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- Author Kazimierz Sichulski
- Date of production 1915
- Place of creation Zakopane, Poland
- Dimensions height: 89 cm, width: 63.5 cm
- ID no. S/1803/MT
- Object copyright The Dr. Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane
- Digital images copyright public domain
- Digitalisation RDW MIC, Małopolska's Virtual Museums project
A well-known Polish proverb says that laughter is good for you. Hence, ancient theatre already knew comedies and the art of caricature. Artur Schrőder wrote that the caricature "must recreate the real, true features of the model, exaggerated and accentuated in a specific, comical way, but in a way that the audience could easily recognise. A caricaturist must be an excellent psychologist."more
Prophet or discoverer?
A well-known Polish proverb says that laughter is good for you. Hence, ancient theatre already knew comedies and the art of caricature. Artur Schrőder wrote that the caricature "must recreate the real, true features of the model, exaggerated and accentuated in a specific, comical way, but in a way that the audience could easily recognise. A caricaturist must be an excellent psychologist."
This is an extremely difficult art, which is probably why, throughout the entire 19th century, this area of art remained on the fringes of the artistic world, and critics accused caricaturists of either lack of skill or a deficient sense of humour. The situation changed during the Young Poland period, when satirical drawings gained the status of an independent visual genre. It turned out that laughter was well valued and in demand. Caricatures started to appear in magazines and newspapers. It was also popular, among financial and cultural elites, to have a decorative and pertinent caricature at home. Owners of restaurants and cafes were not indifferent to the charm of this distorting pictorial mirror and, bowing to their penchants and, above all, to the needs of their patrons, they decorated the walls of their premises with caricatures (one of the most popular ones is still at the Jama Michalika restaurant in Kraków).
This is how the collection that currently belongs to the Tatra Museum was established, created by Kazimierz Sichulski to order by Stanisław Karpowicz. The artist came to Zakopane at the beginning of the First World War. His reputation, as a famous painter and extremely witty caricaturist, followed him closely. Sichulski first lived in Michał Pawlikowski's Dom pod Jedlami, then he moved to the “Sport” hotel owned by Stanisław Karpowicz. This same Karpowicz ran a restaurant which hosted meetings of a society consisting primarily of local intelligentsia and also visitors driven to Zakopane by war in a "back office" after the curfew had started. One of the regular patrons was the actor and theatrical director, Ludwik Solski, who came up with the idea of creating the art gallery, U Karpia. Sichulski agreed, in exchange for money and credit in the form of breakfasts, dinners, suppers, and drinks. That is how fifty large, satirical portraits of the most famous personalities of Zakopane were created during three years (1914–1917). Among these is a caricature of Stanisław Witkiewicz. This painter, art critic, and the creator of the Zakopane style, who introduced a completely new quality to the architecture of the village below the Tatras—and not only there—lived in Zakopane during the years 1890–1908. Even before he appeared in Zakopane, he had campaigned for changes in painting. He opted to reject the hierarchy of themes in art and place emphasis on the quality of the depiction. In short: it is not what, but how you paint, that has a real meaning.
Sichulski portrayed Witkiewicz as a prophet of Polish art and architecture. The artist sits somewhere amidst the Tatra landscape; behind him, there are the blue peaks of the Tatra Mountains. Before him, there are scattered pieces of wood and a model of a cottage. His hands are lifted upwards; his mouth is open; his eyebrows are raised and his hair is a wild unkempt mess. He is wearing a jerkin over his coarse and plain clothes. Witkiewicz was both an explorer and a prophet of new trends in art. Here, he shows the viewer a vision of a new architecture and where to look for the sources it was inspired by. At the same time, sitting somewhat like a child, he looks as if—while playing with forms and patterns—he had discovered something unusual. Sichulski does not ridicule Witkiewicz here; on the contrary, he captures the most characteristic features of his external appearance and character, presenting the recipient with a man consumed by art and completely devoted to it.
Elaborated by Julita Dembowska (The Dr. Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane), © all rights reserved