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