#photography & visual arts
The Bus, one of Bronisław Wojciech Linke's later works, is an expression of a pessimistic diagnosis of the status of society as well as an overview of national vices. Some have found in it references to the theme of the Chochoł dance from Stanisław Wyspiański's The Wedding – an image embedded in the Polish national imagination.
Bronisław Wojciech Linke belonged to a small group of Polish artists who presented a pessimistic vision of the consequences of industrial and technological progress. His works, such as for instance the series Miasto (City) from 1931-1935, were concerned with the increasing dehumanisation within contemporary society. He created depictions of the deteriorating living conditions resulting from economic processes (Bezrobocie/Unemployment from 1932-1934) and the expanding industrialisation of the country (series Śląsk/Silesia from 1936-1938).
Linke's harsh criticism also targeted the hypocrisy of the bourgeois culture, the cult of money, and heartless bureaucracy. He commented on those phenomena in satirical drawings and caricatures, which appeared in press publications such as Szpilki and Dziennik Ludowy. The journalistic aspect of these works, their broad audience appeal, and calls to society remained significant features of his output also after the war.
Linke always used an expressive style in his works, usually brutally revealing the most drastic aspects of the surrounding reality. His works were in general anti-aesthetic, or even morbid. They were to provoke shock and disgust in a way that would inspire reflection. Human figures transform into nightmarish ghosts, while the elements of their surrounding reality, such as houses or machines, often come alive and become stalkers or a source of threat to human life.
In his frightening visions, Linke combined a direct, precise observation of reality with elements of metaphor, while bluntness and crudeness of representations – with a certain kind of lyricism. These features have often tempted researchers to investigate his connections to Surrealism, which seems incorrect, as the painter was far from the basic premises of that current. Some also sought the genesis of Linke's art forms in the Neue Sachlichkeit or German Expressionism art currents. Attempts would be made to describe it in the categories of metaphorical realism, indicating the symbolical meaning of objects or people, removed from their surroundings and represented in a crude way. His oeuvre is also close to selected premises of magical realism, in their uncanniness and unearthliness of the seemingly realistic imagery.
After World War Two, the artist continued to collaborate with the press, for instance with Polityka and Trybuna Ludu, submitting works referring to political, social, and cultural issues. He created a number of artworks concerned with a struggle with fascism and racism, as well as critical representations of current social relations. He also came up with a moving portrait of the ruins of Warsaw in his cycle Kamienie krzyczą (Screaming Stones), painted in 1946-1956. It could be treated as a continuation of the motif of disaster, which was present in Linke's oeuvre even before the outbreak of the Second World War, for example in the series Wojna (The War) from 1931-1932.
bronisław wojciech linke
national museum in warsaw
The Bus, which is the artist's late work, is yet another expression of a pessimistic diagnose of the status of society and an overview of national vices. Each of the presented figures has a metaphorical significance and personifies a specific trait. We see a drunkard in a traditional Kraków cap, hiding a bottle of vodka in his coat, a worker giving a bras d'honneur, a bureaucrat on top of a pile of papers, a greedy priest with coins for eyes, a woman from a queue, who can be identified by her shopping bags, and so on. There is also a soldier, a lascivious priest, a beatnik with a babe, and even Stalin. The latter character shifts the accent from social to political, in the author's attempt to identify further causes of the progressing social degeneration. The disintegration of society is eloquently expressed by the progressing decay of the characters' bodies – some of them, painted in grey, resemble corpses or nightmarish demons.
Bronisław Wojciech Linke's works are often narrative in their nature, which is apparent both in the thought-out structure of the cycles, as well as the composition of individual works, which is exemplified for instance in The Bus. The literary dimension of the painting has often been stressed, for instance by pointing to the references to the theme of Chochoł dance from Stanisław Wyspiański's The Wedding – an image embedded in Polish national imagination. Just like in the poetic text, we are presented a panorama of Polish society, with an emphasis on its flaws and powerlessness. Just like the participants of the dance, the passengers in The Bus are standing on the way to their own liberation. They are still and lethargic. With their eyes closed, they allow themselves to be carried into the unknown. The bus is driven by a mannequin, a dead puppet, which, just like chochoł (a straw plant cover) in the Young Poland play, takes over the procession.
Linke's works and characteristic painting style have not had any followers. However, his art became an inspiration for the poet and musician Jacek Kaczmarski, who in 1980 wrote a song dedicated to the painting, Kanapka z człowiekiem (Sandwich with a Man), and three years later composed his famous Autobus (The Bus).
- Ignaczak, Anna, ed. Bronisław Wojciech Linke 1906-1962. Warsaw, 1991.
- Jakimowicz, Irena, ed. Bronisław Wojciech Linke, 1906-1962. Warsaw, 1963.
Author: Magdalena Wróblewska, September 2010, transl. AM, June 2016