Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Polish wood engravers: Wladislaw Skoczylas and his influence

Wladislaw Skoczylas (1883-1934) is considered the father of modern Polish wood engraving, and most of the other artists in this post studied under him. Skoczylas studied at the art academy in Krakow, the Kunstgewerbeschule in Vienna, and in the Paris studio of Émile-Antoine Bourdelle. From 1910 he devoted a large part of his work to etching, and from 1923 turned from etching to specialize in wood engraving. From 1928 Wladislaw Skoczylas taught at the Department of the Graphic Arts in the Applied Art School in Warsaw, where he inspired and influenced a whole generation of Polish wood engravers. Skoczylas exhibited in the show Art Polonais at the 1921 Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and was kept in public eye in France by exhibitions of his wood engravings at the Galerie Zak. Skoczylas also continued to paint throughout his career, and regularly exhibited at the Salon d'Automne, of which he was a member.

Wladislaw Skoczylas, Brigands pour un trésor
Wood engraving, black-and-white state, 1924

Wladislaw Skoczylas, Brigands pour un trésor
Wood engraving, coloured state, 1924

Wladislaw Skoczylas, Saint-Christophe
Wood engraving, 1929

Wladislaw Skoczylas, Baruch
Wood engraving, 1929

Bogna Krasnodebska-Gardowska (1900-1986) was certainly a pupil of Skoczylas. She specialised in religious subjects.

Bogna Krasnodebska-Gardowska, L'Apocalypse
Wood engraving, 1929

My sole engraving by Stefan Mrozewski (1894-1975) is also a religious subject (the entombment of Christ); Mrozewski's most important work is considered his series of 101 large engravings for Dante's Divine Comedy, on which he laboured for 32 years. Stefan Mrozewski was born in Czestochowa, Poland, in 1894. Although he showed early talent as an artist, his modest family circumstances initially prevented him from studying art. In 1920 he served in a cartographic unit in the Polish-Soviet war. Afterwards, he attended several art schools, notably studying wood engraving and etching under Wladislaw Skoczylas at the Applied Art School in Warsaw. From 1925-32 Stefan Mrozewski lived in Paris, where he exhibited at various Salons and at the Galerie Bonaparte. His reputation in Paris was such that Pierre Mornand devoted a chapter to his work in Vingt-deux artistes du livre. From 1933-35 Mrozewski lived in Amsterdam, and from 1935-37 in London. He returned to Poland only to find his homeland invaded by the Nazis; Stefan Mrozewski was active in the Polish Resistance, putting his graphic skills to good use. After Poland was swallowed up by the Soviet Union in 1945, Mrozewski made his escape, first to familiar France and Holland, and then in 1951 to the USA, where he lived and worked until his death in Walnut Creek, California, in 1975.

Stefan Mrozewski, Mise au tombeau
Wood engraving, 1929

Edmund Ludwik Bartlomiejczyk (1895-1950) was more of a contemporary of Skoczylas than a student, and in fact Bartlomiejczyk also had a considerable influence on wood engraving in Poland, in his role as a professor at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. Like Skoczylas, he took inspiration from Polish folk art, as in this fine engraving of a peasant playing the bagpipes.

Edmund Bartlomiejczk, Le joueur de cornemuse
Wood engraving, 1929

The same folk art influence can be seen in the work of Zygmunt Kaminski, who drew particularly on the Polish paper-cut tradition. Kaminski (1888-1969) illustrated the novel Chlopi by Wladyslaw Reymont with original woodcuts in this folk art style. He lived and worked in Warsaw. In 1921 Zygmunt Kaminski exhibited at the Exposition des Artistes Polonais organised by the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

Zygmunt Kaminski, Chlopi
Wood engraving, 1931

The painter, sculptor, stage director, and printmaker Zbigniew Pronaszko (1885-1958) was born in Zychlin; his younger brother Andrzei Pronaszko was also a significant Polish artist. Zbigniew Pronaszko studied in Krakow under J. Melczevski, and also in Munich. In 1928 he exhibited four canvases in the Polish section of the Salon d'Automne in Paris, bringing his art into the international arena.

Zbigniew Pronaszko, Illustration for 10 Ballad O Powsinogach Beskidzkich
Wood engraving, 1931

Although many of the artists discussed so far drew on folk art, they did so from an educated perspective. My last Polish wood engraver was a true outsider artist. The sculptor and printmaker Jedrzej Wowro (sometimes spelled Vowro) was born in Gorzeniu Dolnym in 1864. Jerdzej Wowro was an entirely self-taught folk artist. Born into a humble farming family, he remained illiterate. Jedrzej Wowro worked in coal mines, mills, and as a lumberjack. It was after being buried in a mine collapse that he returned to Gorzeniu and married Mary Guzek, who was literate, and who introduced him to stories of the saints who appear in much of his work. In 1923 his second wife Marianna Pin took some of his sculptures to the local manor house and showed them to the writer and champion of expressionism Emil Zegadlowicz. From that moment, Zegadlowicz became Jedrzej Wowro's patron, encouraging others to buy his work, and commissioning 20 woodcuts between 1925 and 1933. After that Wowro, now internationally known, was too ill to work. He died at the age of 73 in 1937.

Jerdzej Wowro, Ballada O Swiatkarzu
Wood engraving, 1931


Anonymous said...

like this post!


Neil said...

Thanks, Luisa

Tom said...

Thanks for sharing information.


dolorosa said...

excellent ones thank you for sharing.