Jan Matejko was born in Kraków (Cracow). on 24 June 1838. His father was Czech musician František Xaver Matějka (in Poland Franciszek Ksawery Matejko), a music teacher. His mother was Joanna Karolina Rossberg, who was half-German. He was never good at school. He never learned a foreign language well. However, he showed great artistic talent.
He studied at the School of Fine Arts in Kraków from 1852 to 1858. His professors were Wojciech Korneli Stattler and Władyslaw Łuszczkiewicz. He also studied in Munich and Vienna. Then he returned to Kraków and stayed in the town for the rest of his life. He was the principal of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków. Among his students were Jacek Malczewski, Józef Mehoffer and Stanisław Wyspiański.
Matejko is famous for his historical paintings. He painted portraits, too, especially those of his children. His best known paintings are Astronomer Copernicus - Conversation with God, Hanging of the Zygmunt bell, Prussian Homage and Battle of Grunwald. He also published a book named Portraits of Polish Kings (1890). Most of these portraits are imaginary, meaning he painted kings and princes who lived many centuries before. There are no earlier pictures of them.