Theory of Seeing – Władysław Strzemiński (critical edition)
Łódź Art Museum published a collection of art history lectures which Władysław Strzemiński gave in the 1950s – the famous Theory of Seeing. It is the first critical edition of this work, which is deemed crucial for the history of Polish Modernism.
The critical edition of Theory of Seeing was published exactly sixty years after the first public release of excerpts from the collection, which took place at the shared exhibition of Władysław Strzemiński and Katarzyna Kobro; at that time, a selection of lectures was exhibited in museum display cabinets. The book was first published in 1958 and later saw several re-editions, however, never before has it been released in such a form – with a foreword by the art historian Prof. Iwona Luba, Strzemiński’s footnotes, and his text Seeing (of) Impressionists. For the first time ever, the article is illustrated by colour reproductions of artwork, and not black and white, as was the case thus far.
– says Katarzyna Szklarek, the Art Museum’s media representative.
The series of art history lectures given by Władysław Strzemiński when he was a lecturer at the Higher School of Visual Arts (presently the Academy of Fine Arts) in Łódź (before the communist authorities dismissed him due to non-compliance with the principles of socialist realism), features a theoretical summary of his artistic practice and aesthetic reflections.
Theory of Seeing defines conscious seeing and demonstrates its changes under the influence of various cultural and civilisational factors, at the same time drawing attention to their mutual impact.
– Prof. Luba stresses.
As she explains in the foreword to the collection, the aim of the new edition is to position Theory of Seeing in the 20th century history and theory of art, as well as present it in a broad cultural and historical context.
In Theory of Seeing, Strzemiński provided a theoretical review of his artistic practice and aesthetic reflection. The premise behind his theory is that our image of the world constantly evolves, the ways in which we look at it change and accumulate, as they are determined by the external conditions: historical experience, as well as cultural and social background.
In the process of seeing, the important thing is not what an eye captures mechanically, but what a man is aware in his seeing.
– the avant-garde artist claims.
Thanks to an analysis of visual stimuli, their generalisation and verification, we develop an optical awareness, while the development of seeing takes place on two levels – as a result of a biological evolution and of the changes in the man’s way of perceiving the reality. This is precisely why each era has its own – and different from the previous periods – perception of reality and artistic practices.
Theory of Seeing is an outcome of Strzemiński years of contemplation and an amazing testimony to the theoretical consciousness of the artist, who has permanently influenced the development of visual arts. It is a work which shows how to look at the temporal changes in artistic perception and lays out the interdependencies between the evolution of society and changes occurring in the arts.
In 2016, the Łódź Art Museum also plans to publish an English version of Theory of Seeing, which will make it the first version of this work in a foreign language.
It is a very significant event. So far, this key work by Strzemiński was not recognised outside of Poland, and for this reason the theory of art has taken a somewhat different shape in the West. An English edition will help those researchers who for decades have not had access to the theories of this Polish modernist to familiarise themselves with his beliefs.
– Szklarek explained.
Strzemiński (1893-1952) was the pioneer of avant-garde in Poland in the 1920s and 30s, painter, graphic artist, designer, art theoretician, and a pedagogue at the Higher School of Visual Arts (presently the Władysław Strzemiński Academy of Fine Arts). His Theory of Unism was a significant contribution to the global art history.
The critical and English edition of Theory of Seeing are initiatives introduced by the Łódź Art Museum as part of the hundredth anniversary of the Avant-garde in Poland, which falls on 2017.
Source: Polish Press Agency, Łódź Art Museum; ed: az; 6.09.2016, transl. AM, Sept. 2016Culture.pl