Maria Gabriela Stefania Korwin-Piotrowska (1857–1921), known as Gabriela Zapolska, was a Polish novelist, playwright, naturalist writer, feuilletonist, theatre critic and stage actress. Zapolska wrote 41 plays, 23 novels, 177 short stories, 252 works of journalism, one film script, and over 1,500 letters.
Zapolska received most recognition for her socio-satirical comedies. Among them, The Morality of Mrs. Dulska – a tragic-farce about petty-bourgeois – is considered the most famous internationally. It is regarded as a landmark of early modernist Polish drama. Her stage plays were translated into foreign languages, and performed at Polish and European theatres, as well as adapted for radio and film. Zapolska herself acted on stage in over 200 plays in Warsaw, Kraków, Poznań, Lwów, Saint Petersburg and Paris.
30 March 1857|
21 December 1921 (aged 64)|
|Pen name||Gabriela Zapolska, Józef Maskoff, Walery Tomicki, Maryja, Marya, Omega, Szczerba|
|Occupation||Novelist, publicist, playwright, prosaist|
Konstanty Śnieżko-Błocki (divorced)|
Stanisław Janowski (divorced)
Zapolska was born on 30 March 1857 in Podhajce in Galicia, to a wealthy family of Polish landed gentry. At that time, as a result of the Third Partition of Poland, this territory was annexed by Austria-Hungary. Her father, Wincenty Kazimierz Jan Korwin-Piotrowski, was a marshal of Volhynian szlachta. Her mother - Józefa Karska, a former ballet dancer. Zapolska studied at the Sacré Coeur Institute and in the Institute of Education and Science in Lwów. In 1876 she was forced by her family to marry a Polish lieutenant in the Tsarist guard, Konstanty Śnieżko-Błocki, but soon left him and divorced in 1888. During the years of 1879–1880 she lived in Warsaw, where she acted in an amateur theatre ran by the Philanthropy Society. In 1881 Zapolska became pregnant by an out-of-wedlock relationship and left her family. The same year she made her own short story debut by Jeden dzień z życia róży (One Day in the Life of a Rose). The following year, in 1882, she became a professional actress in the Kraków theatre, and assumed the pseudonym of Gabriela Zapolska. She also acted in Poznań, and in travelling troupes throughout the Congress Poland. In October 1888 she reportedly made a suicide attempt.
In 1889 Zapolska moved to Paris in hope to make an artistic career. There, she played minor roles in boulevard theatres, Théâtre Libre and Théâtre de l'Œuvre. She played in a stage adaptation of Intérieur (Interior) by Maurice Maeterlinck in Théâtre de l'Oeuvre. In Paris, Zapolska established contacts within the artistic milieu as well as with Polish socialist emigrants, which influenced her social views.
After coming back to her country, she settled in Kraków and acted in garden theatres, travelling troupes, and then in Kraków Juliusz Słowacki Theatre directed by Tadeusz Pawlikowski. Her defiant, suffragist nature led to conflicts with theatre principals. Following Pawlikowski's departure, in 1900 she abandoned her contract. After that, Zapolska set up her own stage which was active time-by-time. In 1902 Zapolska ran a drama school in Kraków and the Gabriela Zapolska Independent Theatre was founded later. Her experiences in Paris let her to produce two Maeterlinck stage adaptations – Princess Maleine, and L'Intruse (The Intruder), both produced in 1902.
In 1904 she moved to Lwów and married a painter, Stanisław Janowski. She became a patron of the travelling theatre named after her (Gabriela Zapolska Theatre) which during the years of 1907–1908 toured Galicia. She divorced her second husband in 1910. In the years of 1912–1913 Zapolska was a literary director of Teatr Premier. As a feuilletonist and theatre critic she collaborated with Gazeta Krakowska, Słowo Polskie, Nowa Reforma, Ilustracja Polska and Wiek Nowy. In 1915, after Lwów was captured by the Russian Army, she ran a small confectionery. Zapolska died on 17 December 1921 in Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine) and buried at the Lychakivskiy Cemetery there.
Gabriela Zapolska's works were dominated by naturalism – a literary movement seeking to replicate everyday reality. She was mainly influenced by Émile Zola, a French naturalist writer. Her output has a journalistic and didactic tone. She portrayed the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable people including proletarians, Jews, servants, prostitutes, etc.
Characters in Zapolska's works are mostly of ordinary type. She tends to skip psychological analysis as it was specific for the Young Poland writers. She also brought up controversial subjects, such as prostitution and venereal disease (O czym się mówi, O czym się nawet myśleć nie chce).
Zapolska created acrimonious and embittered literary characters, such as those in her best-known works, Moralność pani Dulskiej, Żabusia, Ich czworo. Tragedia ludzi głupich, Sezonowa miłość, and Panna Maliczewska.
Gabriela Zapolska made her own short story debut in 1881 by Jeden dzień z życia róży. Many of her early works was published in parts in Lwów and then, in Warsaw press, mainly in Przegląd Tygodniowy. She collected her early short stories in the volume of Z dziejów boleści (1890). Her novels and short stories were translated into many languages, including English, Russian, German, Swedish, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, Ukrainian. Zapolska was criticized by conservatives for the more naturalist aspects of her works, such as perceived immorality, squalor, taboo subjects, etc. Notable Zapolska prose works include:
Zapolska is best known for her dramas, socio-satirical comedies and tragicomedy works. Her Moralność pani Dulskiej, a 'petty-bourgeois tragic-farce', is considered by her most-known work and regarded as a landmark of early modernist Polish drama. The story of Moralność pani Dulskiej was continued in two short stories—Pani Dulska przed sądem and Śmierć Felicjana Dulskiego. Her dramas were translated into other languages, played at the Polish and European stages, and adapted into radio and film. Notable Zapolska dramas include:
Movies based on Zapolska novels or dramas include: