Halina Karpińska-Kintopf was a designer of textiles and furniture, as well as interiors, ceramics, and toys. In textiles, she specialised in kilims, rugs, jacquards, lace, and embroidery. In both her private and professional lives, she was intimately associated with Ład Artists' Cooperative.
Visual artist, painter, textile designer, pedagogue.
Karpińska was born on 20th August, 1902, in Warsaw, and died on 13th March, 1969, in Poznań.
She studied between 1920-29, initially in pedagogical courses, and later at the Warsaw School of Fine Arts, in the workshops of Karol Tichy, Józef Czajkowski, and Wojciech Jastrzębowski. In 1929, she graduated with a specialisation in interior architecture.
She joined the Ład Cooperative in 1927 and remained a member for the rest of her life. She was very active: she participated in nearly all exhibitions and competitions, and in 1935 she was elected for the supervisory board, while in 1936-37, she managed the kilim and tapestry workshop. In 1934, she married Lucjan Kintopf, her friend from the School of Fine Arts, one of the Ład founders, and a master of jacquard (1898-1979).
At the School of Fine Arts, she also met Maria Bielska (1904-1944), who became her close friend and collaborator. Halina was a bridesmaid at Maria's wedding to Zygmunt Kunczyński, while Maria became the godmother of Halina's only son. Together, they created many important projects.
Their first collaborative project was a submission to the competition for the interior design of the Ministry of Religious Beliefs and Public Education (1928). The two young artists received the third award for the decoration of the offices of the Minister and of the departmental director. Their submission featured rather traditional furniture designs, however, the director's table on bent legs stood out amongst them.
Their next project, prepared for the Polish National Exhibition in Poznań (1929), was a fully mature one. The exhibition's organisers held a competition for a design for an interior for a middle-income family, in which all awards went to designers from Ład. Their designs were realised by the Cooperative and presented at the Polish National Exhibition.
Bielska's and Karpińska's interior stood out from the rest. It was less decorative and more intimate: furniture, based on simple forms, together with geometrically patterned fabrics created a bright and comfortable space.
A few years later, Halina Karpińska and Maria Bielska presented a dining room, fragment of a study, and chairs at the exhibition Art of the Interior (1936). Wacław Husarski wrote:
The dining room by Bielska and Karpińska, very brightly coloured, formally very simplified, has a positive and cozy character, suitable especially for mansions or rural residences.
Stanisław Woźnicki described their style:
The concept of their furniture has retained something from the fresh comeliness, found in the hewn pieces from country houses. The dining room – filled with sharp edges, hieratic, rustically majestic.
The diversity of the artists' works was striking and revealing of the range of their capabilities and interests.
Their interior furnishings were simple and raw, slightly rustic in their design, but also modernist, often luxurious and polished, such as for instance the bedroom made of grey sycamore, with pink silk upholstery. Enough of their respective individual projects have been preserved that demonstrate the differences between them. The mention of ‘hewn pieces’ seems to better match Maria Bielska; her works carry a certain intentional primitivism. Halina Karpińska's furniture, on the other hand, is usually lighter, made out of simple and slim elements, with smooth and pristine surfaces.
ład artists's cooperative
From 1927 to 1939 I designed approximately 15 kilims, 4 cut pile rugs, 20 decorative jacquard fabrics made from linen, silk, yarn, grass, and metallic thread; a kilim rug in 1937. Each of those textiles was created and produced under my direct artistic supervision.
– Halina Karpińska wrote in her autobiography.
Her kilim designs were quite typical for the Ład style, one of the most beautiful ones being Skosy (Diagonals), produced in a variety of colours and sizes. She was more keen on using silk in her jacquards than others, creating beautifully composed tapestries or doilies with fine, geometrised patterns. Her silk fabric Kwiatki (Flowers) was especially popular (and widely exhibited), and woven in a plethora of colour schemes (e.g. at the 1939 World Fair in New York, Kwiatki was shown in raspberry-grey, black and white, and green yellow and black colour variations).She was one of the pioneering rug designers: they were much less traditional than kilims, usually borderless, and originally themed.
Halina Karpińska also worked as a pedagogue. She taught drawing, lace-making, toy design, fashion design, and embroidery in vocational and general education schools. She also conducted training workshops for instructors. Her clothing designs were presented at two fashion shows organised by the Len wileński store in the 1930s.
During the interwar period, Halina Karpińska designed several dozen private homes and public use spaces across Poland, including hotels, casinos, club-houses, and exhibition rooms. Unfortunately, nothing is known about them now.
Halina Karpińska and Lucjan Kintopf spent the Occupation in Warsaw. After the Warsaw Uprising, Lucjan, who was a Home Army soldier – was sent to a prisoner-of-war camp, while Halina was displaced together with their son. In 1945, they all moved to Poznań.
After the war, Halina taught interior architecture at the State Higher School of Fine Arts in Poznań, collaborated with the Arts Industry Cooperative of Greater Poland, Production Aesthetics Supervision Bureau, Cepelia – the Central Office of the Art and Folk Industry, Wzór and Forma Cooperatives, and, of course, with Ład. She designed kilims, jacquard and printed fabrics, interiors, and furniture. In 1957, together with other Ład artists, she took part in the 11th Milan Triennale, where she received an honourable mention for her straw tapestry.
In Poznań, she designed, among others, the interior architecture of the Association of Polish Artists and Designers (ZPAP), exhibition room at the Bureau of Art Exhibitions (BWA), the store Delikatesy in Głogowska Street, and interiors of the Raczyński Library.
At the end of the 1950s, she fell deeply ill, however she still strove to participate in the artistic life.
The rich oeuvre of Halina Karpińska has not been properly protected. Many of her works will likely never be retrieved. Nonetheless, even the scarce preserved projects testify to her excellent artisanship, sense of form and colour, and artistic maturity.
Written by Anna Frąckiewicz, National Museum in Warsaw, January 2015; transl. AM, February 2016