Born in 1918 in Lviv, died in 1987 in Rome.Tadeusz Brzozowski was one of the most colorful among the members of the Krakow arts community.
Born in 1918 in Lviv, died in 1987 in Rome. Tadeusz Brzozowski was one of the most colorful among the members of the Krakow arts community. Although he remained close to the community, his link was that of a cat that walks its own paths - and he took his own artistic paths above all.
Although he remained close to the community, his link was that of a cat that walks its own paths - and he took his own artistic paths above all. In contrast to Tadeusz Kantor, who had a very serious approach to art, Brzozowski always stood at a distance from his own work. He frequently exhibited a playful attitude to his art, quoting it outright at times, and exhibited sarcasm both towards his achievements and his status as an exceptional, respected, and admired artist. Nevertheless, he indubitably deserved the position he held.
He began to study art at Krakow's Academy of Fine Arts in 1936 and continued during the World War II occupation of Poland at the Kunstgewerbeschule (1940-42). He subsequently returned to the Academy, where he completed his coursework in 1945 and received his diploma one year later. His teachers included Ignacy Pienkowski and Pawel Dadlez. Shortly after graduating, he became a teacher himself and held positions at the Krakow Polytechnic Institute (1945-54), the Visual Arts College in Zakopane (1954-69), Poznań's State Higher School of Visual Arts (1962-79), and the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow (1979-81). In 1954 Brzozowski moved to Zakopane, but he would retain close contacts with his Krakow friends associated with Tadeusz Kantor and his Cricot 2 Theatre.
During the occupation Brzozowski was already a close collaborator of Kantor's underground theatre, where he tried his hand at acting (playing roles in Balladyna and Powrót Odysa / The Return of Odysseus among others). After 1945 he also joined the Rotunda Theatre, a university theatre that attracted both Kantor and Roman Artymowski among others. His most lively contacts, however, were among the group of artists who created the Young Visual Artists Group in Krakow in the first months after the war. In 1955 Brzozowski and several other members of the group (Maria Jarema, Kantor, Jadwiga Maziarska, Kazimierz Mikulski, Jerzy Nowosielski, Erna Rosenstein, Jerzy Skarzyński, and Jonasz Stern) brought their works together for the Dziewięciu / Nine Artists exhibition that was a harbinger of the post-1956 "thaw." When in 1957 the Young Visual Artists Group transformed into the rejuvenated Krakow Group, Brzozowski became an active member thereof. He was also a member of the international group known as Phases, which brings together painters inspired by Surrealism and non-geometric, aggressive, lyrical abstraction.
To a great degree, these two allegiances determined how he painted. This is easily understood in the context of the Krakow artistic community, dominated by an implied distance towards everyday reality. This was expressed artistically through a fascination for Surrealism, broad use of metaphors, and periodic ventures into the grotesque. Brzozowski initially painted compositions in which figures and objects were expressively deformed (Wagon / Train Car
, 1947; Kuchenka / Kitchen
, 1950). In depicting normal people surrounded by crude objects, he granted them the status of existential symbols, and combining sincerity and sensitivity with pathos generated a special, intimate climate. The painterly qualities of these works demonstrate that the artist had a superior sensitivity for color, a skill to which he gave full expression somewhat later in his abstract works. Brzozowski created these narrative compositions at the same time as he painted pieces that skillfully exploited the poetics of the grotesque, characterized by a distorted representation of the world and a bitter and ironic tone (Lazarz / Lazarus
, 1947; Kostki / Dice
, 1949) that in time he would replace with dramatic tension (Dól / Pit
, 1955; Pręty / Bars
, 1956). Gradually this tendency towards unreal forms deepened and Brzozowski's art began to approach abstraction (in the years of the Informel explosion, which coincided in Poland with the post-1956 political "thaw"). Brzozowski's canvasses began to be dominated in the formal realm almost equally by tattered areas of intense color and sharp, convulsive lines (Fartuch / The Apron
, 1958). He energized his paintings by using bold, reverberating colors. In his drawings, which for this artist were an autonomous activity rather than something that served his painting, this function was taken over by a delicate, sometimes unpredictable line (see the dazzling Balet / Ballet
series, 1954-57). He continued these explorations in subsequent years creating a series of works enchanting for the nearly alchemic knowledge of pigments he demonstrated in creating them (Lombard / Pawnbroker
, 1965; Fiakier / Buggy Driver
, 1973). These attracted the eye with a boldness of color, refined materials, and often strongly emphasized textures, and were surprising for their fanciful, somewhat archaic titles of Galician provenance (Meszt / Slipper
, 1970; Papagaje i perokety
, 1975). These works sometimes elicited astonishment because of their expressive power and were stylistically distinctive, guaranteeing the artist both critical and public acclaim. In the last years of his life Brzozowski reverted to figurative compositions that were formally unembellished, subtle, and intimate in tone (religious motifs were something that he undertook at this time in both his paintings and drawings: see Głowa Chrystusa / The Head of Christ
Brzozowski's credits also include a series of monumental art projects. During the 1950s he and his wife Barbara Gawdzik-Brzozowska created religious polychrome murals in churches located in the villages of Imielno and Mogilany. He also designed scenery and tapestries for the Bydgoszcz Philharmonic among other institutions. Brzozowski twice represented Poland at the Sao Paulo Biennale (1959, 1975) and once at the Venice Biennale (1962). His work has been analyzed extensively, among others by Maria Markiewicz in "Tadeusz Brzozowski" (1987). In addition, a great deal of information can be found in the catalogue to a retrospective exhibition of the artist's paintings and drawings held at the National Museum in Warsaw in 1997.p
Author: Malgorzata Kitowska-Lysiak, Art History Institute of the Catholic University of Lublin, Faculty of Art Theory and the History of Artistic Doctrines, December 2001.