Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski im. Jana Pawła II.

Abstract

This article tells the story of the friendship of two painters, two strong personalities, separated by forty-four years of age, as well as by the seemingly impregnable iron curtain. One of them – Józef Czapski was born 3. 04. 1896 in Prague (in Bohemia) into a loving and well-to-do family. The immediate result of a world war and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia was for Józef the total loss of his patrimony. He was left with a mere title of count. He took part in the Polish-Bolshevik war of 1920.  Czapski returned from Paris to Poland before the outbreak of the Second World War.  Taken prisoner by the Soviet Army he spent three years in captivity in the Soviet Union. He survived the Starobielsk camp and was saved from the Katyń execution by what looked like a miracle. He was then interned in Griazowiec and soon after he enlisted in the Polish Army which formed under the command of general Władysław Anders. After the II War the painter associated with Jerzy Giedroyć and the Polish monthly “Kultura” based in Paris. In the Maisons-Laffitte he occupied a whole floor. He engaged, together with Giedroyć, in the organization and management of the “Instytut Literacki”, and alongside Giedroyć, may be regarded as the chief architect of that significant enterprise. His relations with Giedroyć began to deteriorate: the editor in chief considered Czapski too impressionable for serious management work. On the other hand he became more and more engrossed in his own affairs: he returned to painting. He became preoccupied with matters concerning his own artistic creation: the analysis of his own canvasses, the problems of painting the truth of oneself, of the world, other people, landscape. It was precisely at this time of newly found independence that he met Stanisław Rodziński.

Younger painter – Stanisław Rodzinski – was born on 8 March 1940 in Kraków. He studied in Kraków’s Academy of Fine Arts in the class of Emil Krcha. Than he taught in the Wrocław Academy of Fine Arts, and finally in the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków. Then followed a spate of publications and the collaboration with the “Tygodnik Powszechny” [General Weekly]. Thanks to J. Woźniakowski both painters came in touch with each other by mail. They could spent some time together in 1974. Czapski proved a very ingenious and inspiring friend, he took on himself the role of a guide (cicerone) in discovering the world of art of the Paris museums. It is a dynamic relationship that develops in time as each participant bring in his own contribution. In the case of Czapski and Rodziński, the relationship started with exchange of views, disputes and common discovery of original artists continued to develop through correspondence and its traces are left in the diaries of both artists.

An indelible trace of these exchanges is Rodziński’s memory of Czapski’s openness in speaking about the difficulties he experienced in painting. Czapski’s influence on Rodziński consisted above all in this encouragement always to start afresh the endeavor to cross the border between “I see in my mind’s eye” and the grasp of the elusive vision in the materially defined space of the canvas. There remain witnesses to that friendship: Rodziński’s articles on Czapski’s works – both painted and written. There are also paintings by Rodziński which contain moving testimonies of gratitude for artistic inspiration expressed with a brush on the canvas, paintings devoted to Czapski.

Abstrakt

Artykuł jest krótkim opisem artystycznej przyjaźni dwóch malarzy. Józefa Czapskiego i Stanisława Rodzińskiego. Czapski był hrabią, któremu rewolucja bolszewicka skradła ojcowiznę. Osobą rzuconą w wir trudnej historii Polski. Uczestnikiem wojny polsko-bolszewickiej w 1920 roku i kampanii wrześniowej dziewiętnaście lat później. Był aresztowany przez Rosjan i przetrzymywany w obozie w Starobielsku. Niemal cudem uniknął egzekucji w Katyniu. Czapski dołączył do armii gen. Władysława Andersa i przeszedł z nią cały szlak bojowy. Zdemobilizowany, dołączył do grona osób skupionych wokół Jerzego Giedroycia i jego paryskiej „Kultury”. Pozostał jednak przede wszystkim malarzem. Intelektualistą o rozległych zainteresowaniach. „Człowiekiem miłości do ludzi i sztuki”.

Czapski częścią „swego zapatrzenia”, własnego kosmosu i niepodległego świata podzielił się ze Stanisławem Rodzińskim. Malarzem młodszym od siebie o 44 lata. Krakowianinem. Absolwentem krakowskiej Akademii Sztuk Pięknych w Krakowie w klasie prof. Emila Krchy. Pedagogiem w Państwowym Liceum Sztuk Plastycznych w Krakowie, Wyższej Szkole Sztuk Pięknych we Wrocławiu, a wreszcie krakowskiej Akademii Sztuk Pięknych. Współpracownikiem „Tygodnika Powszechnego”. Przyjaźń zaowocowała listami, bezpośrednimi spotkaniami, odkrywaniem fascynujących malarzy (N. de Staël, G. Morandi) i wystaw. Obfitowała w przekazywanie przemyśleń i doświadczeń malarskich. Rodziński szczególnie cenił szczerość Czapskiego. Przede wszystkim jego doświadczenie niemożności przekazania w dziele pierwszych wzruszeń i emocji towarzyszących obserwowanemu zjawisku. Ważna była również zachęta do codziennego, niewdzięcznego trudu malarskiego, mimo piętrzącego się zniechęcenia i innych przeszkód.

Malarskim podsumowaniem chwil spędzonych przez Rodzińskiego w Maisons-Laffitte były obrazy. Artystyczne podziękowania  Czapskiemu za hojność myśli i wrażeń oraz prawdę.

 

Krystyna Czerni says in the introduction to her book Rezerwat sztuki [Sanctuary of art]: Every true artist (“true” meaning deserving faith and trust of the audience) has his own inimitable ways, creates his own distinct and incomparable cosmos, whose right appreciation calls for a distinct and unprejudiced approach”[1] This seems to be very apt remark, a remark that does justice to the creative originality and uniqueness of a true artist’s way of living and creating. Given this irreducibly individual character of an artist’s vocation, all the more surprising seems the story of the friendship of two painters, two strong personalities, separated by forty-four years of age, as well as by the seemingly impregnable iron curtain. Is such thing at all possible?. Let us have a closer look and see.

Involved in the story are two artists:

Józef Czapski, born 3. 04. 1896 in Prague (in Bohemia), died 12. 01. 1993 in Paris; and Stanisław Rodziński, born 08. 03. 1940 in Cracow.

1. Some pages from the two biographies

 Józef Czapski

When he was born, all the affairs of the world seemed destined to follow their well established course[2]. A bright and secure future seemed to open before the child born into a loving and well-to-do family. The first painful experience of the boy was his delicate health (“it is enough for him to go outdoors without good shoes to come down with pneumonia”). Soon came another blow: his mother died tragically when he was only seven.

And then, with the coming of a world war and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, history dramatically sped up, and this dramatic acceleration made itself felt at the home of Czapskis in Przyłuki near the city of Minsk in Byelorussia. The immediate result of these revolutionary events was for Józef the total loss of his patrimony; he was left with a mere title of count.

But Joseph was a gifted young man and he took care to develop his talents; in 1918 he matriculated at Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, but he interrupted his studies in order to take part in the Polish-Bolshevik war of 1920. After the war he returned to his studies of painting, this time at Kraków Academy, where his teacher was Józef Pankiewicz and after four years he joined the Kapists (the group of Polish painters who adopted the postimpressionist attitude to form and color). He spent some time in Paris, but returned to Poland before the outbreak of the Second World War.  Taken prisoner by the Soviet Army he spent three years in captivity in the Soviet Union, which he left in 1943 with the Polish army commanded by general Anders. He decided not to return to the native country which was overrun by Communists and made his home in France. In 1945 Adolf Rudnicki[3] was sent to the West by the communist authorities as part of an official delegation and his task was to persuade the voluntary emigrants from communist Poland to return to the country. Czapski was one of the targeted persons. This is a snatch of their interview:

– Hubert, we need people back there…[…]

– You ask if I want to return?[…] For me this country is closed. I cannot return […]. I am a lost man. I am a finished man”. He added “ I do not paint any more”[4].

Czapski did not trust Rudnicki and no wonder. He was himself taken prisoner by the Soviets on 27 September 1939 and he heard the solemn assurances of political functionaries to the effect, that no wrongdoing was intended with regard to the captured Polish officers. Czapski himself wrote: “ No officer of the Soviet Army ever told us that we were to be deported from the Polish territory to Soviet camps, quite the contrary: all of them, until the very crossing of the border, confidently were assuring us that this was out of the question…”[5] He survived the Starobielsk camp and was saved from the Katyń execution by what looked like a miracle. He was then interned in Griazowiec and soon after he enlisted in the Polish Army which formed under the command of general Władysław Anders. On the orders of the commander in chief he sought missing Polish officers, his colleagues. This was not an entirely new experience: 23 years before he had been engaged in the search for five missing soldiers from the First Cavalry Regiment of Krechowce. In 1941 and 1942 he had once again to meet and interview high soviet apparatchiks. He asked for information concerning the Polish soldiers interned in the camp of Starobielsk. Understandably: he obtained nothing, both the Gulag commander, whom he met in Czkałow, major Wiktor Nasiedkin, and the NKWD general Leonid Reichmann in Moscow dismissed him with vague advice. And yet, as Czapski later became aware, “Reichmann knew the whole truth concerning the missing officers”[6]. How, after such experiences, could Czapski trust Rudnicki’s assurances? He also remained unmoved by the tribute and homage on his knees  (with a kiss of Czapski’s hand) rendered him in 1947 by Jerzy Borejsza then the manager in chief of the publishing house “Czytelnik”[7]. The painter associated with Jerzy Giedroyć and the Polish monthly “Kultura” based in Paris. In the Maisons-Laffite he and his sister Maria occupied a whole floor. He engaged, together with Giedroyć, in the organization and management of the “Instytut Literacki”, and alongside Giedroyć, may be regarded as the chief architect of that significant enterprise. As an emissary of the institute, after 1949 he traveled in search of funds. The last “begging” trip he completed in 1955 to South America. His relations with Giedroyć began to deteriorate: the editor in chief considered Czapski too impressionable for serious management work (he gave away most books issued by the Institute in Canada)[8] On the other hand he became more and more engrossed in his own affairs: he returned to painting. He had left painting since September 1939, yet after a long break, caused by the traumatic experiences of war and imprisonment, he finally burst the inner obstacles. He started afresh painting, wrestling with the resistance of matter, he also began writing. He was a frequent visitor in museums, he twice exhibited his own works (1951, 1954). The estrangement from the Institute was a painful experience, yet it allowed him to immerse himself with a new zest in the problems of contemporary culture. He became preoccupied with matters concerning his own artistic creation: the analysis of his own canvasses , the problems of “painting the truth of oneself, of the world, other people, landscape, and even inanimate objects, which, as still nature, are capable of expressing the joy of existence as well as metaphysical reflections on passing away”[9] absorbed his attention.

It was precisely at this time of newly found independence that he met Stanisław Rodziński.

Stanisław Rodziński

All began here, in Kraków, here the life began. Stanisław Rodziński was born on 8 March 1940.

And it was here that the school began. First primary education in St. John Cantius’ primary school[10]. Then, in August Witkowski[11] Liceum Ogólnokształcące no. 5[12], he acquired a firm and comprehensive schooling in mathematics, Polish language and literature, painting and other arts. In 1957 he successfully passed his maturity exam, this enabled him to open the door to the world of his dreams. Rodziński crossed the threshold of the new marvelous world when he took his first steps in Kraków’s Academy of Fine Arts. Having completed the intensive courses of the first year he proceeded to a master class in painting. He chose the class of Emil Krcha[13] (man of many gifts and interests – besides painting he gave concerts as a cellist).

It was also in Kraków, that love began. Stanisław Rodziński married in 1963 Irena Popiołek, a painter in professor Adam Marczyński’s workshop.

Kraków was also the place, where Rodziński’s gifts developed. Is it, however, possible to become an original artist in a city so permeated with tradition and memory as Kraków? Can one discover one’s own, unique touch in a milieu studded with great artistic personalities? Does not the mere proximity of recognized masters have a paralyzing effect on a beginner?

Stanisław Rodziński himself answers these questions in the preface to his book Obrazy czasu [Images of Time], which is a collection of the artist’s publications written in 1963 – 2000. “The texts collected in this book will remind us that the past is also an element of the present and the future”[14], says the author. Thus, history is the factor that forms ourselves, helps us, strengthens and braces us. As we look forward to the future, we can draw on the achievements of our predecessors, feel their approval, we can also learn from past tragedies and thus get the chance to avoid past mistakes and make correct choices.

Here comes a passage that sums up his youthful and student years: “ My generation began school life in the first years after the war, when teenagers, we more or less consciously were experiencing the Stalinist episode of Polish history, then came the experience of the Polish October and the Hungarian uprising. As we were beginning our university studies, we witnessed the first the first student protest action after the suppression of the student weekly “Po prostu” [Simply Speaking]. With these experiences combined the awakening interest in art, the momentous contacts with authoritative teachers, first reading to have a profound effect,  upon one’s life, first, often decisive choices in matters concerning faith, doubting, the shape of our life; then came also the experiences of illnesses and death of relatives. All this was happening against the background of the historical events […]. One might well ask: has there ever been a generation of Poles, whose life experience was different?

Naturally, the answer is: no. This intermingling of the private life with history has always been and is likely to remain the distinguishing mark of our history. And it is precisely for that reason that having had a good fortune of being taught by good teachers, attentive look at an old woman who was once the heroine of one of the most important works of Polish literature, allows one to find one’s place in the present, but also to take a stand with respect to the past”[15]

Stanisław Rodziński found his place in his present. In 1963 he finished his studies. At the defense of his diploma he presented a set of paintings complete with a written commentary[16]. This represented a sort of creed of the artists: the topics and developments that appeared there would be constantly returning in subsequent creative years. Some ideas that surfaced  in this diploma presentation can be regarded as signpost which have guided the artists efforts ever since. He stated in one of his articles: “The work of art, in this case a painting, is for me a phenomenon inseparably bound up with the artist’s person. […]. The essence of a painting is formed by this unique, inimitable quality which is the projection of the person of the painter, whose source lies in the inner life of an individual, in his psyche”[17].

The commentary which accompanied his diploma work in the Academy was the beginning of Rodziński’s writning on art. When 26 years old he published his first article in the periodical “Wychowanie techniczne w szkole”[18] [Technical education in school]. Then followed a spate of publications and the collaboration with the “Tygodnik Powszechny” [General Weekly]. Pages six, seven, or eight of the weekly usually contained an article by the painter and critic. His articles concerned diverse aspects of artistic life – they included presentations of the work of individual artists, reports on exhibitions, they discussed problems of artistic education at school. Rodziński also wrote for other periodicals, among them were “Znak” [Sign], “Gość Niedzielny” [Sunday Guest], “Ethos” (edited at the Catholic University of Lublin), “Odra” [the Oder] (published at Wrocław), “Dekada Literacka” [Literary Decade]. He also published reviews of interesting books concerning art (the reviews came out in “Nowe Książki” [New Books]) and reported on exhibitions. He authored four books, which were collections of articles. These were: Sztuka na codzień i od święta [Art on a Workday and on a Holiday ] (printed in Tarnów in 1999), two books published by the Lublin publishing house Gaudium: Obrazy czasu [Images of Time]- Lublin 2001, and Mój szkicownik [My Sketchbook] – Lublin 2005. The newest book published by Stanisław Rodziński was Dzieła, czasy, ludzie [Works of Art., Times, People], published in the Kraków publishing house Salwator in 2007.

Let us listen to Rodziński himself as he relates the time immediately after leaving the workshop of his teacher Emil Krcha:”Having completed my studies I started work in an orphanage (in the years 1962-1963), then, from 1963 to 1970 I taught school children in the primary school no. 34 in Kraków, subsequently I moved to secondary school, to the State Liceum of Fine Arts in the same city. I taught painting and history of art. This was between the years 1970 and 1982. For a short while I also taught in “my” school, that is in the Liceum Ogólnokształcące no. 5. Then, between 1972 and 1980 I had a teaching post in the Wrocław Academy of Fine Arts and traveled regularly from Kraków to Wrocław[19].  The reforms initiated by the “Solidarity” opened the way for Stanisław Rodziński to the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts (that before that time he could not teach in Kraków was a result of retaliatory measures taken against him by the communist authorities angered by his collaboration with the ‘Tygodnik Powszechny” and by his personal and mail contact with the enemy of socialism – Józef Czapski. Rodziński was for nine years (until 1989) lecturer at Kraków Academy; in he obtained the title of associated professor and in 1992 – ordinary professor. When Poland regained its independence, the achievement and steadfast attitude of the artists were fully appreciated and rewarded: in his home academy he was given the function of the dean at the Department of Painting (in the years 1993 – 1996) and then, of rector of the Academy (this function he fulfilled for seven years, from 1996 to 2002).

Creative work, teaching, writing are just a few areas in which Rodziński’s talents made themselves felt. Among his many duties he found time for activity in the Association of Polish Artists and Designers. His work for the Association lasted from the seventies to 1983 (when the Association was suppressed by the authorities of the martial law), he fulfilled many functions, including presidency of the Section of Painting, vice-presidency of the managing board of Kraków district, membership of Central Managing Board of the Section of Painting; in 1973 – 1983 he was editor in chief of the Bulletin of the Artistic Council of the Association of Artists and Designers. He also joined and actively participated in diverse structures independent from the communist regime In 1977 he subscribed to the declaration of the Society for Educational Courses (which became the so called Flying University). In 1981 – 1989 he participated in the Movement of Independent Culture, after the introduction of the martial law (1981) he published articles in underground press and exhibited his works in churches and institutions associated with the Catholic Church. His works could then be seen in Warsaw, Kraków, Gdańsk, Łódź, Toruń, Płock, and Poznań. Such exhibitions as Znak krzyża [The Sign of the Cross] – organized in 1983 in the Warsaw Church of Divine Mercy, a survey of his works exhibited the following year in the Museum of Warsaw Archdiocese, and the Bytom Czas krzyża [The Time of the Cross] exhibited in 1985 in the Bytom Capuchin Church of the Holy Cross are just a few examples of his artistic activity at that time[20]. He also collaborated with Jerzy Giedroyć’s Paris “Kultura”. These manifold engagements did not prevent him from taking part in about 200 collective exhibitions and organizing about 100 exhibitions of his own works.

The artists is today as busy as ever and actively exhibits his newest productions. The last catalogue of his work is a description of an exhibition of his works which has been presented in fourteen Polish cities.

The Biblical dictum “by their fruits ye shall know them”, when applied to Stanisław Rodziński’s didactic achievement, yields a very impressive picture. He has reared many outstanding pupils, distinguished by their technical mastery as well as by their individuality, as Rodziński never imposed his own vision on them and allowed their individuality fully to develop. Some of the best known names of his pupils are as follows: Tadeusz Boruta, Aldona Mickiewicz, Marcin Kołpanowicz, Roman Dziadkiewicz.

Nowadays one can safely affirm, that Stanisław Rodziński is highly respected and his work appreciated. He received many awards, the most prestigious being Alfred Jurzykowski Prize (awarded him in New York in 1988) and Witold Wojtkiewicz Prize (Kraków 2007). He has been given recognition by prestigious academic boards, witness the honorary doctorates awarded him by Wrocław University in 2002 and by the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice in 2008. Also the state authorities of restituted independent Poland appreciated his manifold fruitful activity and engagement and by awarding him Officer’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta in 1998 and two years later, in 2000, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage Prize for his lifetime achievement in painting and essay writing.

He had the good fortune of being able to participate in the work of many diverse milieus, Kraków Academy of Fine Arts, the editorial board of Tygodnik Powszechny and the institute of Paris “Kultura” being just some of the most significant. He admired Kisiel’s  brilliant attacks on the communist regime. These milieus  essentially contributed to the formation of his attitude. And of course, these culturally vigorous, independent enclaves, these circles steadfastly attached to the essential values, indomitable and oppositional with respect to the hated regime included many magnificent personalities, to some of whom Stanisław came to be attached by bonds of friendship. Among them were painters and graphic designers (Jacek Siennicki, Stanisław Frenkiel), art historians (Joanna Pollakówna, Jacek Woźniakowski), writers and intellectuals (Jerzy Turowicz, Seweryn Pollak, Jan Józef Szczepański, Gustaw Herling-Grudziński). Yet the friendship that he treasured most seems to have been that with Józef Czapski. He thus summed up the time of their acquaintance: “..Joe [Józef] was a man of love: he loved people and he loved art. Time and again God makes us meet someone who proves to be very important for us; my acquaintance with Józef Czapski was for me such God’s gift”[21].

2. The acquaintance and friendship

What was the history of their contacts? They first met at the Poznań exhibition of Czapski’s work in 1957. Thanks to J. Woźniakowski[22] both painters came in touch with each other by mail. They could spent some time together when, in 1974, owing to Woźniakowski’s intercession, Rodziński obtained a grant from the Fondation pour une entraide intellectuelle européenne and could travel to Paris. “Both men met in person many times, and at the first visit to Paris [..] at the railway station, Czapski, with the brusqueness that was characteristic of his demeanor and which really betrayed his profound kindness, said to Stanisław: “ We know each other from letters. Now I have just one choice: either I come to love you or I will hate you”[23].

Czapski proved a very ingenious and inspiring friend, he took on himself the role of a guide (cicerone) in discovering the world of art of the Paris museums. They visited the Louvre, they saw and discussed the canvases of Nicolas de Staël in 1981 in the Grand Palais, when a comprehensive, retrospective survey of that great abstractionist, who returned to figurative painting was exhibited. These are but two of the inspiring impulses that Rodziński received from the man that was two generations his older and stigmatized by his tragic experiences.

The sort of relation that is formed by exchange of views does not depend on just one party. It is a dynamic relationship that develops in time as each participant bring in his own contribution. In the case of Czapski and Rodziński, the relationship started with exchange of views, disputes and common discovery of original artists continued to develop through correspondence and its traces are left in the diaries of both artists. Two different worlds came close to each other; two strong individualities understood each other, discovered common ground in their common experience. The essence of that common ground was the striving, characteristic of both men, to fill the canvas in a fresh, original, unique way. An indelible trace of these exchanges is Rodziński’s memory of Czapski’s openness in speaking about the difficulties he experienced in painting. He spoke of the frustration when the agile hand fails to render faithfully on canvas the design conceived in his head. The image grasp with intuition eludes a material representation, stubbornly refuses to be caught in the space of the canvass. Czapski complained that he did not succeed in faithfully rendering in painting what he conceived and wished to paint.[24] In this confession of his impotency Czapski appeared absolutely sincere, in his weakness he looked very human.

One Czapski’s advice that stuck in Stanisław’s  memory was his encouragement to perseverance. Despite the dissonance between that, which is intended and that, which can be achieved, between what is seen ”in one’s mind’s eye” and what can be seen on the canvas, on ought always to renew efforts, not to let oneself be discouraged. One ought to persevere, stubbornly try to overcome the impossible. One ought to struggle with one’s impossibility.

Czapski’s influence on Rodziński consisted above all in this encouragement always to start afresh the endeavor to cross the border between “I see in my mind’s eye” and the grasp of the elusive vision in the materially defined space of the canvas.

Rodziński has ever since preserved grateful a memory of his friend. He gave a proof of that memory in the days immediately preceding the death of the old painter. On 12th October 1992, when Czapski was already 97, having completely lost his sight he had stopped painting three years before, Rodziński put in the dried out, slender hands of the sick man a document stating that he had been awarded the honorary title of professor of the Fine Arts Academy in Kraków. The school in which he had begun his journey in the world of painting. Rodziński was aware that it was the last time he had seen the old man, that an end was being put to exchanges, mutual understanding and letters. The last glimpse of half-sitting Czapski he caught through a slit in the door.

There remain witnesses to that friendship: Rodziński’s articles on Czapski’s works – both painted and written[25]. There are also paintings by Rodziński which contain moving testimonies of gratitude for artistic inspiration expressed with a brush on the canvas, paintings devoted to Czapski. They contain subtle but meaningful references to the work of the painter who “wrote with a palette in hand”. As is usual with Rodziński, these references and allusions are clear and explicit; the titles of works contain a hint as to the correct interpretation of the paintings themselves. Thus there is a series of works dedicated to and entitled with the name of the older painter: Hommage à Czapski But there is more in those works than just the verbal reference contained in the title: a careful viewer will notice a common motif, an object that first appeared in a work by the painter from Maisons-Laffitte and then reappears in a picture by Stanisław Rodziński. This motif is a small white bowl  at the edge of a night table in a rough garret room; it appeared in a picture made by Czapski in 1977 and entitled Still Nature with a White Bowl[26]. Rodziński copies this small, fragile detail and places it in an environment like that in Czapski’s painting in some of his compositions.

I have found three pictures by Rodziński with that motif. One is Still Nature in Homage to Józef Czapski [photo 1], executed in 1989, that is still in Joe’s lifetime (Joe (Józio) is the diminutive of the name “Józef” and the name by which Rodziński always refers to his friend in his memoirs). The object in this still nature are arranged the “Kapist” way: on a night table is a white saucer, that is apparently all. No story behind this picture. The picture is made by mere juxtaposition of colorful patches: yellows, ochre and a little orange stain right behind the bowl in the upper part, in pronounced contrast with greater and stronger lower part, filled with gray, dark blue, and some shades of turquoise.

Another picture has symbolist undertones, its title is Still Nature –  Hommage à Józef Czapski. It is subscribed with an additional signature: 1991/3/1999 [photo 2]. The “Kapist” climate reigns there too. As in the formerly mentioned still nature, here too a white bowl is placed on a stool, at the edge of its seat. Yet in this picture there appears a red belt, like that appearing in a wound of Jesus in a canvas from 1977: Ukrzyżowanie- Obojętni [Crucifixion – the Indifferent – photo 3] or on the thighs of the murdered archbishop Romero. This red belt appears as a sign, a symbol of suffering, martyrdom, labor undertaken not for one’s own advantage, but for the benefit of others. Yet this is also a sign of Czapski’s whole life, who devoted himself to unveiling and making generally known the truth of the murder of many thousand Polish officers in Katyń and who paid his dedication with exile from his native land and lonely fate among foreigners. This life: painful, filled with sorrow, devoted to the Fatherland is symbolized with red color, which associates with the white of the bowl to form the Polish, whit-red national colors. Such is the homage paid to a heroic Pole by his younger colleague.

Let the introduction to the third composition by Rodziński using the motif of the white bowl be the words pronounced by Czapski himself. In his essay 100 Picassos, written in 1980[27] he draws a distinction between “virtuosity of an erudite, exquisite deftness of a craftsman, who can imitate the art of centuries” and “the work of a creative artist, which brings profound joy”[28]. Named among those who bring happiness are, among others, Rembrandt, Leonardo and Goya; in the times nearer to ourselves he points to the importance of the work by Braque, Matisse and De Staël as well as “the inventive little pictures of Klee, the timid, sensitive to the extremes drawings by Giacometti and Morandi’s still natures, comprising just a few pots or boxes”[29]. He sums up his consideration of the work of these giants in the following way: “All those man, whom I cannot all name, who sometimes spoke in a whisper, sometimes in a loud cry, all of them gave us an ineffable, silent, powerful shock of experience, they taught us to worship the art and draw the strength from it. All of them opened the world of another dimension to us”[30].

It is this “silent shock of experience” that is contained in Rodziński’s canvas: Wspomnienie z Maisons-Laffitte’u [A Reminiscence from Maison-Laffitte – photo 4], painted in 1991-1992.

In this picture, there is a fruit bowl (or sugar bowl), a cube of a box in front of it, three bottles with elongated necks and a small flower vase, all this enclosed in the rectangular top of a small table, adjacent with its longer side to the wall. All these things belong to the old master; caught with eyes, memory and the brush and transferred from the shelves of Czapski’s apartment in Maisons-Laffitte onto the canvas. Their arrangement in Rodziński’s painting is similar to the ordering of objects in Czapski’s canvas Cztery białe wazony [Four white vases], executed in 1977[31]. Allusions to Czapski are many in Rodziński’s reminiscence, they concern the person of the old master, objects belonging to him, his creative work. And more than that, the reminiscence points to the artistic fascination of the old painter; all these hints combine and mix together in the painting. Czapski’s belongings, arranged in a still nature and the somewhat crowded composition of the Wspomnienie remind one of the pictures by Giorgio Morandi[32]. Morandi belonged to Czapski’s favorites: he charmed him with an ability to see simplicity and harmony in everyday life. That simplicity, which “open the world of another dimension”.

And let us conclude with still another homage paid by the younger painter to the older. A painting, all kept in grays and whites, is named Pamięci Józefa Czapskiego [To the Memory of Józef Czapski – photo 5] and is the latest work in the cycle devoted to the old painter’s memory, executed on 12th January 2003, the tenth anniversary of Czapski’s death. Again, there appears a small table or stool. At the edge of its top stands a white cup with an elongated foot and considerable bowl[33]. What is remarkable, its edge is frayed, as if, one is tempted to say, “torn by life.”

Translated by Roman Majeran.

The photos are reproduced with Stanisław Rodziński’s kind permission.

Photo 1, after Stanisław Rodziński. Malarstwo, Warsaw 1990;

Photo 2, after Stanisław Rodziński. Malarstwo, Częstochowa 2000, catalogue no. 15;

Photo 3, after Stanisław Rodziński. Malarstwo, Warsaw 2007, p. 58;

Photo 4, after ST Rodziński, Galeria Sztuki Współczesnej „Format”, Kraków (no year of publication);

Photo 5, after Stanisław Rodziński. Malarstwo, Warsaw 2007, p. 37;

Fot. 1. Martwa nautra w hołdzie Józefowi Czapskiemu, 1989, olej na płótnie [100x80] Fot. 2. Martwa natura - Hommage a Józef Czapski, 1991-3-1999, olej na płótnie [100x80] Fot. 3. Ukrzyżowanie - obojętni, 1977, olej na płótnie Fot. 4. Pamięci Józefa Czapskiego 12.01.1993_ olej na płótnie

 

Biogram

Beata Krasucka, mgr –  adiunkt w Instytucie Leksykografii Katolickiego Uniwersytetu Lubelskiego im. Jana Pawła II.

 

[1] K. Czerni, Rezerwat sztuki. Tropami artystów polskich XX wieku [A Sanctuary of Art. On the track of Polish Artists of the 20th Century], Kraków 2000, p. 5.

[2] Czapski wrote in a letter to Jil Silberstein: „All my life up to the years 1944-1945 – reposed upon certainty that good would finally triumph over evil, and that I participated in that struggle”, a quote after M. Grochowska, Jerzy Giedroyć. Do Polski ze snu, Warsaw 2009, p. 520.

[3] Adolf Rudnicki, pseudonym of  Aron Hirschorn (1909 – 1990), writer. After a debut in 1930, along with H. Boguszewska, G. Morcinek, Z. Nałkowska and B. Schulz, he belonged to a literary group that went by the name “Przedmieście” [Suburb]. This literary circle drew its inspiration from French naturalists, in their works these writers relied on the method of observation and sought to describe the life of the working class and ethnic minorities. Rudnicki participated in the Polish defensive war against Nazi Germany in 1939 and took part in the Warsaw Uprising (August-September 1944), after the war he was active in the Polish Workers’ Party (Polska Partia Robotnicza) and as a member of the editorial board of the “Kuźnica” weekly, which propagated secularism and Marxism, he collaborated with the periodical “Odrodzenie”, a center of support for the communist oriented reforms in post-war Poland. His works include fiction, journalism and a personal diary, it is  concerned mostly with  traumatic experiences of war and the Nazi occupation in Poland (as in the cycle Epoch of the Ovens, Warsaw 1948 – 1949) and with problems related to Polish-Jewish relations. Cf. http://www.culture.pl/pl/culture/artykuly/os_rudnicki_adolf.

[4] A. Rudnicki, Major Hubert z armii Andersa [Major Hubert from Anders’ Army], in: idem, Living and Dead Sea, Warsaw 1955, pp. 377 – 402; a short story (and a pamphlet), first published in 1946 was used by the Polish communist propaganda in order to falsify the truth concerning  the fate of the Polish prisoners of war taken by the Red Army in 1939 and to denigrate those who attempted to make publicly known these facts.

[5] J. Czapski, Wspomnienia starobielskie, [Memories of Starobielsk] in: the same author, Na nieludzkiej ziemi [In the Inhuman Land], Kraków 2001, p. 13.

[6] J. Czapski, Prawda o Katyniu, [The truth about Katyń] in: Na nieludzkiej ziemi,,,  p. 366.

[7] Cf. M. Grochowska, Jerzy Giedroyć…, p. 148.

[8] M. Grochowska, op. cit, p. 515.

[9] S. Rodziński, Józefa Czapskiego świadectwo prawdy [Józef Czapski’s testimony to the truth], „Kultura” 200, no. 6/633, p. 125.

[10] This school had remarkable traditions. Established on 15 May 1871, confirmed on 7 November 1872 under the name of the four year primary school for boys, with Polish as the language of instruction. It started teaching on 1 September 1873. When Rodziński studied there, there had been little change in the structure and the climate of the school. Since 1881 the school had occupied the premises at Smolensk street 7, it had ever been a school for boys, it had always born the name of St. John Cantius, the only significant change had been that four-year instruction had been replaced by seven years. More changes occurred after Stanisław’s departure. In 1963 girls were admitted and the name of the school’s patron was changed on 28 September 1970, when Romuald Traugutt – a hero of the Polish 1963 uprising replaced St. John of Kęty. The important alumni of the school include Leopold Jaworski, professor of the Jagiellonian University (finished the school in 1876), Ludwik de Lavaux (left the school in 1879), Roman Ingarden (1903), Gustaw Holoubek and Mieczysław Porębski.

[11] August Wiktor Witkowski (1854 – 1913), physicist, philosopher, rector of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, the author of the Zasady fizyki [Principles of physics], I – II, Warsaw 1892-1897.

[12] The school, which was named in 1921 the August Witkowski State Mathematical-Scientific Gymnasium no. 8, was renamed in 1956 and received its current name of August Witkowski Liceum Ogólnokształcące no 5. The school has always maintained and also currently prides itself in very high standard of teaching, in particular of scientific subjects. The name and the achievement of the school’s patron are regarded as obliging.

[13] Emil Krcha (1994 – 1972), studied 1919 –1925 i Kraków’s Academy of Fine Arts, he worked in Paris, went on artistic tours in Western Europe, in 1928 was one of the founders of the Association of Artists Keystone (a grouping with a colorist orientation), after 1934 in Kraków, from 1946 – 1950 taught paintings in Wrocław Academy of Fine Arts, then he returned to Kraków. Cf. I. Kossowska, Słownik Malarzy Polskich [Biographic Dictionary of Polish Painters], Warsaw 2001, p. 174.

[14] Stanisław Rodziński, Od Autora [The Author’s Foreword], in: idem, Obrazy czasu, Lublin 2001, p. 5.

[15] The same author, Tempora mutantur…, pp 191 – 192; the old woman is Pepa Singer, Rachela inStanisław Wyspiański’s Wedding.

[16] This form of presenting one’s artistic achievement supplemented with a written essay for obtaining a diploma was first introduced in Kraków’s Academy of Fine Arts in 1963.

[17] S. Rodziński, O ważności malarstwa [Importance of painting] , in: Obrazy…, p. 8.

[18] S. Rodziński, Reprodukcja – pomoc czy przeszkoda? [Reproduction –  a help or an obstacle?], Wychowanie techniczne w szkole 6 (1966), fascicle 9, pp 189 – 191.

[19] Cf. Imperatyw wartości. Rozmowa z profesorem Stanisławem Rodzińskim, rektorem Akademii Sztuk Pięknych w Krakowie [The Imperative of Values, An Interview with Professor Stanisław Rodziński, Rector of Kraków’s Academy of Fine Arts], http://www.wsp.krakow.pl/konspekt/konspekt7/gosc7.html, cf. also W. Tyrański, Kto jest Kim w Krakowie, lokalne władze, urzędy, instytucje, środowiska. Edukacja, zatrudnienie, praca zawodowa, działalność polityczna i społeczna, sympatie polityczne, rodzina, rozrywki i upodobania (dane z 1999 roku) [Who is Who in Kraków….], Kraków 2000, p. 290 – 291 (a questionnaire filled in by Professor Rodziński himself)

[20] A. Wojciechowski, Czas smutku, czas nadziei. Sztuka niezależna lat osiemdziesiątych [The Time of Sorrow, The Time of Hope. The Independent Art of the Eighties], Warsaw 1992, pp 116-119; 151-152.

[21] Cf. Imperatyw wartości. Rozmowa z profesorem Stanisławem Rodzińskim, rektorem Akademii Sztuk Pięknych w Krakowie [The Imperative of Values, An Interview with Professor Stanisław Rodziński, Rector of Kraków’s Academy of Fine Arts], http://www.wsp.krakow.pl/konspekt/konspekt7/gosc7.html,

[22] Jacek Woźniakowski married on  22nd  June 1948  Maja Plater-Zyberk, Czapski’s niece, cf. J. Woźniakowski, Ze wspomnień szczęściarza [Memories of a lucky guy], Kraków 2008, pp 137 – 138.

[23] M. Guzowska, Recenzja – wystawa w Galerii Studio w Warszawie, [A Review – an Exhibition in the Studio Gallery in Warsaw] in: Stanisław Rodziński. Malarstwo, [Stanisław Rodziński. His Painting] Kraków 2007, p. 37.

[24] Cf. E. Pytka’s film, Prawdzie naprzeciw [Meeting the Truth halfway], Video Studio, Gdańsk 1995.

[25] For example his articles in „Tygodnik Powszechny”: Pisane paletą w ręku [Written with a palette], TP 1983, no. 23  – a review of Czapski’s book, Patrząc [While we look], Kraków 1983; Józef Czapski w Nowym Sączu – zwycięstwo Czapskiego, [Józef Czapski in Nowy Sącz – Czapski’s Victory] TP 1990, no. 26, p. 8; Nauczyciel,  [Teacher] TP 1993, no. 4, 7; Malarstwo i życie żarliwe [Painting and Ardent Life], TP 1994, no. 6, p. 10 (a review of Joanna Pollakówna’s book Józef Czapski, Warszawa 1993); „I te obrazy nie wiadomo skąd” [These Images out of Nowhere], TP 1998, no. 12, p. 14. In other periodicals: Z Czapskim w Maisons-Laffitte [Visiting Maisons-Laffitte with Czapski], “Dekada Literacka” 16.12.1992 – 15.01.1993, p. 7;  Józefa Czapskiego świadectwo prawdy [Józef Czapski’s testimony to the truth], „Kultura” 200, no. 6/633, p. 125.

[26] Cf. J. Pollakówna, Czapski, Warsaw 1993, photo 42.

[27] J. Czapski, 100 Picassów, in: the same author, While we Look. With a Self-Portrait and 19 Drawings by the Author, Kraków 1983, pp. 352-356.

[28] Ibid. P. 354.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Cf. the reproduction in: Józf Czapski. Malarstwo ze zbiorów szwajcarskich [Paintings from Swiss Collections], Kraków 1992.

[32] Giorgio Morandi (1890 – 1964), Italian painter and designer, associated with magical realism; he painted excelent still natures, where the chieg roles are played by elongated bottles, small boxes set against the wall or against a bit of a table top; very severe, purist composition showed subtlety of the tones of applied colors and highlighted the mutual impact of the juxtaposed objects.

[33] A similar cup can be seen in a photo taken 11th October 1986 of Józef Czapski in his atelier, cf. the reproduction in; M. Grochowska, Jerzy Giedroyć…, page 528; the fruit bowl on a canvas from 1961 Żółte gruszki [Yellow Pears], reproduction in: Józef Czapski. Malarstwo ze zbiorów szwajcarskich…[Paintings from Swiss Collections], Kraków 1992.

 

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