Witold Wojtkiewicz - A Knight’s Tale – pastel of paper (from the cycle Ceremonies, 1908- 09)
Witold Wojtkiewicz is the most original polish painter from the XX century. Probably he is absolutely unknown for the world outside Poland the day today. But in 1907 his art aroused enough interest of André Gide and Maurice Denise to organise in the same year an individual exhibition at Galerie Druet in Paris.
This are the words that Gidé wrote about the impression that Wojtkiewicz art made on him at the exhibition in Berlin, the first time that he saw it: “[…] his exhibition led me to the conclusion that he was quite alienated in his country.[..] This was obvious. The exhibition brought together works which although not devoid of value, gave us nothing new. […] when the astonishing significance of some of the canvases stopped us. They (the canvases of Wojtkiewicz) illuminated the slightly darkened room not with the brightness of the colours, as if the easy of profaner they may seem grey, but with the strange harmony of the tone, the painful fantasy of the drawing, and the pathetic and emotional interplay of colours”.
Gidé's words faithfully described the situation of Wojtkiewicz in Poland art climate of the time. The artist Wojtkiewicz was quite aware of the clearly different separateness of his art. It seems to me that he even emphasised it with his eccentricity and his unapproachableness (his impeccably foppish style of dressing).
He didn’t live a long life; born in 1879 in Warsaw, died in 1909 in Warsaw. Some people called him the precursor of surrealism; it could be true. His art was a phenomenon completely distinct in its time. It is distinguished by its advanced deformation of reality, which aims at emphasising the sadness and sometimes the absurd fictitiousness of human existence. In his art he combined grotesque with lyrics. His behaviour was always injected with a large dose of irony, as well as self-irony. His art, individual in every aspect, derived from his poetic imagination, was shaped, reached full maturity and was extinguished in less than seven years.
For me he is one of the exceptionally original artists; the one with the magical, unrepeatable poetic language of imagination. Maybe he was after all more a writer and a poet than a painter?
I posted here four images of his paintings from different cycles. All of them are more of less surreal, fantastic, with an atmosphere of strangeness and tension of the scenes. All of them represented the creative act of an extremely personalised vision of the world.
Witold Wojtkiewicz - Marionettes – oil on canvas (from the cycle The Circus,1907)
Witold Wojtkiewicz - Winter Tale, Tournament – tempera of canvas
(from the cycle Children’s Poses, 1908)
Witold Wojtkiewicz - Abduction of the Princess – tempera of canvas (from the cycle Children’s Poses,1908)