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It can be boldly stated that the famous “Z. village” has always been known as a place where the human species known as artists are present in unprecedented density. The majority of respondents to the question: “Who do you associate Zakopane with?” would reply “Witkacy”.

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White and red, or emotions on canvas

It can be boldly stated that the famous “Z. village” has always been known as a place where the human species known as artists are present in unprecedented density. The majority of respondents to the question: “Who do you associate Zakopane with?” would reply “Witkacy”. Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz becomes a kind of symbol here of an artist who draws his life and creative juices from the surrounding reality. Contrary to appearances, the artistic life of Zakopane did not stop to thrive after World War II. Zakopianina (a kind of special "drug" described by Witkiewicz) still influenced minds and imaginations. Shortly after “the time of great sculpture”, Antoni Kenar came to Zakopane with his wife Halina and reformed the school which educates young artists to this day. At the beginning of 1954, the teaching staff was joined by Tadeusz Brzozowski, certainly one of the most outstanding Polish painters of the 2nd half of the 20th century. Not surprisingly, his works have also been included in the collection of the Tatra Museum. The picture Blansz i róż (Ceruse and rouge) was purchased from the same author for the museum collection in 1967. It is very likely that at the moment when it was bought, the paint was still wet because the work was created in the same year. The audience may feel a bit lost when seeing it for the first time. A tangle of different shapes and lines ... how can it be understood, how can it be read, how can it be explained? Because the meaning must be found, since art must mean something ... On a large piece of canvas sized 134x101 cm, bizarre shapes flourish and various colours shimmer thanks to oil paints. It is mostly filled with black, white and grey colours. Juicy reds, sunny yellows and sea turquoises glitter among them. They are sparse, but maybe that is why they catch the eye so much. And hands are eager to touch all of the slight irregularities caused by the generous application of black paint (especially at the top and middle of the picture). This is difficult art, but it can be construed in several ways. Therefore, it would be best to look into ourselves for emotions in the painting. How do we imagine all these feelings that are dormant inside us? Do they assume shapes we know from everyday life, or rather are they streaks of colours or a tangle of shapes and merging colours? ... Extremely inquisitive members of the audience may look for help in interpreting the picture by Tadeusz Brzozowski in the title of the piece and a great European painting tradition. The artist built up a peculiar dictionary consisting of forgotten phrases, which sounded odd or old-fashioned. Then he used them in titles of his works, “For example, titles of my paintings may seem silly to someone, but they provide some fullness. Please keep in mind that we live in such times that those who say serious things must stick out their tongue from time to time because otherwise no one would believe them.” “Ceruse and rouge” or “white and red” from French are colours clearly associated with national symbolism. They are also already forgotten names of makeup cosmetics – powder and a dye for cheeks. Thus, one can risk it and say that important issues are combined here with those completely trivial. One may also think that these national colours are only beauty treatments that sound archaic, applied to the Polish reality that hides internal confusion, discord and quarrels under a poorly made makeup. It is also possible ... following the path of painting tradition, to come across El Greco. However, it is no use looking for verbatim quotations from his works. It is not about themes and characters, but about form, colour and expression. Brzozowski, like the former master of the era of Mannerism, focuses on a vertical composition. It should be complemented by the smoothness and softness of forms piling up towards the top of the picture. The colours and light that glow somewhere inside the painting are also of significance. Therefore, it can also be ... like the artist himself used to say “The idea is not to celebrate the art of painting but to treat it like a trip out of town, like a game of bridge. If by chance we are affected more deeply by one or another picture, there is no need to worry. Diseases happen to people and loftiness to our Polish bones...”

Elaborated by Julita Dembowska (The Dr. Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane), © all rights reserved

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Painting “White and red” by Tadeusz Brzozowski

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