Polish painter and graphic artist, educator, and representative of the new Classicist trend in the 1920s. Born in 1882 in Lvov, died in 1965 in Toruń.
Niesiołowski began his artistic studies in 1898 at the School of Industry in Lviv within the Department of Decorative Painting. He continued his studies between 1900 and 1904 at Krakow's Academy of Fine Arts under the direction of Józef Mehoffer, Teodor Axentowicz, and Stanislaw Wyspiański. In 1903 he began to exhibit jointly with the members of the Sztuka / Art Society of Polish Artists. Between 1905 and 1926 he lived in Zakopane, where he became a member of the local artistic and intellectual elite and maintained contacts with, among others, Jan Kasprowicz, Stefan Żeromski, Stanislaw Witkiewicz and Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer, Władysław Orkan, Tadeusz Micinski, and Karol Szymanowski. Niesiołowski's artistic stance was strongly influenced by the art of Władysław Ślewiński, who resided in the nearby village of Poronin between 1906 and 1910. In 1907 the artist traveled to Vienna, Paris, Berlin, and Budapest. He also visited Munich (1907) and Italy (1908). In 1908 he joined in the last exhibition of the Group of Five (a formation that represented the symbolist Young Poland current) presented in Vienna and Munich. In 1909 he became a member of the Podhale Arts Society, while in 1910 he began to work with the Kilim Studio in designing fabrics. Between 1917 and 1922 he was a member of the avant-garde group known as the Polish Expressionists (renamed the Formists in 1919). In 1919 he assumed a professorial position at the Free School of the Visual Arts created in Zakopane, and in 1922 joined the Rytm (Rhythm) Association of Polish Visual Arts. In addition, he participated in exhibition of the groups Awangarda / Avant-garde (Kraków, 1930) and Nowa Generacja / New Generation (Lvov, 1932). In 1926 he moved to Vilnius, where he assumed the position of director of the School of Artistic Crafts and joined the Society of Visual Artists in Vilnius. In 1928 he began to teach painting, fabric design, and poster design in the Fine Arts Department of Stefan Bathory University in Vilnius.
Solo exhibitions of Niesiołowski's art were held in Warsaw at the Zachęta Society for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts (1923, 1925, 1926) and at the Art Propaganda Institute (1938), as well as in Krakow (1921), Torun (1926), and Łódź (1935). The artist participated in presentations of Polish art abroad organized by the Society for the Propagation of Polish Art Among Foreigners in cities like Helsinki and Stockholm (1927), Vienna and Brussels (1928), the Hague and Amsterdam (1929), and Edinburgh (1932). In 1940-1941 he acted as president of the Association of Visual Arts in Vilnius and lectured at the Art Academy. Almost all of Niesiolowski's artistic works were destroyed during the war. In 1945 the artist settled in Torun, where between 1946 and 1960 he headed the Easel Painting Faculty of the Fine Arts Department at Nicholas Copernicus University. In 1958 he became a member of the Torun Group. Niesiolowski received numerous distinctions and awards, including a silver medal at the International Art and Technology Exhibition in Paris (1937) and an honorable mention at an exhibition at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh (USA). In 1955, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of his creative career, Niesiolowski received the Cavalier's Cross of the Order of the Restoration of Poland. In 1960 the artist represented Poland at the 30. Venice Biennale. After the war his most important individual exhibitions were held in Warsaw at the Zacheta Contemporary Art Gallery (1957, 1960), at the Palace of Art in Kraków (1957), and at the Silesian Museum in Wroclaw.
Nudes, depicted in interiors or against Arcadian landscapes, were the most frequently recurring motif in Niesiołowski's paintings, although still lifes were another favorite subject. Gustav Klimt's Secessionist styling strongly influenced his early work. His fascination with the paintings of Paul Gauguin was also important, lessons in Synthetism and Cloisonnisme provided to him by Władysław Ślewinski, who was linked to the Pont-Aven school. Niesiołowski depicted motifs that were characteristic of European Symbolism, the duct of his curving, wavy lines was similar to that of Wyspianski's drawings. His manner of depicting monumental, static figures in landscapes referenced the compositions of Puvis de Chavannes. During his Formist period, Niesiolowski gave his painted forms a tangible volume and made them more slender, while the clear rhythm of lines strengthened the content of each composition. In accordance with his theory of "Reliefism" (1919), the artist used strong tonal contrasts and thick contour lines around largely approximated forms (Rybacy / Fishermen, 1919). Around 1925 Niesiołowski began to exhibit an interest in New Classicism. His paintings frequently depicted female figures whose nudity was masked with draperies arranged in rhythmic folds. These over-stylized, monumental nudes, depicted in idealized, timeless landscapes, occupy something of a mythical space (Kompozycja - Trzy Gracje / Composition - Three Graces, 1925). Niesolowski's paintings of the 1930s exhibit Colorist influences. His colors acquired an inner brightness and his textures became rich, while color harmonies were restricted to a narrow range of blue, pink, brown, and green tones (Chłopiec w spiczastej czapce / Boy in a Pointed Hat, c. 1930). His landscape sketches show the artist to be a skilled watercolorist who used expanding colors and fragments of unpainted paper with equal skill. Small fragments of light-saturated landscapes in his drawings emanate a pantheistic joy for life and a fascination for the beauty of nature. During his Torun period the artist developed a decorative style that drew on the art of Henri Matisse. Niesiolowski's fascination for linearism and compositional rhythm is evident in his still lifes, composed from a higher point of view that allowed for a flattening of the image. His carefully considered, balanced arrangements of objects surrounded by black contour lines and refined orchestration of color complemented the autonomous patches of green, orange, and brown in the background. Niesiołowski's paintings were also invaded by the expressively deformed figures of circus performers and by Don Quixote. His slender, stylized nudes of 1953-1954 reflect his fascination for the art of Amedeo Modigliani (Akt kobiecy i czerwone rybki / Female Nude and Red Fish, 1959).
Source: Irena Kossowska, Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Science, December 2001
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