Polish sculptor, educator, artistic activist. Born 5 September 1906, in Przedborze in the Kielce region; died 29 September 1967, in Warsaw.
Between 1922 and 1927 Wnuk studied at the Lumber Industry School in Zakopane, where he developed a life-long friendship with Antoni Kenar; both were the favored students of Karol Stryjeński, the dean of the school at the time. From 1927-1934 he studied sculpture at the School of the Fine Arts (renamed the Academy in 1932) in Warsaw. He taught sculpture at the State Institute of the Visual Arts in Lvov until the outbreak of World War II. During this same period he took part in competitions for monuments commemorating, among others, monuments commemorating Polish Commander in Chief Józef Piłsudski, in the cities of Lvov (1936, 4th prize) and in Warsaw (1st competition in 1937 - one of three joint prizes, 2nd competition in 1939). He continued to teach during the Soviet occupation, and when Lvov was taken over by the Germans, he began to work with underground organizations, including the Council for Jewish Assistance ("Żegota"). In 1944, facing arrest because of his underground activities, he moved to Warsaw, from where he was deported to Germany following the fall of the Warsaw Uprising. In 1945, following a brief stay in Krakow, he settled on the Polish coast where he co-founded and became a professor and rector (1947-1949) of the State Higher School of the Visual Arts in Gdansk. This period of activity was crowned by his winning a competition for a monument expressing gratitude to the Soviet Army for liberating Gdynia (1949, unveiled in 1953, dismantled in 1990).
From 1949 to his death he was a professor of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw and was this school's rector for two terms, 1951-1954 and 1959-1967. As an educator and head of this institution he contributed significantly to defending its autonomy and its students' right to free artistic expression. At the same time, throughout the entire post-war period, he was an organizer of artistic life within the Association of Polish Visual Artists and advisory bodies that worked with the Ministry of Culture and Art (Council for Culture and Art, Higher Artistic Education Council). His mastery of realist sculptural skills, acquired during his studies, and his earlier experiences with sculpted monuments allowed him to establish a position for himself within the discipline imposed by Socialist Realist doctrine. In his later works he retained his classical solutions, achieving exceptional expression in a sculpture titled Kobietom czasów okupacji / To the Women of the Times of Occupation (1964). In the last years of his life he created dramatic, nearly abstract sculptures in wood like his Dwie natury / Two Natures (1964), Bruno Schulzowi / To Bruno Schulz (1966), Antoniemu Kenarowi / To Antoni Kenar (1966), Płonące Miasto / Burning City (1967).
Selected exhibitions and awards:
Author: Maryla Sitkowska, Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, December 2001
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