Lucjan Kintopf brought the jacquard technique to perfection and elevated jacquard fabric itself to the status of art. Alongside its decorative value, he gave it symbolic and patriotic significance.
Fine artist, architect, pedagogue.
Kintopf was a theorist, a splendid practitioner of weaving technique, and craftsman – in 1931 he began building his own loom and establishing a method to facilitate the composition of decorative fabrics for painters, without the help of craftsmen, and with less cost and time investment. He developed a new artistic standard in the field of jacquard, while his fabrics from the 1920s and 1930s are identified to this day with Polish art déco and with the finest achievements of the Ład Artists’ Cooperative (founded in 1926). The first Ład jacquard – Twigs – is most probably his creation. It was produced in numerous color versions as tapestries and door-curtains for offices, dining rooms, and salons. In this work Kintopf emerged as a mature artist (His earlier designs and projects remain unknown), conscious of his material, technique, composition, and placement of symbols. The main motif is the twigs of the title – a drawing of a simplified and stylized willow branch. Multiplied in rows of three or five vertical columns, they call to mind the stripes of a Polish nobleman’s robe, a recurring motif in Ład fabrics. While the stripes allude to the traditions of nobility or the nation, and the twigs to folk culture, the whole was given an abstract geometrical rendering, which makes this fabric fall in line with the art déco style. The interlacing technique, however, is what makes it beautiful. Kintopf managed to capture the glistening effect found in jacquards, the transitions in quality, and the nuances in the golden-beige tints complemented by the black thread. The next important piece in his output was the ZZK linen tapestry of the late 1920s. The point of departure for this composition was the symbol of the Railway Workers’ Union: three letters inscribed in a stylized formation, creating a sort of multiplied "jackknife" ornament, complemented by triangles and rhomboids. Its marked rhythm and graphic qualities are softened by the natural color of the linen and the faded yellow. And once again there is that famous glistening effect, of which Kintopf wrote:
The jacquard machine is like any other machine that makes its product more precisely than the hand of the craftsman, particularly, its very even, machine-spun thread, and the smooth, "pure" fabric that glistens in the end. This is one of the characteristic visual elements that every designer should bear in mind when planning the artistic side of his project.(1)
Lucjan Kintopf treated fabric spatially, like architectural projects – thus his inclination toward monumentality, which was particularly visible in his designs for official state interiors. Such was the case with the Ears of Corn jacquard tapestry of 1934, designed by Józef Czajkowski, and technically rendered by Kintopf, which confirms the artist’s great technical proficiency. The tapestry was made with the Warsaw Brühl Palace in mind, which was renovated and renovated in the early 1930s for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ears of Corn repeats the striped and rhythmic layout of Twigs, but is here monumentalized. A report of palmetto-ears builds the composition with two sorts of stylization arranged alternately in rows. An upholstery fabric of Kintopf’s design, his Vertical Trees, with its motif of constructivist trunk-verticals in an interlocking zigzag design, may have been made for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs interiors.(2) In the inter-war period, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also commissioned Ład interiors for Polish diplomatic centers abroad, including the Polish Embassy in Berlin (1933-1934) and the headquarters of the Polish Legation in Stockholm (1929).
A fabric that brought a great deal of success in the inter-war period was Large Eagles, which the artist designed in 1927 in two compositional versions. These were used to decorate many high-ranking interiors in Poland and abroad, and were exhibited after 1945 as well. The motif of the eagle itself, with the state insignia, was a favorite in the fabrics of the 1920s and 1930s, particularly in kilims, and was used to decorate offices and for official ceremonies. Kintopf’s Large Eagles is a sort of monumental chessboard with rectangular squares, alternately filled with eagle motifs and geometric patterns. The eagle itself is interestingly rendered – the wings are raised in the air and joined to make an oval, enclosing the head in a flattened circle/halo. The structure of the feathers is rendered in a curious way by the mysteriously interwoven threads of the red weft and the beige and black warp. An added advantage of the fabric is its beautiful off-color scheme, which is delicate and toned down.
Kintopf’s Check Pattern with Eagles jacquard (a.k.a. Small Eagles) also hails from 1927; and according to the artist, it was designed as a wall covering for the Ministry of Religious Faith and Public Enlightenment building in Warsaw. Check Pattern has a fairly complicated layout, involving elongated and simplified eagle silhouettes in a slanted checkerboard – the keystone, as it were, joining the various elements of this monumental fabric. Through this multiplication and synthesis of shapes the eagle grows to the rank of a symbol, its symbolic substance further emphasized by the red and the bright beige. While Check Pattern with Eagles might be seen as a formal experiment, Kintopf’s subsequent jacquards are increasingly majestic in their expression, one might even say "pro-state." In 1934 the artist designed Parliament Eagles (a.k.a. Great Eagles), designated as wall hangings for the conference room of the Polish Parliament building, to be hung directly behind the presidium. Over one hundred meters of square fabric were produced for the purposes of this prestigious commission. The shape of the eagle was greatly elongated, grounded on the axis of the torso, its head slightly raised, its tail long and doubled.(3) Such a composition guaranteed a monumental effect, and the artist himself recalled years later: "Several hundred Great Eagles mounted on a few floors created a powerful effect on those marching by, something like the Assyrian or Egyptian sculptures."(4)
The 1930s marked the most intensive period in Kintopf’s creative development. He was then an established artist. The commission for the Olympic Eagles jacquard, designed with the Berlin 1936 games in mind, bears testimony to this. The version that traveled there is probably the green-gray linen jacquard in the collections of the Central Textile Museum in Łódź. For this monumental fabric the artist created a dynamic composition, introducing diagonal stripes to separate the eagle motifs which mark out a direction for the work as a whole, reinforced by the slant of the eagle heads, and all on an imposing scale. Eagles and Twigs in numerous color versions were presented at prestigious events (such as the National Exhibition in Poznań in 1929, the International Exhibition in Liége in 1931, and the International Art and Technology in Modern Life Exhibition in Paris in 1937) as examples of official, state-sponsored art. These perfectly coincided with the patriotic mood of Polish society in the inter-war period. The Great Mourning Eagles tapestry – which swiftly vanished after going on display – is associated with the Parisian exhibition. In the opinion of Irena Huml, Kintopf may have designed it for the artistic accoutrements of the Warsaw funeral of Marshal Józef Piłsudski in 1935.(5)
1939 brought Lucjan Kintopf’s professional and artistic career to a close. He continued to participate in post-war artistic life, and he was involved, for example, in the First Polish Exhibition of Interior Design and Decorative Art at the Central Bureau of Artistic Exhibitions (today’s Zachęta Gallery in Warsaw) in 1952, and in the collective presentation the Polish Visual Artists’ Union, the Ład Artists’ Cooperative, and other cooperatives subordinate to the Folk and Artistic Industry Center (or "Cepelia"). After the war he continued designing jacquards with his wife, Halina Karpińska-Kintopf, using the technique to make the Wreaths tapestry (1952) in the pre-war motif of the twig-palmettos. Other documented post-war designs by Kintopf include Oak Leaves (a tapestry dated 1952), Keys, and Verdure. One of his last surviving fabrics is the Branches and Rhomboids jacquard of 1962, which, like many of his designs, appeared in several color schemes. The artist tried to reconcile the geometry of the composition with biomorphic shapes, applying bold contrasts and assorted colors. The final effect was a purely abstract work, representing another way of thinking about decorative fabric, but without sacrificing the outstanding technique of Kintopf’s pre-war work. Regrettably, the artist’s final work, a monumental tapestry called 1000 Years of the Transformation of the Eagle – The Crest of Poland, executed according to his design in 1974 or 1975 under the supervision of Danuta Thomas, has been lost.(6)
Only nine of the artist’s jacquards have been preserved in museum collections (six in the Central Textile Museum in Łódź, three in the National Museum in Warsaw), in addition to a few dozen sketched and painted designs. This meager legacy does allow us, however, to evaluate the designer’s imagination and the quality of his craft, as these are the most representative works in the oeuvre of Lucjan Kintopf.
Lucjan Kintopf (1898-1979) was a designer of fabric, furniture, ceramics, and objects made of wood and metal; he also worked in graphics, painting, interior arrangements, and fabric techniques. He studied at the School of Fine Arts in Warsaw (1923-1930, diploma in 1932 from the Interior Design Department), and won a scholarship from the National Culture Fund (1933, France). He was a co-founder, board member, and director of the Ład Artists’ Cooperative from 1926-1931 and from 1936-1937. He lectured and taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (Interior Arts Department 1928-1938) and at the Advertising Arts and Interior Design Courses through the Museum of Applied Arts and Crafts in Warsaw (1933-1935). He served as director at the State Visual Arts Institute in Poznań (1938-1939), as professor and dean of the Interior Design Department of the State School of Visual Arts in Poznań (1946-1950), and as substitute professor at the Fabrics Institute of the State Academy of Visual Arts in Łódź (1950-1956). He participated in the defensive war of 1919-1920. During the Second World War he was in the Armed Fighters’ Union and the Home Army, and he participated in the Warsaw Uprising. He was decorated with the Cross of the Courageous (1943) and the Virtuti Militari Order (1944).
Author: Monika Nowakowska
Text originally published in Out of the Ordinary. Polish Designers of the 20th Century, edited by Czesława Frejlich and published by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute (Warsaw, 2011) in cooperation with the Karakter publishing house. Translation by Søren Gauger, edited for the purposes of Culture.pl by Agnieszka Le Nart.
For more information on the book, see: www.karakter.pl
(1) L. Kintopf "Projektowanie tkanin żakardowych" [in:] "Biuletyn Instytutu Wzornictwa Przemysłowego," a supplement to the "Przemysł Włókienniczy" monthly, Łódź, no. 5/1955 p. 15.
(2) H. Bilewicz "Żakardy w ŁADZIE" [in:] Spółdzielnia Artystów ŁAD 1926-1996, ed. A. Frąckiewicz, Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Warsaw 1996, p. 187.
(3) Ibid., p. 188.
(4) Archival materials from L. Kintopf, Central Museum of Textiles 8512/A, a statement from 1987.
(5) I. Huml "Ład. Między Paryżem 1925 a Paryżem 1937 roku" [in:] Wystawa paryska 1937. Materiały z sesji naukowej Instytutu Sztuki PAN Warszawa 22-23 października 2007 roku, Warsaw 2009, p. 188
(6) According to Danuta Thomas, a onetime student of Lucjan Kintopf, this work was made in a research chamber made especially for this purpose in the Ład workshops in Warsaw. The tapestry, measuring 210 x 700 cm, was woven from wool by Teresa Wrzosek, and depicted the Polish eagle crest from various phases – eagles with fairly realistic, though stylized shapes.