“Photos by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz ‘Witkacy’ (1885–1939)”, 20.10 — 07.11

Multiple Portrait. St. Petersburg, around 1916

Photographs by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, one of the most important Polish artists and writers of the 20th century, arouse natural interest. It is surprising that these works of art have been created at the foot of the Tatra Mountains in the small highland village, which at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries Zakopane was. Researchers of Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz point not only to the artist’s innate abilities, but also to the role of his father Stanislaw Witkiewicz, a painter and critic, in creation of appropriate conditions, in which the evident talents were revealed and the personality of the future Witkacy was formed.

Photos themselves are an impressive and peculiar “text” which carries a lot of information. The exhibition presents the best preserved photographs of Witkacy, created in the first 30 years of his life until his father’s death, as well as photographs of the twenty year interwar period, when Witkiewicz created his major literary, dramatic and philosophical works and paintings. In terms of formal solutions they are innovative and are ahead of their time and are simply attractive for the audience in the background of “the vogue of photography”.

S. I. Witkiewicz never showed his photos in public. Therefore, they were found rather late. He considered many of his passions “on the margins” of art, which are now thought to be real art, very personal. Witkiewicz never perceived himself as a photographer, despite the fact that he made pictures all his life.

Witkiewicz’s portraits are focused on links between the mental essence of a model and the universal essence of a person. The ability to understand the metaphysical sense had always been for Witkiewicz an indicator of humanity and he probably wanted to capture the manifestation of these feelings in his photographs.

The mysterious immovability of Witkiewicz’s photographic portraits has at least two reasons. The first of them is artistic: the portrayed, according to the concept of the author, were photographed in a special situation – an immersion in contemplation of space. The second reason is technical, in correlation with the first: it was a long process of light set-up due to the low sensitivity of the negatives of the time, which sometimes created an interesting effect of eye movements.

Self-portraits of Witkiewicz made before 1914 form a series representing the image of the artist’s state of mind, perhaps a feeling of the oddities of the world – in the moments of being all alone he turned to the camera.

The Multiplied Portrait is one of Witkiewicz’s most famous works. The photo depicts him reflected in mirrors for four times, giving the impression of five figures sitting around the table. This is a special and symbolic situation which can be interpreted in different ways. The portrait was made in about 1916 inPetrograd. In the process of photographing Witkiewicz was in the cabin between two mirrors and black drapery, behind which a photographer with a camera was hidden, so only the lens was visible.

In the twenties and thirties of the 20th century Witkacy was making mimic sessions and performances, and his friends took part in them, adapting themselves to the conditions and situations, proposed and created by the artist.

Creation of paratheatrical forms, performing and photographing them were a special antidote, a resistance to serious existential problems, depression and feelings of meaninglessness of existence which were tearing him.

20.10 — 07.11
Museum of Modern Fine Art, Small Hall

Niezaležnasci Avenue, 47
11:00 – 19:00 (ticket office till 18:30)
Tuesday – Saturday
Standard ticket price ― 30 000, students ― 15 000, school children ― 10 000

Museum of Modern Fine Art, Small Hall, 17:00