Polish painter, art theoretician; poet and playwright; member of the first Polish avant-garde group of the 1920s known as the Formists; Colorist. Born in 1880 in Pryszowa near Limanowa, died in 1945 in Krakow.
Czyżewski studied art from 1902-1907 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow under Józef Unierzyski, Józef Mehoffer, and Leon Wyczółkowski. While in Paris between 1907 and 1909, he was strongly influenced by the work of Cézanne. Upon returning to Poland he found employment as a middle school art teacher. Krakow's Friends of the Fine Arts Society organized Czyżewski's first solo exhibition in 1910. The artist spent the years 1910-1912 in Paris learning the principles of Cubism. Between 1911 and 1913 he took part in a series of exhibitions of the "Independents" in Krakow, along with painters Andrzej Pronaszko and Zbigniew Pronaszko, Jacek Mierzejewski, and Eugeniusz Zak. These exhibits demonstrated the younger generation's split with the cultural heritage of the Young Poland movement. Czyżewski's early work was influenced by French Post-impressionism and the paintings of Cézanne in particular (Madonna z Dzieciątkiem / Madonna with Child, 1909).
At the outbreak of World War I, the artist departed for Vienna. In 1915 he introduced an original modification on the concept of the traditional painting as a two-dimensional canvas, using wood and cardboard to create multi-dimensional paintings. In 1917 he joined the Polish Expressionists (renamed the Formists in 1919), a group that gave birth to the concept of the Polish avant-garde, and went on to participate in the Formists' exhibitions in Krakow, Warsaw, Lviv, and Poznań. Czyżewski also published poetry and plays, designing the publications himself ("Zielone Oko. Poezje formistyczne. Elektryczne wizje" / "Green Eye. Formist Poetry. Electric Visions", 1920; "Noc-dzień" / "Night-Day", 1922; "Waz, Orfeusz i Euridika" / "The Snake, Orpheus, and Euridice", 1922; "Osioł i słońce w metamorfozie" / "The Donkey and Sun in Metamorphosis", 1922). Jointly with Leon Chwistek and Karol Winkler, Czyżewski produced a magazine titled "Formiści" / "The Formists" and was a co-creator of the Krakow clubs Katarynka / Street Organ (1917) and Gałka Muszkatołowa / Nutmeg (1918), both of which were Futurist in character. In 1922, following the dissolution of the Formists, Czyżewski departed for Paris, living in that city intermittently to 1930. During this time he exhibited his works at the Autumn Salon (1926, 1928), the Salon of Independents (1923, 1924, 1925, 1926) and the Tuileries Salon (1926, 1929). While in Paris he also published the poetry cycle Pastorałki / Pastorals (1925), illustrated with the woodcuts of Tadeusz Makowski, and a piece titled Robespierre - rapsod - Od romantyzmu do cynizmu / Robespierre - Rhapsody - From Romanticism to Cynicism. Czyżewski traveled extensively throughout this time, visiting southern France, Spain, and Italy. In 1927 he joined in an exhibition summarizing the achievements of the Formists at Warsaw's Society for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts. Upon returning to Poland, he shifted his focus to art criticism and exhibited actively, presenting his works at the salons of the Art Propaganda Institute and participating in the L'Art Vivant en Europe exhibit in Brussels (1931) and the International Art and Technology Exhibition in Paris (1937). His paintings were included in exhibitions of the New Generation Group in Lviv (1932) and the Modern Artists Group in Warsaw (1933). In 1934 he joined the editorial board of "Głos Plastyków" / "Artists' Voice", a magazine that promoted Colorism. In 1944 he moved to Krakow where he lived until his death one year later.
Czyżewski's original contribution to avant-garde art of the 1920s were his Cubist-inspired multi-dimensional paintings. These works underlined the autonomy of the artwork as something built on laws particular to it alone. They portrayed fragments of physical reality as seen simultaneously from various sides and distances. Highly expressive, the end compositions resembled a series of reflections thrown on a single plane by a prismatic array of mirrors.
Czyżewski often combined simplified, geometric shapes into surprising arrangements (Akt z kotem / Nude with Cat), creating unreal configurations of objects and figures evoking a strangeness akin to that of Surrealist images. These compositions demonstrated the artist's search for that which is primal and were an attempt to penetrate the sphere of instincts. Frequent motifs included fragments of musical instruments and staffs with notes; dancers were another musical accent. Czyżewski also drew on Polish folk art, portraying his subjects in a Primitivist manner and incorporating an abundance of simplified forms in his landscapes characterized by shallow perspective. His figures were at the same time lyrical, their facial features, expressive eyes, and the drapes in his compositions reminiscent of glass paintings.
His multi-dimensional paintings of the 1920s also took the form of shallow boxes filled with relief forms like cardboard spirals and twisted pieces of sheet metal. Czyżewski combined these with painterly ornaments and "naively" portrayed, highly expressive human figures. Essential to works dating from 1924-1925 is the way they caricatured folk art motifs. Czyżewski produced decoratively composed portraits styled after Primitive Art, intensifying the cheerful mood of these images with flowers, birds, and butterflies. Forms were treated superficially and surrounded with soft, fine contour lines. At the same time Czyżewski created paintings that referred directly to folk icons representing the Madonna and the Crucifixion. These works drew on the representational conventions of the art of Byzantium and the Italian Quattrocento.
His paintings from 1922-1930 reflect a fascination with Spanish art, particularly the exceptionally dramatic paintings of El Greco. Czyżewski was also strongly influenced by Spanish folk art, and selected works manifest the artist's propensity for pastiche, summarization, and the grotesque. Dark color tones, thus far dominant, gave way to bright colors and starkly contrasted tones.
Upon returning to Poland in 1930 Czyżewski aligned himself with the Kapists, who he first encountered in Paris in 1925. The still life became the main motif in his work; he gave his painterly substance a brilliance, saturating it with light, and used wavy, erratic lines to delineate forms. The paintings of this period reflect a deeply assimilated inspiration with the art of Cézanne and the French Fauvists. Clear contour lines link flat, independent areas of color, real objects are transformed into compact signs, and paramount importance is assigned to their mutual relations as depicted on the plane of the canvas. In his portraits, generalized representations of models melted into a background that vibrated with color (Portret Magdaleny Potworowskiej / Portrait of Magdalena Potworowska, 1935). At the same time, he limited the decorative approach in his landscapes, largely retaining real natural forms. In the 1930s and 1940s Czyżewski toned down his colors, simultaneously making them more luminous and opalescent.
Author: Irena Kossowska, Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Science, December 2001.
Tytus Czyzewski - biographical of poetry
Czyżewski studied art from 1902-1907 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. While living in Paris between 1907-1909 and 1910-1912, he became fascinated with the paintings of Cézanne and Cubism. In 1914 he moved to Kraków. In 1917 he joined the Polish Expressionists (renamed the Formists in 1919), a group that gave birth to the concept of the Polish avant-garde, and went on to participate in the Formists' exhibitions in Krakow, Warsaw, Lviv, and Poznań. Together with Leon Chwistek and Karo Winkler, Czyżewski produced a magazine titled "Formiści" / "The Formists" and was a co-creator of the Krakow clubs Katarynka / Street Organ (1917) and Gałka Muszkatołowa / Nutmeg (1918), both of which were Futurist in character. In 1922, following the dissolution of the Formists, Czyżewski worked at the Polish Embassy in Paris, living in that city intermittently to 1930. Czyżewski traveled extensively throughout this time, visiting southern France, Spain, and Italy. In 1930 he settled in Warsaw. In 1934 he joined the editorial board of "Głos Plastyków" / "Artists' Voice", a magazine that promoted Colorism. During the German occupation he worked on with the poem Antidotum" / "Antidote, destroyed during the Warsaw uprising. After the uprising he moved to Krakow, where he died May 6, 1945.
In his poems (Zielone oko" / "Green Eye, Noc - dzień" / "Night - Day), Czyzewski combined the ideas of futurism and Dadaism, expressing the fascination of nature, biological instincts and metropolitan civilization. In time, his work took on more to references of Polish and European folklore. While in Paris he also published the poetry cycle Pastorałki" / "Pastorals (1925). His interest in folklore continued in the last volume Lajkonik w chmurach" / "Lajkonik in the Clouds. As with his paintings, Czyzewski's poems contributed to avant-garde art of the early twentieth century.br>
Autor: Krystyna Dąbrowska, December 2008. Source: "Antologii polskiej poezji od Średniowiecza do wieku XXI" / "Anthology of Polish Poetry from the Middle Ages to the twenty first century" by Piotr Matywiecki.
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