He studied in the Architecture Department of the Lviv Polytechnic between 1922 and 1928. Until 1939, he worked in Lviv as an architect and landmark conservator. During his studies, he took a year-long course (1927-1928) with the famous pictorialist Henryk Mikolasch. Krzywobłocki was a co-founder of the Lviv group Artes (1929-1935), to which, among others, Henryk Streng (Marek Włodarski), Jerzy Janisch, Margit Sielska, and Roman Sielski belonged. The group took a progressive approach, shifting from a constructivism connected with the influences of Fernand Leger, to a surrealist-metaphorical style influenced by primitivism.
In the framework of Artes, Krzywobłocki expressed himself through experimental photography, including photo collage or less often in negative photo montage (working with materials clipped from graphic albums and photographs). In his photography, the influence of the new objectivism, elements of constructivism and his own original interpretation of surrealism could be seen. The artist, like the Dadaists (Man Ray) and the surrealists (e.g. the Czech group Devetsil), made use of specially prepared paper objects or ready-made elements (e.g. the frame of an easel painting) used for arranged photos striving to attain the sphere of surreality, departing from the conventional portrait. Due to his very individualistic use of the photographic medium for the exploration of his personal subconscious and his imagination, one could call him Poland’s most surrealistic artist of the interwar period. He was interested in crossing the boundaries of the photographic medium and in explorations of variations of human personality, identity, and the search for an alter ego, as well as the symbolic analysis of the palm of the hand so typical of the modernism of the ‘20s and the early ‘30s (photo montage S.O.S., 1929).
Debora Vogel in her text The Genealogy of Photo Montage and Its Possibilities (Sygnały 1934, Nos. 12 and 13) wrote:
The motif of a human hand topping off an architectural fragment of a column or extending from a wall is very common with Krzywobłocki and constitutes a surrealistic element. At the same time, it is a constructivist motif insofar as it is used from the point of view of the mutual relations of forms – their relationship to one another despite the remoteness of the spheres from which they originate.
Unfortunately, we know the artist’s interwar work only in the form of a few original works, but all of its themes are known to us from reproductions in the Łódź Museum of Art’s collection. In a text preserved in the National Museum in Wroclaw entitled Traces of Encounters and Memoirs (typescript) and written in 1968-1970, Krzywobłocki wrote:
At the moment of montage, the emotional-sublimating factor is critical, the arrangement of certain forms, shapes, attitudes, emotions transmitted, emanating from the photographic element which, when the whole is put together, I saturate, I strengthen, with the power of the resulting image.
Extremely interesting are his ‘montages from nature’, explorations in three-dimensional reality which lead to photographic performance (photo-performance).
During the Second World War, Krzywobłocki took part in the rescue of artworks in Lviv. Starting in 1946, he lived in Wrocław, where he worked as a landmark conservator. From the late 1940s until the early 1970s, he worked on the sidelines of Polish photography. In 1948 and 1949, he created a cycle of 21 photo montages, some of which he displayed at the Wroclaw Photographic Society. Predominant in these montages are antique architectural and sculptural forms. The leading motifs are face masks, statues, and fragments of Greek sculpture. In the background, classical architecture dominates. The whole is completed with gently undulating drapery. Some of the photo montages in their mood and selection of accessories recall the metaphysical work of Giorgio de Chirico. He continued making photo montages sporadically during the ‘50s and early ‘70s. In 1970, he became an honorary member of the Polish Union of Art Photographers (ZPAF).
In 1971 he moved to Kraków for family reasons. His son Wojciech is a well-known graphic artist, and a graduate and professor of the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts. In 1975, the only retrospective show of Krzywobłocki’s work to date took place there: Aleksander Krzywobłocki: Photo Montages (National Museum in Wroclaw). Earlier his works had been shown in 1969 in an exhibition, The Graphic Arts Association Artes 1929-1934. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, his works were exhibited at the most important shows of post-war art of the Polish inter-war period. The most important part of his work was created in the 1920s and 1930s in connection with the artists’ group Artes. It is characterised by a most consistent surrealistic imagination reminiscent of the figures arranged in the open by Rene Magritte and by the artists of the Bauhaus and even more calling to mind the dreamlike, fantastic imaginings favoured by the Czech surrealists in the field of photo montage (Karel Teige, Frantisek Vobecky).
Kryzwobłocki’s work can be seen in the collections of the National Museum in Wrocław and the Museum of Art in Łódź.
Author: Krzysztof Jurecki, Museum of Art in Łódź, June 2004, translated by Yale Reisner, December 2017.