“Ecce Polska” - that is the visual representation of the oppressed Polish nation. In this way Polish artists have treated their experiences of violence, occupation and destruction in the 20th century. By doing so they have contributed to the continuity of the nation, universalising their experience in visual form. An analysis from the perspective of image studies shows that the Romantic cultural paradigm of Poland as “Messiah among the nations” has been crucial in visual communication. The task of the artist is to pass on to the spectator the idea of the nation in visual form. The author uses the history of thought to approach pictures from the history of Polish art as a contribution to the struggle for national independence. It becomes clear how close the connections are between historical experience, national politics and art history when an image has to serve as proof of the threatened nation’s existence.