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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Zdzisław Beksiński

X12, Zdzislaw Beksinski

Zdzislaw Beksinski
Here's another one--another in my series of "artists you've never hear of but should have." His name is the Polish tongue-twisting Zdzislaw Beksinski. My first reaction in seeing his work reflected back some fifteen years to my days as a high school art instructor--WOW, my high school kids would have loved this guy. Or more precisely, at least the boys would have. He's a big grim and nasty to appeal to feminine tastes. In fact, he's unlikely to appeal anyone much beyond the age of thirty. I suppose the best comparison one could make would be to dub Beksinski as a Polish Salvador Dali. Both were surrealists, though Beksinski has a much darker, more foreboding palette than Dali. Some have referred to Beksinski as post-apocalyptic. Furthermore, Beksinski differs from Dali in appearing much more sinister and negative, whereas Dali often appears to be somewhat fun-loving in his approach, often being "weird" for the sake of being weird.
Untitled, Zdzislaw Beksinski--about as close to Dali as he ever got.
Salvador Dali was born in 1904; Beksinski in 1929, almost a full generation later, so it's likely Beksinski knew of Dali and his work. However Beksinski always avoided art museums and galleries, even when in was his work they were showing. He claimed not to have been influenced by any form of painting, literature, or contemporary events. It's probably a valid claim in that, although he studied architecture as a young man in Krakow, he seems to have been a self-taught painter. His one acknowledged influence was classical music, which he played at full volume while painting. His style, apart from surrealism, would seem to be what's been called Baroque Gothic. That may sound like a strange combination but in fact, the two stylistic eras mesh well, especially as seen in Beksinski's work. Beksinski didn't make it easy for art historians. Though he numbered his drawings, he seldom titled (or dated) any of his paintings--an art expert's worst nightmare. Others might refer to Beksinski's paintings in general as his worst nightmares. It would be hard not to agree; virtually every one of Beksinski's works have a blatantly nightmarish quality.

0025/7075, Zdzislaw Beksinski
Beksinski's drawings and prints are no less grim than his paintings, though in view of the fact they are monochromatic, their impact seems less "gutsy" for lack of a better term. Beksinski floated to the top of the Polish art world in the late 1960s where he remained for the rest of his career, though his style evolved, changing most noticeably in the 1990s when his backgrounds became simpler, his figures more distorted. The late 1990s were as tragic personally as the content of his paintings. His wife died in 1998, then a year later, on Christmas Eve, he discovered the body of his son, having committed suicide. The depth of Beksinski's depression can be seen in his late work. His own death in 2005 was no less tragic, stabbed some seventeen times by the teenaged son of his caretaker. The motive seems to have involved Beksinski having refused the boy a loan, the equivalent of one-hundred dollars.

The Beksinski version of one of the oldest subjects in art.

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