Click on photos to enlarge.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Andrzej Wróblewski

Cottages in the Mountains, 1940s, Andrzej Wroblewski
--recalling his homeland before the war.
There have been certain times and certain places in this world where one would have been ill-advised to be born. You've heard of rhetorical questions, no doubt. That's a rhetorical statement. None of us, of course, can choose the circumstances of our birth, our parents, or any other aspect of our prenatal existence. In fact, most of us have been virtually helpless for the first five or six years of our postnatal lives. Andrzej Wróblewski was born in the year 1927. The place of his birth was Vilnius, what is now the capital of Lithuania. Knowing what we do now about this patch of real estate and the horrors which were to descend upon those occupying it at the time, one could hardly imagine a worse time and place to be born. That particular slice of Europe, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, has, down through the ages, been fought over as much as, or more than, anywhere else on earth. The fact that art and artist over the past centuries could even exist, much less prosper, in such a boiling pot of political, social, and military upheavals staggers the imagination. Yet Poland, German, Eastern Russia, and the Balkan nations have produced an extraordinarily hardy group of artists to equal or surpass those of even the most peaceful nations elsewhere in the world. I know, it seems like I've written about most of them.

An artist defying the odds.
Wróblewski was born the son of a law professor and the painter Krystyna Wróblewska. He showed considerable art talent at a young age. His education was interrupted by the German invasion of Poland, although, defying the odds, he was able to attend some underground courses at the time. Immediately after the War, as Poland's national borders shifted, the Wroblewski family moved from Vilnius to Kraków. There in 1945, Wroblewski passed the entrance exams to become a student of Painting and Sculpture at Poland's oldest art school, the Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied for the next seven years. His early work could be classified as Kapist, that is, work at odds with Polish romanticist traditions. The Kapists underlined the independence of art from any traditionalism, symbolism, literary or historic influences. By the 1940s, they had come to be a strong influence over the French Post-Impressionists who, in turn, wielded a strong influence over Wroblewski.

Shining a searing light on the worst social and military excesses of a tortured continent.
Around 1949, while still a student in Krakow, Wroblewski produced some of his most important works, all of which dealt with the horrors of Nazi occupation during a war in which he was too young to fight but not too young to vividly recall it's genocidal horrors. Today, this group of several dozen works are sometimes referred to as Wroblewski's "Execution" paintings. The Firing Squad (above, left) and his Execution of Hostages (above, right) are prime examples. Wroblewski's Shooting on the Wall and his haunting Execution Versus Enforcement (both below) date from the same year but demonstrate a less subtle approach to German wartime atrocities. Like Picasso's Guernica, none are bloody. Instead they rely upon their surreal qualities to drive home their message.

Whether the scenes above are literal or symbolic matters little.
The young boy no doubt represents the artist himself.
Perhaps his most haunting work is Wroblewski's Mother with a Killed Child (above) also from 1949. The work takes an important place in any postwar reference to the Holocaust. Although it does not relate directly to the Holocaust, it leads to a broader view, a more general understanding of a child’s death and the pain of a mother facing such a tragedy. In seeing it, we come to think of a particular case, not just about the numbers of those murdered. Horrifying as they are, they're still only numbers.

Driving home the most intimate horrors of war.

In the early 1950s, living in the People's Republic of Poland, Wróblewski adopted the state-favored style of Social Realism. However, after the death of Joseph Stalin and the ensuing period of destalinization, from 1955 on, Wroblewski reverted to his previous interests, creating a series of figurative paintings centering on the subject of the family. Unlike his earlier work, these were generally positive in mood, inspired by the artist's private life and the birth of a son in 1954. Wroblewski died in a mountaineering accident in March of 1957. Over his brief lifetime of less than thirty years, Andrzej Wroblewski created over 150 paintings, 1400 drawings, dozens of other art works in various media, and wrote over 80 published articles. Perhaps because of his relatively short working career, Wroblewski is relatively unknown, even today. His works are featured in the collections of many Polish museums and exhibitions. He is recognized by many as one of Poland's most prominent artists of the postwar era, with his distinctly individualistic approach to representational art.

Museum, 1956, Andrzej Wroblewski. The painting suggests
the difficulties European historians were still having in
coming to terms with WW II atrocities more than ten years
after the fighting ended.


No comments:

Post a Comment