sztuki UKSW, październik 2008r.

Ella Chmielewska, Surface memories: Warsaw’s places of remembering, commemorating and forgetting. Sites of Memory: Objects, Places, Traces, referat podczas konferencji organizowanej przez School of History of Art., Film and Visual Media, Birkbeck College, University of London, luty 2009.

Sebastian Schmidt-Tomczak, War alles nur Schau. Die Inszenierung von Warschaus Stadtlandschaft, Gewalt und Theatraliät, Internationales wissenschaftliches Symposium am 15-17 kwietnia 2010.

Ella Chmielewska i Sebastian Schmidt Tomczak, The critical where of collaborative research, Referat na 6 Międzynarodowej Konferencji AHRA, Uniwersytet w Edynburgu, Wydział Sztuki, listopad 2009.



OKNA, wystawa prac fotograficznych Katy Bentall, 23 październik – 6 grudzień, 2016.

Wystawa Curating Heritage /Kuratorstwo Dziedzictwo. Ku Warszawie Przyszłości / Towards Warsaw od the Future. Piotr Leśniak, kurator. Matthew Architecture Gallery, Edynburg, 9 -23 wrzesień 2017r.

Wystawa Warszawa – projects for the postsocialist city, Matthew Architecture Gallery, Edinburgh, lipiec-sierpień 2009.



Seminarium na miejscu, 10.10.2013, Smolna Street 36, National Museum in Warsaw

Dr Jerzy Elżanowski, Carlton University, Ottawa. Building into Ruins. The Heritage of Displacement. Masterclasses for Architectural Conservation Programme, University of Edinburgh School of Architecture, 17 March 2016.

Dreaming Objects, Warsztaty projektowe, prowadzone przez prof. Mark Dorrian, ze studentami (magistrantami i doktorantami) następujacych instytucji: University of Newcastle, University of Edinburgh, Bauhaus-Universitüt Wemair, Urban Heritage Programme i Politechnika Warszawska, Wydział Architektury.



Piotr Leśniak, Towards Warsaw od the Future. Exhibiting, Archiving and Moving Through Architectural Imaginaries, PhD Architecture by Design, The University of Edinburgh, 2017r.

Meaghan Thurston. The Art Of Placing: Visualizing Home and Memory,The University of Edinburgh. MSc in Cultural Studies, 2010r.

Meaghan Thurston, The art. Of Katy Bentall, onsite review /Canada/ no. 26, 2011, pp.12-14


Meetings and lectures (Tchorek/Bentall Studio):

Karol Tchorek’s studio, Confrontations: sessions in East European art history, March 2020

Dreaming objects, Warsztaty projektowe o pamięci miejsca pod kierunkiem Prof. Marka Dorriana z udziałem Dr Elli Chmielewskiej i Suzanne Ewing ze studentami The University of Edinburgh, Jerzego Elżanowskiego ze studentami Ubran Heritage Bauhaus-Weimar, z udziałem studentów Architektury Politechniki Warszawskiej pod kierunkiem Prof. Ewy Kuryłowicz, listopad 2009.

Place and material transformation, spotkanie ze studentami z Uniwersytetu z Edynburga, School of Arts Culture & Environment  w ramach projektu „ Tracking the city … Warszawa Objects…”, październik 2007r.

Scratching the surface, odczyt prof. Pauli Carter (University of Melbourne), październik 2007r.

Karol Tchorek

Born on 30th October 1904 in Serock. He showed an artistic talent from a young age, but it was the war that constituted the most important framework for his youth. In 1920, responding to the call to arms by Józef Piłsudski, he enlisted in the Polish military. The same year he came to Warsaw for the first time, and the city made a great impression on him. As he reminisced: “I arrived with a rifle in 1920, as a 15-year-old soldier. Our unit marched through the Old Town, Krakowskie Przedmieście and Nowy Świat. Civilians showered us with flowers, we sang together the Polish national anthem… I saw Warsaw for the very first time. From that moment on, I could not live without the city which had taught me enthusiasm.”

No wonder that after the end of the the Polish-Soviet War, Tchorek returned to Warsaw. Initially, he worked as a sand dredger. Later on he entered the Municipal School of Decorative Arts and Painting, where he met Jan Szczepkowski. From 1926, he attended the School of Fine Arts, where Tadeusz Breyer was one of his professors. In the meantime, Tchorek was an assistant to Karol Stryjeński. From the end of the 1920s, he was socially active, for instance as a representative of the Society for the Promotion of Folk Industry, tasked with purchasing folk art. He has taken part in many artistic competitions. His talent was confirmed by, among other accolades, the second place in the competition for the design of the Wojciech Bogusławski statue, or the 1st prize in the competition for the sculptural decor of a building on Moniuszki Street. In 1934 he received the National Culture Fund award for the Kolędnicy (The Carol-Singers) sculpture, and three years later another one – for Chopin’s Head. In the same year, he won a silver medal for the Head of Granite at an exhibition in Paris, and the second prize in the competition for Piłsudski’s sarcophagus at the Wawel Castle. Designing the sarcophagus also served as a conclusion of the theme that has spanned a large share of his life – Tchorek, a former legionnaire under Piłsudski command, had designed monuments on the legionary route at the request of the President of Warsaw, and created a sculptural setting for the final resting place of one of the fathers of Polish independence.

In the 1950s, the artist donated some of his collections, including the 23 glass plate negatives containing views of Warsaw, presented at our exhibition, to the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts and the Archives of Historical Records. The remaining part of the collection was transferred to his new sculpture studio at 36 Smolna st., which began to turn into a space where not only artistic forms were created, but also – where the history and memory of the city were preserved, by means of collecting and compiling objects. After retiring from art dealing, Tchorek again focused primarily on sculpture. During that time, he created works such as A Polish Soldier, Warsaw Autumn, Miron Białoszewski, and Mother with a Child at the MDM square. His sculptures have become an integral part of the landscape of Warsaw. In the 1955-1980 period, Tchorek created nearly 40 monoliths commemorating the places of execution of Poles, and the distinct plaques, bearing the inscription: “This place was sanctified by the blood of Polish martyrs who fought for the freedom of their homeland”. About 160 such plaques can be seen to this day, scattered across Warsaw.

Karol Tchorek died in 1985. He is buried at the Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw.

Exhibition is a part of “Virtual Campus of the University of Warsaw” project, co-funded by the National Centre for Culture under the Culture Online Programme.

Organisers: “Varia” Foundation of the Faculty of History of the University of Warsaw

Partners: University of Warsaw Museum, University of Warsaw, Promotion Office of the University of Warsaw, Katy Bentall – Tchorek-Bentall Historical Studio, Friends of Tchorek-Bentall Studio Association, “Niepodległa” Programme Office

Honorary partner: Rector of the University of Warsaw, Marcin Pałys PhD, DSc, prof. of UW

Media Partners: Kampus Radio, Spotkania z Zabytkami, Skarpa Warszawska

© 2020 Muzeum Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego