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Landscape with a vision of the Sun

Jerzy Nowosielski1965

The National Museum in Krakow

The National Museum in Krakow

Jerzy Nowosielski began his artistic education during the occupation. He studied at the State School of Arts and Crafts in Cracow (Staatliche Kunstgewerbeschule Krakau), and after its shutdown in 1943, he completed his novitiate in St. John the Baptist's Lavra near Lvov. There he got to know icon painting and the secrets of “writing” icons. This was an important episode, which gave Nowosielski’s work a specific aura of “Byzantine nostalgia”, as Tadeusz Kantor described it.

After the war, Nowosielski joined the Kraków avant-garde, taking part in the presentations of the Group of Young Visual Artists established in 1946, later co-creating, or rather reactivating the Kraków Group with Tadeusz Kantor (1955). As he wrote himself, he moved to abstract creations, painting pictures composed of geometric figures. Combinations of triangular forms and colors were not only rationalized geometric abstraction, they were associated by the artist with random and historical events and picturesque Orthodox churches. At that time, the artist also painted synthetic paintings with a clear reference to the forms of reality – ships, beaches, sea views with a distant line of horizon, silhouettes of sportsmen, still lifes. He sometimes used photography, arguing with the view that it was something “unworthy of a painter” and claiming that photography shows “new aspects of man”, allows “to study him in such gestures and poses as the painters of the past proposed only on the basis of anatomical knowledge, from imagination.”

Nowosielski spent the period of socialist realism (1949-1955) in the comfort of his studio, distancing himself from the official artistic life. He observed the “politicization of art” by communists from – as he said – the “upper level of artistic consciousness”. He described the paintings he painted at that time as surrealistic. Surrealism corresponded to his tendency to mysticism. “It is clear,” he wrote, “that surrealistic consciousness immensely broadens and enriches the very assessment of various phenomena in art. As if the emotional, intellectual and philosophical capacity of the artist was expanding”. The aura of super-reality, which had already emanated from Nowosielski’s earlier pieces, became a characteristic feature of his work, taking on a clear mysticism, defined by the artist’s worldview attitude.

In the 1960s, Nowosielski began to practice religious painting – easel and wall painting – strongly inspired by the sacred art of the Eastern rite. In formal terms, the stylization, referring to iconic painting, with space reduction, elongation, hieratic and linear forms, flatly laid, almost modelless color spot of a narrowed scale, became visible. This way of depicting included landscapes, nudes, genre scenes – most often depicting women looking in the mirror, during toilette or sunbathing, as well as portraits.

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