polski      /     english





introduction                     personae                     thanks


He was born on the 24th February 1929 in Sanok. His greatgrandfather, a veteran soldier of the November Uprising [against Russia, in the 1830s] sought refuge from the tsarist repressions in the Austrian part of the then-partitioned Poland and was involved in setting up of the local industry. Having graduated from the secondary school in Sanok in 1947, the future artist commenced the studies at the Faculty of Architecture at the Academy of Mining and Metallurgy in Krakow. It was not the choice of his own. He had dreamed to study at the film school, passed the entrance exams to the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, but finally gave in to his father’s will. The latter decided about his son’s studies, wishing to provide him a stable future. Beksiński got the diploma in architecture in the year 1952 and after working for a few years as a building inspector, he returned home to Sanok (1955) together with the wife Zofia, nee Stankiewicz, whom he married in 1951. For several years he was employed at the design office of the Sanok Bus Plant where he developed a few car body designs which at that time were too innovative to be implemented.

During the time of studies he developed his visual art skills, but it was photography that interested him most. His activity in the field did not last long but his works were outstanding and quite innovative. He worked in an informal professional group together with friends Jerzy Lewczyński from Gliwice and Bronisław Schlabs from Poznań. The important exhibitions were, among others: Krok w nowoczesność (A Step Towards Modernity), Poznań 1957, and exhibitions in Warsaw(1958), Gliwice (1959) and Cologne (1961).

As early as 1959 Beksiński gave up photography in order to pursue his other artistic interests because he took a stand that the essential artistic message came from within and even a creative use of photography could not satisfy his unrestrained and restless imagination. At that time he also made literary attempts but finally focused exclusively on visual art. Apart from figurative drawings of expressionist or sometimes surrealist character, he took up sculpture and relief. His “Reliefs” from the 1950’s and 1960’s were highly acclaimed by the critics but this did not change his decision to abandon the language of abstraction. He perfected and developed his chiaroscuro drawings into oil painting, both figurative and landscape. The exhibition of his works in Warsaw in 1964 brought him a general recognition and the first financial reward. The second Warsaw exhibition arranged by Janusz Bogucki at the Stara Pomarańczarnia in 1972 presented the new paintings of the time which was later called the “fantasy period”. These works brought him enormous popularity. The evocative gloomy landscapes full of deformed figures, illusionistic and technically perfect, captured the imagination of the public and critics alike; they spurred the debate over the merit of his work, which has been continuing until now. Beksiński had a courage to break off with the avant-garde and go back to the traditional painting of the past centuries.

In 1977 Beksiński moved from Sanok to Warsaw. His work centered around metaphysical experiences, along with its words and spaces, mysterious light, and cathedrals where anxiety is easier to be found than sacrum. He still developed his technique and became convinced that his painting is no longer a substitute camera for filming dreams and fantasies. He sought his own expression of beauty and knew that in the era of avant-garde the traditional aesthetic categories are mocked by many. Beksiński never attempted to create his own definition of beauty or a theoretical manifesto. He was an intuitive artist par excellence. In the beginning of the 1980’s he gave up the language of the fantasy period focusing on the continuation of his favorite subjects from the 1950’s, with animal and human figures.

In 1998 his wife died, and a year later he lost his son Tomasz. The lonely artist decided to donate his heritage to the Historical Museum in Sanok (the collection contains over 5000 works). He died tragically, murdered in his Warsaw flat on the 21 February, 2005.

More at www.beksinski.com.pl and www.muzeum.sanok.pl

We wish to thank Mr Wiesław Banach, the Director of the Muzeum Historyczne in Sanok for the information presented above.

photo by Dariusz Szuwalski

Copyright by Konrad Glos, Rafal Zub 2010