Polish painter, draftsman, and graphic artist; art critic; representative of the Surrealist trend in the 1930s and the metaphorical art movement of the 1940s and 1950s. Born in 1897 in Podwołoczyska, died in 1957 in Paris.
Lille studied medicine in Lvov before Zofia Vorzimmer aroused his interest in the visual arts. After World War I he developed contacts with the group of Expressionists associated with a periodical titled "Zdrój" / "Source". In 1919 Leon Chwistek introduced the artist to the Formists in Kraków and Lille began to work with the magazine "Formiści" / "The Formists". In 1920 he participated in a joint exhibition of the Formists and the Bunt / Mutiny group in Lvov. He went on to exhibit with members of this group in Kraków and Warsaw, and once again in Lvov in 1922. Between 1921 and 1922 Lille spent time in Berlin and traveled to Dresden. He also embarked on a course of study at the Bauhaus in Weimar, attending the lectures of Paul Klee among others. Lille created illustrations and theatrical scenery, and beginning in 1925 designed stage decorations for Lvov-based experimental theatres, including the renowned "Semafor" / "Semaphore" group. In 1930 he joined the ARTES group in Lvov, whose members were representatives of surrealistic trend in Polish art. He was among the organizers of the Lviv-based Professional Union of Visual Artists (Związek Zawodowy Artystów Plastyków). Lille was also a critic and worked to popularize art through a series of radio shows. Between 1931 and 1937 he designed scenery for the Bela Katz ballet troupe in Lvov, the Vilnius Troupe, and the Lvov Opera. In 1934 he founded and became curator of the Jewish Congregation Museum. He left for Paris in 1937 and settled there permanently. In 1939 he joined the Polish Army in France as a volunteer and subsequently became active in the Polish resistance movement. For many years Lille was president of the Association of Polish Artists in France and a member of the Société des Peintres-Graveurs. He presented his work in Paris at the Salon of the Independents, the Tuileries Salon, and the Autumn Salon (1945, 1949, 1954-56).
Lille's early works were influenced by German and Russian Expressionism. Dynamic compositions characterized by expressively deformed shapes and contrasting bright colors typify this period (Autoportret z namydlona broda / Self-Portrait with Lathered Beard, 1920). A series of still lifes and nudes dating from the early 1920s show an inspiration with the aesthetics of Cézanne and the Cubists, superimposed on which are the Constructivist influences of the Bauhaus propagated program. Lille simplified the composition of his works at this time, granting them a static, balanced quality and a narrowed, refined color range. His forms simultaneously became abstract and geometrical and musical motifs were central to his repertoire of subjects (Muzyczna martwa natura / Musical Still Life, Sonata wiolonczelowa / Cello Sonata, Ostateczne rozwiązanie zagadnienia muzycznego / Final Solution to a Musical Problem).
The artist's work between 1923 and 1925 drew heavily on the German New Objectivist movement. The Classicist styling of Picasso's paintings of the 1920s also strongly impacted his imagination. Lille emphasized the autonomy of artistic form and highlighted structure in his paintings.
The years 1929-1930 constitute a clear caesura in the artist's oeuvre. The change of the expressive means in his art was influenced decisively by the paintings of Fernand Léger, which Lille became acquainted with through the Parisian artist's Lviv-based students, Marek Włodarski (Henryk Streng) and Otto Hahn. Biological forms, defined by soft, curving contour lines coexisted in Lille's works with geometric, often cylindrical elements taken from the world of technology (Kompozycja form abstrakcyjnych / Composition of Abstract Forms). In his surrealistic, underwater landscapes the artist conveyed a mystery and restlessness and created poetic metaphors through surprising combinations of the fabricated and organic worlds. His rhythmic compositions seemed a reflection of the speed at which contemporary, urbanized society lived its life.
Around 1934 Lille became a socially involved artist, coming in line with the new ideological orientation of the "artes" group. His paintings, remaining realistic in convention, acquired a leftist political bent. He then abandoned oil painting in favor of drawing. During his Parisian period he created still lifes and portraits characterized by an abundance of gray nuances and subtly modeled forms, as well as figural compositions replete with metaphorical meaning. Lille's depiction of interiors was reminiscent of the sharpened German realism of New Objectivity. In 1936 and 1937 the artist painted watercolors in which he often depicted human figures in masks. In 1939 Lille created a series of still lifes with skulls, possessing religious overtones. After 1945 he focused on charcoal, black crayon, and sanguine drawings.
With time his approach to form became more abstract and simplifying. His drawings depict scenes that seem ordinary and commonly experienced though not out of place in the realm of artistic vision. In these portrayals of family rituals and social situations, wedding feasts and concerts, picnics and parades, the participants are more often faceless marionettes than human figures (Uczta weselna / Wedding Feast). Light became a symbolic element in these works. Lille sporadically revisited oil painting as a technique, drawing on similar motifs (Kobiety i dzieci przy stole / Women and Children at a Table). The intimate, melancholic air of these paintings was created through a color range restricted to silvery blues, shades of ochre, grays and violets, and diffused light that engulfs the contours of figures. The artist also drew realistic compositions, primarily still lifes and landscapes from observation. Lille additionally created prints, primarily using the dry needle and etching techniques, both of which he learned in the studio of Louis Calvaert-Brun. The artist also sculpted small animal figures in clay.
Author: Irena Kossowska, Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Science, December 2001