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- Author Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz
- Date of production 1920
- Dimensions height: 65 cm, width: 48.8 cm
- ID no. MHK-2485/VI
- Availability in stock
- Object copyright Historical Museum of the City of Kraków
- Digital images copyright public domain
- Digitalisation RDW MIC, Małopolska's Virtual Museums project
The portrait of Teofil Trzciński (1878—1952), a theatrical director, director of the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Kraków in 1918—1926 and 1929—1932, was painted by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy) in 1920. It is one of three portraits of Trzciński painted by Witkacy at that time. Witkacy (1885—1935) was one of the greatest Polish artists: a painter, draughtsman, photographer, playwright, novelist, philosopher, theoretician and art critic as well as the author of the Theory of Pure Form.more
The portrait of Teofil Trzciński (1878—1952), a theatrical director, director of the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Kraków in 1918—1926 and 1929—1932, was painted by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy) in 1920. It is one of three portraits of Trzciński painted by Witkacy at that time. Witkacy (1885—1935) was one of the greatest Polish artists: a painter, draughtsman, photographer, playwright, novelist, philosopher, theoretician and art critic as well as the author of the Theory of Pure Form.
The portrait presented here was made in pastel on cardboard in a light terracotta colour. It shows a man, depicted en face, with a pointed beard. It was painted in a non-realistic convention (his nose, mouth and ear are deformed, his eyes — one green, one brown are placed asymmetrically). The portrait does not show the left side of the body (lacking a part of the head and the left arm). On the left is a fragment of the celadon background. At the bottom, against the blue background of the jacket is the signature, “Witkacy 1920”, and in the oval, “T.C.”. The portrait was made in a period when Witkacy belonged to the Formists, the first artistic avant-garde movement in Poland. This was also when Witkacy formulated his aesthetic Theory of Pure Form. According to this concept, artistic work is dominated by metaphysical anxiety, revealing itself by the departure from realistic resemblance in favour of deformation. Grotesque and caricature flexible lines and colourful patches that appeared in his works (also in the portrait of Trzciński) were intended to create chaos leading to the metaphysical shock. The two other portraits of Trzciński by Witkacy were painted in a more realistic convention, each of them, however, bears the symbol “T.C.”, providing these works with an additional meaning. To clarify the hidden message, we have to go back to 1924, the year in which Witkacy opened his famous Portrait Company in which the artist was to make paintings exclusively on commission. In the special regulations he prepared for his “workshop”, he divided portraits into five types, from A to E — each of the types defined a different method of depiction. And so, the Type C (T.C.), which seems to be the most adequate for the portrait of Trzciński being described here, referred to portraits intended mainly for friends and made free of charge, often at social meetings. Paintings belonging to this group were usually created under the influence of drugs. What also confirms that the portrait belongs to this group is the date of its creation. These were the times of the close relationship and cooperation between the painter and the director of the Kraków theatre. Trzciński, at the instigation of Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński, was planning to stage the play, Tumor Mózgowicz [Tumor Brainiowicz] by Witkacy. The director was famous for the support he offered to young playwrights, also those related with the avant-garde movement; he often staged their plays. This must have required great courage, especially because all such events were treated by the City Council and a part of the conservative audience as controversial, which on many occasions resulted in scandals. Also the preview of the play by Witkacy was preceded by lengthy fights with censors, the police and the voivode. In the wake of these conflicts, the premiere was held no sooner than 30 June 1921. Another problem was the actors, who refused to play in such an avant-garde piece. Zygmunt Nowakowski definitely rejected the role he had been offered, saying that he was not going to act in some “ridiculous nonsense.” Even though after the premiere Witkacy received a bouquet of lilies and was welcomed with applause, the reviews which appeared in the Kraków press were mostly critical. The playwright, however, was satisfied with the cooperative efforts of the whole art team and the direction by Trzciński. This is how he described it in a letter addressed to the director: “You are such a genius of creative direction that I am lying in front of you on a metaphysical navel.” The letter referred to above is kept in the collection at the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków in the so-called Teofil Trzciński Archives. Trzciński was not discouraged by negative reviews and a year later he staged Kurka Wodna [The Water Hen], thus going down in the history of the theatre as the propagator of avant-garde and experimental artistic movements.
Elaborated by Agnieszka Kowalska (Historical Museum of the City of Kraków), © all rights reserved