Painter, illustrator, set designer, chief representative of New Classicism of the 1920s and 1930s. Born 1885, died 1954.
Polish painter, illustrator, graphic artist, set designer.
Borowski studied art from 1905 to 1909 at Krakow's Academy of Fine Arts under the direction of Józef Mehoffer. He also studied art history at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Between 1909 and 1913 he was in Paris, where he developed a fascination for the art in the city's museums. He set about copying the paintings of the old masters in the Louvre, marveled at the Renaissance tapestries at the Musée de Cluny, learned about Oriental art by viewing the collection at the Musée Guimet. His travels to Italy between 1911 and 1914 helped to deepen his knowledge of Renaissance art. While in Paris, Borowski designed covers, illustrations, and vignettes for Museion, a periodical that sought to promote a rebirth of Classical tradition. Between 1914 and 1919 he lived in Switzerland, and went on to serve in the Polish army as a volunteer during the Polish-Soviet War of 1920.
Borowski was one of the co-creators of Warsaw's Stowarzyszenie Artystów Polskich Rytm ("Rhythm" Association of Polish Artists), which propagated the aesthetics of New Classicism between 1922 and 1932, and for a series of years, Borowski was the organization's president. In 1926 the artist joined the Stowarzyszenie Artystow Grafikow Ryt (Engraving Association of Graphic Artists) and the Towarzystwo Artystów Polskich Sztuka (Art Society of Polish Artists) in 1932. He was also a member of the Towarzystwo Zachęty Sztuk Pięknych (Society for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts). Between 1927 and 1933 Borowski taught painting and composition at the Institute of the Visual Arts in Warsaw. He participated in numerous exhibitions in Poland and abroad, including those organized by the Towarzystwo Szerzenia Sztuki Polskiej wsrod Obcych (Society for the Propagation of Polish Art Among Foreigners), the Venice Biennale (1920, 1930, 1932), and in touring exhibitions organized by the Carnegie Institute in the United States. A solo exhibition of Borowski's work was presented in 1923 at Czesław Garliński's Art Salon in Warsaw. His most prestigious distinctions included a gold medal at the National Exposition in Poznań (1929), an honorable mention for his painting Łuczniczki / The Archers at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932, and a gold medal for the painting Młodość / Youth at the Art and Technology International Exhibition in Paris (1937).
Borowski was the leading representative of the Classicist movement in Polish painting of the 1920s and 30s. The aesthetics of his New Classicism were based on Classical and Renaissance models of composition, supplemented by Parisian impulses in the form of Maurice Denis's theory of the new Classical order, the paintings of André Derain (which accented structure), and the decorative style of Henri Matisse's canvasses. Borowski created static, balanced, closed compositions and integrated, compacted forms. He underlined the rhythmic qualities of his works with slow, subtle rhythmic lines and rapid, intermittent, pulsating light rhythms that slid across the surface of his works. In his paintings, illustrative qualities dominated over muted, pastel colors. Forms were evoked through subtle, light and shadow modeling, and broad gradations of color tones complemented by descriptive contours and lines (W pracowni / In the Studio, 1932). This aesthetic style corresponded to the mood of the scenes he visualized and harmoniously inscribed into idyllic landscapes, seeking to express the unity of man with nature (W lesie. Młodość / In the Forest - Youth, 1932). His images often contained references to mythology or constituted allegories of the seasons of the year or stages of human life (Diana, 1929). Frequent motifs in Borowski's paintings included lovers feasting in Rococo gardens, shepherds and harvesters, pickers joyous at the abundance of fruit, thoughtful circus artists and acrobats, pilgrims and goliards lost in empty city lanes, musicians enraptured by the sounds of their instruments. Subtle geometrical forms, contained in parallel folds of clothing, simplified architectural forms, and foliage treated approximately, combined to create compositional discipline in both sprawling figural scenes and in modest still lifes (Martwa natura z draperia / Still Life with Drapery, 1930). While a member of the Rhythm Association, Borowski enjoyed a friendship and artistic relationship with Eugeniusz Zak. The artists drew on similar motifs to create scenes in an idyllic mood, and stylized their forms to resemble the work of Quattrocento masters, subordinating them to an all-encompassing structure of rhythms. In the early 1930s Borowski shifted to intensified colors, brightened his palette, and enriched the texture of his oil paintings sometimes differentiating his surfaces with the help of a spatula and knife.
In addition to painting canvasses, the artist also created monumental paintings. His works in polychrome included the chapel of the Kościeliski family in Miloslav in the region of Great Poland (1914), the Royal Palace in Warsaw (Thursday Dinner Room, 1925), the interior of the Ziemiańska Café on Mazowiecka Street in Warsaw (decorative panel, 1927), four townhouses in Old Town Square (1928), the Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego (National Economy Bank) (murals over doors), the Prudential Building (decorative panel), and the interiors of the ocean liners M/s Piłsudski and M/s Batory (1934-35). In 1929 Borowski decorated the Art Pavilion at the National Exposition in Poznan with a series of allegorical murals. He also designed posters, created single and multi-colored lithographs, and illustrated books, among them Juliusz Slowacki's Anhelli (1929) and Żywe kamienie / Living Stones by Wacław Berent (1933). Borowski contributed illustrations to periodicals, including Skamander and "Wiadomosci Literackie" ("Literary News"). A series of the artist's pastel drawings illustrating Homer's Iliad and Odyssey date from the time of World War II. Borowski created scenery designs for theatres in Warsaw, Poznań, Wrocław, Lódź, and Czestochowa, working especially closely with Warsaw's Polish Theatre (Teatr Polski) for a series of years. After the war Borowski also designed currency notes for the State Securities Company in Lódź.
Author: Irena Kossowska, Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Science, December 2001.