Began her artistic education in the Women’s School of Fine Arts in Kraków established by Maria Niedzielska. Her mentors at that time were Józef Pankiewicz, Leon Wyczółkowski and Wojciech Weiss. In 1912, she continued her studies in Munich and later in Paris where she frequented the studios of Maurice Denis and Paul Serusier at the Academie Ranson. In 1913, she married the Polish painter Ludwik Markus and settled permanently in Paris. Together with her husband, she travelled to Spain and Morocco. In 1919 and 1921, she visited Poland; during these visits, she produced a series of gouaches depicting the Kraków Jewish quarter, Kazimierz. She showed these works at her first individual exhibition at the Berthe Weil Gallery in Paris. She was closely associated with the elite avantgarde intellectual-artistic society of Paris. She became friendly with Guillaume Appolinaire among others; she also knew Georges Braques, Andre Breton, Max Ernst and Jean Arp. She maintained close contact with the founders of the École de Paris, Eugeniusz Żak, Mojżesz Kisling, Kees van Dongen and Jules Pascin.
She spent the First World War in Normandy, where she made her living by designing textiles and tapestries. In the mid-1920s, she found herself in London, where she joined the artists of the Bloomsbury Group. In the years 1935-1938, she visited the United States on three occasions, staying primarily in New York City. At that time, she collaborated with the leading fashion magazines – Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. With the help of Helena Rubinstein and Pavel Tchelitcheff, she designed costumes and scenery for the Russian Ballets and the American Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera. She made a series of tours of Europe, America and Asia. From 1914, she participated in Paris salons: the Autumn Salon, the Independent Artists’ Salon and the Tuileries Salon. She exhibited her works in the galleries of Paris, Warsaw, Vienna, Brussels, the Hague, Zurich, London and New York. In 1928, she joined in the presentation of the Polish Artists Group in Paris; in the same year, her work represented the École de Paris at the Bienniale in Venice. Among the artist’s most important exhibitions were her presentations at the Paris galleries Bernheim (1923) and Druet (1924), the Leicester Gallery in London (1935), the New York Levy Gallery (1937) and the Warsaw Zachęta National Gallery (1956). She illustrated books: among her most outstanding such works were Valery Larbaud’s Enfantines and Israel Zangwill’s Children of the Ghetto. She also wrote critiques of art in Le Figaro, L’Intrasigeant and Die Kunst.
In the early phase of her work, the cubist aesthetic had a definite impact on Halicka’s painting. In that period, she created portraits and still lifes in synthesised, geometric forms in a narrow, dark range of tones dominated by browns and grays (Cubist Still Life, 1915). In a cycle of gouaches depicting life in the Kraków ghetto (Friday Night, 1921; Two Rabbis, 1921) and in still lifes painted in the early 1920s, there took place a shift in her compositions towards a more simplified, primitivistic style (Still Life, 1920). At that time, too, her palette of colours expanded to include lively, rich, vibrant colours (Eviction, 1921-1922). In the mid-‘20s, Halicka created her so-called ‘embossed romances’ in which she enhanced her painting techniques with collage and bas-relief. In the 1930s, her work began being dominated by decorative images with a lyrical tone inspired by the work of Raoul Dufy (e.g. the series of watercolours Place de la Concorde). These works evoke a supernatural atmosphere recalling ancient mythology. Outstanding here is the introduction of elements of classic architecture, columns, arcades and porticos worn down by time and randomly strewn across space. The subtlety of the drawing and pastel tones of the colours along with the light, ethereal textures of the watercolors create a particular, poetic mood. In the post-war period, Halicka painted a new series of Paris landscapes. Many of the artist’s motifs were influenced by her visits to India and Poland.
Author: Irena Kossowska, Art Institute, Polish Academy of Science, August 2002, translated by Yale Reisner, December 2017.