Her father, Stanisław Chmielowsk, was educated as a farming engineer and managed an estate. Her mother, Maria Kłopotowska, was a painter educated in Adrian Baraniecki’s courses for women in Kraków and during a short stay in Paris. Maria Ewa’s uncle was the painter Adam Chmielowski (later known as Brother Albert). In her family home, art was discussed frequently and the paintings of her mother, uncle and family friend Stanisław Witkiewicz were displayed.
The artist’s activities during the First World War are not known. Shortly after its conclusion, in 1919, she married Jerzy Antoni Łunkiewicz, a major in General Haller’s army. She divorced him in 1934, yet she continued using his surname to sign her work.
In 1921-1924, during her stay with her husband in Paris, Maria Ewa Łunkiewicz took painting courses at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Artes Decoratifs. Perhaps it was then that she met Henryk Stażewski, who would twice visit the city in 1924 and 1925. During her Paris years, the young painter became familiar with the purist work of Amadee Ozenfant and Pierre Jeanneret, marvelled at the post-cubist painting of Auguste Herbin and Jean Metzinger and was fascinated by the art of Fernand Leger. After returning to Poland in 1925, she lived with her husband in Warsaw. At that time, she associated with the circles of artists propagating constructivism, organised consecutively in the groups Blok, Praesens, and a.r. Group. It is known that she painted a great deal in the years 1925-1928, but her paintings from that period are unknown; it is possible that they were lost in the war years. In 1929, she was employed in the graphic studio preparing for the General National Exhibition in Poznań.
Maria Ewa Łunkiewicz’s work of the following years reveal a powerful fascination with purism. She was the sole representative of that movement in Poland until the mid-1930s and among her best-known works of that period were Still Life with Pots, Self-Portrait, Saint-Malo, and Grey Still Life. In the first of these works, the balanced and static composition is built upon the simplified shapes of the dishes inscribed in the figures of the geometric background, the forms penetrating one another. Cool colours dominate: white, blue, grey and a cool yellow, interrupted with a red accent and completed with black in the background. The whole is exceptionally harmonious, at times rhythmic in its repetition of forms and elements of the composition. In Saint-Malo, detailed, strongly geometricised façades of the town’s buildings are contrasted with the flat surface of the sea in the lower portion of the painting and the patch of cloudless sky in the upper portion. The range of colours is pale and muted, restricted to greys and beiges without contrasts.
Konrad Winkler wrote of her works displayed at Czeslaw Garliński’s salon in 1929 as follows:
In the art of M. Łunkiewicz, for example, we find visible traces of purism, but the ‘purism’ of Łunkiewicz is by no means identical to the art of the founders of that movement Ozenfant and Jeanneret, who insist that the impressions we take away from art should be similar in quality to those mental states that are awakened by awareness of some general law, some general principles like those of mathematics. Only a few Łunkiewicz’s works can move us to this ‘mathematical lyrism’, works executed more or less according to Jeanneret’s mathematical principle, but the vast majority of this talented painter’s works were created entirely independently – in her works, the purist doctrine is merely a point of departure and a certain kind of discipline, but not a canon or fixed rule; the distinctiveness of the painter’s colours and her colouristic sense are fully evident in opposition to the cold, cerebral concepts of the colour purists.
In 1930, Maria Ewa Łunkiewicz returned to Paris where, thanks to Henryk Stażewski, she made the acquaintance of artists of the international group Cercle et Carre. She became quite friendly with representatives of the abstract art movement Piet Mondrian, Michel Seuphor and Georges Vantongerloo. She took an active role in collecting contributions for the international group a.r. in the Łódź museum. Around 1935, she abandoned purism and experimented with post-cubism in the direction of abstraction. At the same time, she painted landscapes with staffage and sport-themed scenes. An impression of her work in this period can be gleaned from the small number of paintings preserved, such as Swim Meet and Horses.
During the Second World War, the majority of the artist’s works were destroyed. Only a small portion of her work survived, having been transferred to her brother’s estate in Siennów near Jarosław.
After the war, the artist returned to Warsaw. She lived on Piękna Street with Henryk Stażewski. Along with him, she worked at the Military Geographic Institute, from which both resigned in 1949. At that time, she painted and drew the ruins of the city, depicting the topography of destroyed Warsaw, the remnants of its buildings and sites. In 1946, she married engineer Jan Rogoyski. At first, they intended to move to Lower Silesia, but ultimately they remained in Warsaw, continuing to live on Piękna Street and sharing the apartment with Stażewski. A salon began to gather around a group of friendly artists of different generations: older artists associated with the traditions of the avant-garde and constructivism and younger artists of the modern post-war society. During this period, Łunkiewicz-Rogoyska was associated with the Young Artists and Scientists Club. She also took part in the All-Polish Art Exhibitions, showing, among others, Paving the Way (1950), Stanisław Konarski – Sejm 1756, (1956) and Parachutes (1952). In 1955, she was awarded the People’s Poland Decennial Award and the Gold Cross of Merit.
In the latter half of the 1950s, the artist maintained ties with the Krzywe Koło Gallery and with artists of the 55 Group, among others Zbigniew Dłubak and Marian Bogusz. As a friend of Miron Białoszewski, she frequented the theatre on Tarczyńska and took part in evenings of poetry. She remained in close contact with the artists of the Kraków Group and the Lublin group Zamek. She painted paintings such as Portrait of Przyboś with Horses and Still Life with Bottles whose soft, realistic form gradually supplanted the abstract principles of composition. In 1957, she produced her last paintings featuring human figures, notably Woman with a Red Umbrella, and, from 1958, she returned to abstract compositions. Alongside their rigorous geometric construction, they are characterised by sophisticated colour schemes and a gentle, artistic texture. With time, defined contours gradually faded away, yet patches of colour remained, set against the background of the canvas. In some of these works, the artist began to introduce organic elements and also to distinguish clearly various textures. In the 1960s, contours returned to her work, this time gently marking the edges of colours.
In the 1960s, Maria Ewa Lunkiewicz-Rogoyska belonged to the group organising the Koszalin Open-Air Exhibitions, in which Henryk Stażewski, Julian Przyboś, Erna Rosenstein, Artur Sandauer, Edward Krasiński and Marian Bogusz participated, among others. In this period, the artist became friendly with critics of the younger generation, Anka Ptaszkowska, Mariusz Tchorek, and Wiesław Borowski, who edited her bibliographic catalogue, illustrated by Marian Bogusz in 1962. She also took part in the discussions preceding the opening of the Foksal Gallery in Warsaw.
Łunkiewicz-Rogoyska took part in most of the exhibitions of the Institute for the Propagation of Art, where, during the 1939 exhibition, she won an award for her painting Swim Meet. She also showed her work in Paris, among other occasions at the 1930 exhibit of purist and post-cubist painting at the Bonaparte Gallery, and in Berlin at the 1936 Olympic exhibition. She took part in international exhibitions: in Brussels and Paris in 1937, in New York and Chicago in 1939 and in Helsinki at the 1939 Olympic exhibition, where she received second prize.
After the war, she participated in many exhibitions in Warsaw: at the National Museum (The Ruins of Warsaw in 1945; From Young Poland to Our Days in 1959; and Warsaw Art in 1962), at the Warsaw Salon in 1947; and at the Young Artists and Scientists Club 1947-1949. She took part in most of the regional exhibits of Union of Polish Graphic Artists, in the All-Polish Art Exhibits, in the Second and Third Modern Art Exhibits in 1957 and 1959 and also in the exhibition Polish Graphic Art in the Fifteenth Year of the Polish People’s Republic in 1961. In 1964, she displayed her work at an international exhibition in Monaco.
Individual exhibitions of Łunkiewicz-Rogoyska’s work took place in Warsaw: in Czeslaw Garliński’s salon in 1931, at the Union of Polish Writers in 1957, in the Krzywe Koło Gallery in 1962 and in the Modern Gallery in 1966. Beyond Warsaw, individual presentations of her work were held in Lublin at the Zamek Club in 1962, in Koszalin in 1963 and in Kraków's Krzysztofory Gallery in 1966.
Maria Ewa Łunkiewicz-Rogoyska died in Warsaw in 1967, a few months after the death of her husband. Both were buried in the Powązki Cemetery under a tombstone designed by Henryk Stażewski. After the artist’s death, her friends organised an exhibition of her work at the Zachęta Gallery in Warsaw. The curator was Anka Ptaszyńska and the designer of the exhibit, the poster and the graphic layout of the catalogue was Edward Krasiński.
Maria Ewa Łunkiewicz-Rogoyska’s works can be found in the National Museums in Warsaw, Kraków and Poznań, in the Museum of Art in Łódź, in the Leon Wyczółkowski Museum in Bydgoszcz, in the Lublin Museum and in the Museum of Central Pomerania in Słupsk.
- Maria Ewa Lunkiewicz-Rogoyska (1895-1967), exhibit catalogue, Museum of Art in Łódź, 1995;
- Artystki polskie [Polish Women Artists], exhibit catalogue, National Museum in Warsaw, 1991;
- Iwona Luba, Dialog Między Tradycją a Nowoczesnością: Malarstwo Okresu Dwudziestolecia Międzywojennego (Dialogue Between Tradition and Modernity: Painting in the Interwar Period), Warsaw, 2000.
Author: Magdalena Wróblewska, July 2010, translated by Yale Reisner, December 2017.