The gallery presents an extensive collection of Polish paining dated between 1800 and 1945, as well as selected sculptures. Its core section consists of exhibits collected by the pre-war Museum, complemented by acquisitions made since the Museum was reinstated in 1984.
Founded with the efforts of the original Museum Director, Tadeusz Dobrowolski, the Gallery of Polish Painting was distinguished by its high artistic quality. Its programme envisaged that the Gallery would be free of regionalism, play an educational and aesthetic role, provide an overview of national artistic culture, and foster national consciousness in the inhabitants of Upper Silesia. One of the most comprehensive bodies of artworks of the 19th and the 20th centuries, the collection comprised the finest pieces that were most representative of individual artists or artistic trends. An important part of the collecting policy was the innovative decision made by Tadeusz Dobrowolski to collect contemporary art representing the interwar period. No other museum then focused so much on collecting such art. In 1939, the collection included 280 oil paintings, pastels and watercolours.
During the war, many of the works were destroyed and some 100 were lost. Those that survived were stored, exhibited and researched by Muzeum Górnośląskie w Bytomiu, known as Muzeum Śląskie until 1950. In 1988, the collections were returned to Muzeum Śląskie in Katowice, which was restored in 1984 after many years of efforts.
Even before the preserved works of the collection came back to Katowice, the reactivated institution had begun to complement its pre-war collection of Polish painting. The new acquisitions included paintings by artists whose works were part of the pre-war collection of the Museum, (e.g. Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Władysław Podkowiński, Aleksander Orłowski, Stanisław Czajkowski, Józef Brandt), as well as those previously not represented by the Museum, including Franciszek Kostrzewski, Zygmunt Rozwadowski, Tadeusz Dobrowolski, Piotr Stachiewicz, Stanisław Grocholski and Alfons Dunin‑Borkowski. These artworks constitute a perfect complement to the previous collection as they provide for a more comprehensive presentation of individual artistic trends or artists’ oeuvre.