Polish painter of Jewish origin, born in 1885, lived and worked in Paris from 1922, perished in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942; a representative of the New Classicist movement of the 1920s and 30s.
Polish painter of Jewish origin, born in 1885, perished in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942; lived and worked in Paris from 1922, representative of the New Classicist movement of the 1920s and 30s.
Kramsztyk began his education in Warsaw, studying painting with Zofia Stankiewicz, Adolf Edward Herstein i Miłosz Kotarbiński. He continued his studies at Krakow's Academy of Fine Arts under Józef Mehoffer (1903/1904) and at Munich's Academy of Fine Arts. While in Paris between 1910 and 1914, he became a member of the Society of Polish Artists and the Polish Artistic and Literary Society, reactivated in 1915. Kramsztyk spent the duration of World War I in Warsaw and Krakow. In 1917 he joined in the first exhibition of the Polish Expressionists, organized at the Friends of the Fine Arts Society in Krakow. The exhibit was a manifestation of the first wave of the Polish avant-garde. In 1918 he became a member of the New Group, created by Kramsztyk and other artists, including Tadeusz Pruszkowski and Eugeniusz Żak. After 1918 he perfected his skills at the Herstein Studio in Berlin. He showed his work many times, among the venues the Society for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts in Warsaw (1909, 1910, 1912, 1915-1917, 1919, 1921, 1922, 1924), and the Friends of the Fine Arts Societies in Lviv (1913, 1930, 1931), Krakow (1922), and Poznań (1913). His work was exhibited at a series of Parisian Salons, including the Autumn Salon (from 1908), the Salon of Independents (1911, 1912, 1913, 1925, 1926), and the Tuileries Salon (1928-30, 1939), and shown at the Galerie Druet (1925, 1928), the Galerie Żak (1930, 1937), the Galerie Des Beaux-Arts (1935), and at the Salon de l'Art Francais Indépendant (1929).
In 1922 he settled in Paris, vacationing each year in Poland. In the same year he co-founded the Rhythm (RYTM) Association of Polish Artists, the members of which propagated the Classicist style in Polish art of the 1920s. In Warsaw Kramsztyk presented his work at the Polish Arts Club (1917, 1919, 1921), the Institute of Art Propaganda (1930, 1931, 1932, 1937) and at the exhibition of Independents in 1913. The artist had solo exhibitions at the Friends of the Fine Arts Societies in Krakow (1913), Lviv and Poznań (both 1914), the Society for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts in Warsaw (1920), and branches of the Institute of Art Propaganda in Łódź (1934) and Warsaw (1937). Kramsztyk's work was included in a series of exhibitions of Polish art abroad, including those in Barcelona (1912), Paris (1914, 1915, 1921, 1929, 1935), Stockholm (1929), Brussels (1929), Pittsburgh (1931), and Moscow (1933). Other exhibits of his work were organized in Berlin (1912, 1914), Venice (1914), Vienna (1915, 1928), Rome (1925), Prague (1927), St. Louis (1932), Edinburgh (1933), and New York (1933). His paintings were shown at the Art and Technology International Exhibition in Paris (1937) and the World Expo in New York in 1939. He perished in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.
Kramsztyk was heavily influenced by the art of Cézanne. In his landscapes and still lifes, the artist emphasized structure built of geometric forms. He used light, short brushstrokes to shape vegetation, objects, and architectural forms, surrounding them with soft contour lines. He limited his range of colors to muted blues, greens, and reds, made livelier by white highlights. His use of light and shadow in his portraits is highly distinctive. Early in his career, he chose old women, Chinese and African characters as his subjects, accenting the singularity of their facial features. His landscapes of southern France and Spain date from the same period. In 1918 he began painting figural scenes, nudes, and portraits in which he drew on early artistic traditions, applying stylistic conventions characteristic of mature works of the Renaissance, Mannerism, and the Baroque. Musicians of seemingly 16th century provenance became a frequently recurring motif (Koncert / Concert). Kramsztyk's nudes, their flesh rendered through subtle, tonal variation, struck poses reminiscent of the models of Titian or Rubens.
In the late 1920s Kramsztyk shifted to a warmer, more harmonized color palette and replaced rough textures with smooth layers of paint; his tonally varied colors acquired an inner glow and his landscape motifs gained in vibrancy through the addition of shimmering light reflections. He also created a vast array of images of the Polish artistic and intellectual elite, portraying such individuals as Wacław Borowski, Eugeniusz Żak, and Henryk Kuna. Some portraits have an allegorical and metaphorical dimension, achieved through the addition of appropriate props and attributes and reinforced with universal titles - Poeta (Portret Jana Lechonia) / The Poet (Portrait of Jan Lechon), Smakosz / The Gourmet, Szachista / The Chess Player, or Vanitas Vanitatum. He also created pastel and sanguine drawings inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's anatomical sketches. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, he filled his sketchpads with tragic scenes of the annihilation of the Jewish nation.
Author: Irena Kossowska, Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Science, December 2001.