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introduction                     personae                     thanks


He would often say, when he wanted to truly knock someone out: you are as good an art historian as I am an architect. Starting with an anecdote seems not only justified here, but simply a must, because of his colourful personality. The stories of bon mots, jokes, and funny episodes circulated in several, at least, social circles. Their number was both a result of Krakowski’s professional career and of his social appeal; this should be taken into consideration in case of every attempt at describing Piotr’s position on the cultural and academic map of Krakow. He was mostly known as the expert in modern art and a connoisseur of the classic art, the author and co-author of numerous publications (over 170), a socialite and a cinema fan.

Prior to becoming the professor of the Jagiellonian University and the Corresponding Member the Polish Academy of Skills (PAU) and the Associate Member of the Art History Commitee of PAU thus achieving the majority of splendours within the reach of an academic art historian, he had been engaged in state conservation service. Piotr Krakowski worked at the office of the Voivodship Conservator of Monuments, while collaborating with the Faculty of Architecture at the Krakow University of Technology.

He began to study soon after the end of the Second World War at two faculties and two higher education establishments: history of art at the Jagiellonian University and architecture at the then Polytechnic Faculties of the Academy of Mining and Metallurgy. He obtained the diploma of an architect in 1950 and two years later he graduated from the University obtaining a master’s degree in history of art. Thereafter he started to work in the aforementioned field of conservation and at the same time published critical studies. He also made friends with numerous artists with whom he formed the famed Grupa Krakowska (Krakow Group) and the Krzysztofory Gallery (It is noteworthy that about the group itself and its individual artists he wrote circa 30 essays, reviews and critical articles). Piotr Krakowski had also established a long-term collaboration with Adam Kotula, who was a notable modern art lover and an employee of the Jagiellonian Library and thus the protagonist gained access to the world literature on art. This resulted in writing of eight books and several papers. A few of them were devoted to the architecture of the Modern Movement, as for example Architektura współczesna, zarys rozwoju (Contemporary Architecture. An Outline, published by Wydawnictwo Literackie, Krakow) in 1967. He often wrote about the 19th century architecture. Also the post-doctoral dissertation of Piotr Krakowski was devoted to architecture, but this time the subject was: The Theoretical Basis of the 19th Century Architecture. Mieczysław Porębski, in the analysis of iconographic programmes of facades put it that way: The eye of an architect does not allow the Author to disregard the problem of struggle with surrogate materials and insincerity of form, as contrasted with the demand for the sincerity of material and aesthetic controversy against the new building material: iron, and later reinforced concrete. Not only the eye of an architect but also other merits, such as the feeling for space, decided about his exceptional approach to sculpture and stage design, to which he devoted many writings.

In architectural and artistic circles Piotr Krakowski was specially appreciated for his outstanding feeling for form and good taste,which was also indispensable in the presentation of modern art. As the coorganizer of the International Biennial of Graphic Art he made a significant change in the character of the event in the early 1970s, by opening it to new, unconventional procedures. The justification for these choices was presented in the texts that followed: the works that commented upon and put [artistic] phenomena into a hierarchy, for instance O sztuce nowej i najnowszej (On the New and Newest Art), served for a long time also as text-books, a kind of initiation into the complicated history of modernity. The modernity of never-ending attraction, the modernity he followed and traced in the visual arts at their best – here his architectural studies played an important part . This was so, despite the fact that he only had one completed design, a house in Zalipie (he would show it with self-mocking commentary to his groups of students of history of art, during study tours and excursions… )

Maria Hussakowska

photo by Adam Rzepecki

Copyright by Konrad Glos, Rafal Zub 2010