Wladyslaw Strzeminski 1893-1952

--- The Open Wwork of the Master Builder

" The academic law of abiding by the norms established by all the late authorities, the law of obedient and passive endurance, the conservative and static law (and thus dead) - must be replaced by the rule of absolute creativity."
Wladyslaw Strzeminski,B=2, BLOK, 1924 no.8/9

Before he became an artist, Wladyslaw Strzeminski - a Pole from the borderland, of Roman-Catholic persuasion, graduate of the Tsar Alexander II Cadet School in Moscow and the Tsar Nicholaus I Military School of Engineering in Petersburg - underwent a course of studies which in the old days used to be called architectura militaris i.e. the studies comprising the building of fortifications, defences roads, bridges, and courses of transport planning. Second Lieutenant Strzeminski had to possess the ability to draft fortifications, he had to know topography, architecture, constructional drawings, and as an engineer he was expected to know how to translate axonometric drawings into real spatial objects; furthermore, he had to know German and French. During the World War I he was seriously and permanently injured, in 1917 he left the hospital in Moscow as a disabled person. As in the case of other soldiers and officers released from the barracks and discharged from the front after the February Revolution and before the October Revolution who crowded the cities of Russia - he found opportunities for the young, talented, and energetic. We can assume that he had not yet decided to become an artist, although whereas there was a natural creative impulse in him and the sense of possessing a talent.

In 1917 he must have come across Shchukin's collection of paintings from Impressionism to Cubism, and he surely knew also the collec- tions of old art (he might have seen them in Petersburg, when he was a student there); he displayed a knowledge of this art until the end of his life. It was then that he must have started painting Cubist pictures, since in 1919 Vsievolod Dimitriev wrote that he had given up painting with a brush and took up constructing. 1 He must have been a well-known artist at that time, when in May 1918, as an artist connected with the "left", like Kazimir Malevich, Antoine Pevsner, Vladimir Tatlin, Alexander Drevin, Sofia Dymshits-Tolstaia, Olga Rozanova, being the youngest and the only one without formal artistic education, he joined the Moscow Section of the IZO Narkompros. From 1917 to 1929 the head of Narkompros was Anatol Lunacharski. The Moscow section of IZO (visual arts) was headed by Vladimir Tatlin ; other artists were revolutionary and uncompromisingly dedicated to the new art (Cubism, Futurism, Suprematism), many of them were associated with the Bolshevik magazine ANARCHY, published in 1918. At that time a new system of museums was developed in IZO. Museums were to be collections of contemporary art, popularized all over Russia; the choice of an artist was to be made collectively (to avoid individual tastes) - but the choice of the work was left to the author. According to Malevich "the living matter of primary creativity pervades the country, stimulates the changes of life-forms and influences industrial productivity". Malevich formulated ten com- mandments with regard to the project of new museums, claiming that a war against academicism should be declared, that wide, artistic bodies should be formed to administer art in a new and innovative way, that a central museum of new art in Moscow should be founded, that commissars of new art should be appointed in the provinces, that one should agitate, publish and educate. Wladyslaw Strzeminski followed these principles in 1930-1932, when from the donations of many artists he founded the International Collection of Modern Art in the Muzeum Sztuki (Museum of Art) in Lodz.

--- In autumn 1918 one of Strzeminski's paintings was selected for the first, "basic" group of works of art, which was to become the nucleus of the Museum of Artistic Culture. Strzeminski's name is on the list of artists of various artistic movements, alongside with Popova, Shaposhnikov, Mien'kov, Vesnin, Mansurov, Alexandra Ekster, Matiushin, Filonov, Baranov-Rossine, Ermolaeva, Natan Altman. 2 Most likely at that time Strzeminski became the student of the Free Art Studios in Moscow (SVOMAS)3, where he studied for several months. He must have been a student of Malevich, Nadezhda Udaltzova (assistant to Malevich), Vladimir Tatlin. His other teachers would have included: Alexander Shevchenko, Petr Konchalovski, Vladimir Lebedev, Alexei Morgunov, Liubov Popova. The painters' studios at SVOMAS were independent of each other - it is possible that Strzeminski attended courses at several studios. This decision cannot have resulted from his unquenched desire to learn the artistic profession - we can assume that he was aware of his maturity; he joined the studios because he was looking for an opportunity for confrontation . It seems certain, however, that Strzeminski studied under the supervision of Malevich and Tatlin, especially when we take into account the significance of their artistic achievements and the earlier contacts between them and Strzeminski, at least in the IZO Narkompros.

The first known painting by Strzeminski was Still Life - a Plate (1918) - in the centre, a little to the right, a white circle, from the right, several surfaces overlap, brown, patterned (imitating a wall-paper), green, white. The painting expresses movement which derives from Cubism, but the composition is flat. Four paintings produced in 1919 have survived: the factural Still Life - closed by a geometric contour, the semi-transparent forms seem to be pinned to dynamic quadrangles - the painting is consistently Cubist; Meter, and Tools and Products of industry are assemblages, though the artist used here ready-made materials (ceramic safety-valves, strings, drills, sheet metal, cork) and despite the term "counter-relief" they are not Tatlin-like interventions into space, but a new, abstract, ordered reality, in which the painted fragments of the surface, numbers, and objects have a similar meaning - that of building. The work entitled Cubism - Tensions of the Material Structure survived only in a fragment, cut out by the author from the bigger whole in 1921 - it is a consistent abstract composition, in which the letter K, the fragments of reality, painted and added to the painting, are subordinated to the white patch painted "in the air", with a biological contour, it is therefore a composition of two realities - the "real" and "visible" one.

In 1919 Strzeminski joined UNOVIS 4, a group which resembled a quasi-religious brotherhood, a freemason's lodge, a commune, a school (as an idea, not as an institution), or - if we relate this term to uncompromising political parties - we can call it "an artistic party" Malevich was the spiritual and the actual leader of UNOVIS, the disciples were his proselytes and fellow-workers. The centre of the movement was in Vitebsk, where Malevich moved with El Lissitzky in November 1919, introduced to reform the art school directed by Marc Chagall. They thus introduced changes in the spirit of the ideas shared by the advocates of the New Art. Strzeminski must have come here together with Malevich. UNOVIS worked in a very dynamic way, in the field of education, occasional decorations, in the whole sphere of visual environment, theatre, exhibitions. In times of widespread poverty, the uncertain political situation, the communist revolution, numerous civil wars and the war with Poland, provincial towns such as Vitebsk, and then Smolensk, where Strzeminski worked as the representative of UNOVIS, seemed to be unusual, utopian islands of pure ideas, of the "spiritual world", where "the world of things will disappear, where colour, sound, letter and cube will create their own form"(Malevich). "Our system contributes to the development of Cubism, Futurism, Suprematism, because these movements represent the course of events leading to one creative sign. Cubism and Futurism eliminated the old world of things, and we have moved to the world without things, i.e. to the utter isolation from what is old, in order to join the Suprematist utilitarianism and the dynamically spiritual world of objects. . . Young people of the West, East, South, carry on to the red pole of the new earth, it is here that the banner of the new art waves" - these are the words taken from a pamphlet by the Creative committee of UNOVIS. 5 Strzeminski must have shared Malevich's ideas. Strzeminski work from the Smolensk period is not known - it seems that it did not resemble Suprematist art. The ROSTA poster with "Suprematist motifs" is only ascribed to Strzeminski. At that time even food coupons were decorated with Suprematist motifs. In 1946-48 when Strzeminski designed dress-silks, he used decorative "Unistic motifs"- in this he certainly manifested the total thinking typical of the members of UNOVIS. Strzeminski in Smolensk, having had some practice in drawing, continued in his own way the traditions of Cubism and Constructivism, choosing the two movements which seemed to him significant and creative, and as a teacher he started realizing his linear conception of the development of art.

--- After four years of artistic and organizational work, Strzeminski and his newly-wed wife - sculptress Katarzyna Kobro, graduate of the Second Free Studios in Moscow, author of Suprematist and spatial sculptures - decided to leave Russia and came to Poland in late 1921 or in early 1922. In May 1922 the Vitebsk-based UNOVIS practically ceased to exist; maybe there were reasons to assume that the Smolensk branch would also come to an end. Let us quote Lenin's words from 1921 : "Can we not find any anti-Futurists on whom we could rely?" 6 When he arrived in Poland in 1922-1923, Strzeminski defined his attitude to the situation in Russian art and politics, he wrote about the conditions of an agreement, to which he was opposed: "The existence of the new art is allowed only because the governing bodies expect some profits from it. In Russian conditions art exists as official art, or it does not exist at all ... Further development started by Malevich was almost totally stopped under pressure from Lunacharsky, who supported the Productvists with regard to the needs of Soviet Russia and did not understand the triviality of their slogans".7 Malevich's supporter left Russia.

Strzeminski arrived in Vilnius as an alien; a "Bolshevik"; uncompromising supporter of the new art; internationalist. He did not apply for the post in the classical-romantic department of Fine Arts at the Stefan Batory University, whose head was Ferdynand Ruszczyc. Strzeminski's subsequent jobs as a teacher in a number of provincial towns, and then in Lodz, show his UNOVIS belief that new art should be widely propagated, and that it is better if art is addressed to the young public. Since 1926 he taught design in the clothing industry, tapestry, functional typography and interior design. He did not teach any academic students before 1945. No matter what the education and the age of his students, Strzeminski carried out his programme Published in 1931 and modified since, yet within the framework of the chosen system: lines arranged on the surface, the arrangement of surfaces, the composition of divided surfaces, dynamics, energy, intensity, weight of colour, the architectural composition of a given surface, the facture of the painting, the objective facture of the materials, and in the case of clothing-design: relating the human figure to clothes in an architectonic rhythm, relating fashion and functional objects to architectural interiors. In this way Strzeminski managed, as he said himself, to break the stereotype of "decoration" 8 in 1926-1931 . It is an important remark, in the light of the Polish successes at the World Exhibition held in 1925 in Paris - the triumph of art-deco. From 1931, lecturing in Lodz on the principles of modern printing, he emphasized the necessity of understanding the meaning of the set text in order to preserve the unidirectional run of the sentence; to preserve the semantic groups. He taught how important it is to be attentive to the facture, to the colour of print achieved by means of shapes and sizes, to thickness and the distance between letters.9 His own functional print projects managed to integrate the meaning of a phrase with the graphic design so that they may even be called visual poetry. His book covers established a model for composition , where the letter is an important element of the structure e.g. Z ponad [From Above] by Julian Przybos, published in 1930). the principles of divisions, the impact of the colours, the architectural quality of surfaces were all ideas which Strzeminski taught to the students of interior design in the Lodz Higher School of Arts after 1945. He acknowledged the importance of all the subjects concerned with engineering (statics, knowledge of materials, mathematics, perspective drawing, draughtsmanship). He believed that education should be based on the history of art, he was convinced that by means of a practical analysis of different styles, by giving the students the idea of continuity, he would also let them penetrate the present day, for example: in the Baroque the continuity of the contour line is eliminated, Impressionism eliminates the continuity of local colour, 'Cubism forces us to accept the continuity of form and matter'. Strzeminski claimed that the most important problems are connected with building and the principle of contrasts. Cubism, as well as the knowledge of old art, was in this educational process the starting point - the goals were the principles according to which space is composed, the practical use of time-space rhythm, organization, the principles of contrasts.

Criticizing Bauhaus and Constructivist schools in Russia, Strzeminski wrote that: "The greatest shortcoming of the Productivist schools is the static understanding of art; art is treated here not as a process of becoming and growing, but as a fragment of a bigger whole; the whole is artificial and free from any links with what created it. Art is an unlimited development. Each complete whole has a definite number of combinations. After their exhaustion the system becomes impoverished and degenerated".10 Strzeminski's didactic process, being a part of his own artistic process, was dynamic and form-generating, since "each meaning, each different understanding of the world in general needs one unique new form, characteristic of it."

Immediately after coming to Poland Strzeminski summarized his Russian experiences in an article published in ZWROTNICA in 1922, he defined Suprematism as the only movement in art built on the balance adequate to the state of sciences: "Suprematism does not have a permanent measure (similarly with Einstein's theory which states that time has many dimensions). . . The meaning of Suprematism: an event, dynamic and cosmic, happening in an immeasurable space: the harmony of the universe of organic forms in its geometry. Malevich . . . arrived finally at the only possible way of composing geometric elements into one whole". 11 At the beginning of his career Strzeminski proposed the slogan: "forward without intermission" 12 and already in 1923 Suprematism seemed to him a "starting point" of "the perfect style of contemporary applied art" - the style of the present day. He designed - according to Suprematist principles - not an architecton nor plant, as Malevich did, but a model of a railway station, which remained unrealized just like Malevich's models, but was intended to have a practical function.

--- Since 1923 Strzeminski produced post-Suprematist paintings, he insisted that beauty was not his aim, although "the work of art is an ORGANIC VISUAL WHOLE and as a whole can be beautiful".13 And he then proceeded to eliminate Malevich's Suprematism: dynamism, all transcendental references, including Malevich's cosmology and time, and then a question follows which Strzeminski asked Malevich: "Forms as natural as nature"14 - but how must they be formed to make them as natural as nature? Strzeminski answered this, by suggesting that one should develop a system of objective perfection introducing organizational culture, constructing productivity and micrometric processes of the organization of labour (though he was deeply opposed to Tatlin's "materialism"). His way leads through tradition which supplies materials. The goal is a painting in which it is not Malevich's white square on white background that is expected to solve the problem of the painting, but the homogeneity defined by colour and form. First post-Suprematist paintings - this urge towards unity - circles on the factural background, irregular lines, as if (still) flying upwards, underlinings (the painting known from its reproduction in BLOK in 1924), green and yellow forms with irregular contours, a blue circle against the white background (Synthetic Composition 1, 1923) groupings of black squares (Composition - Construction, 1923), they have the power of organisms in which integrating processes take place. The first Unistic painting comes from 1925. The first five Unistic paintings have flat surfaces, they are smooth, and are nothing but colour ("not colour as a sign of Suprematist energy, but colour in its direct essence").15 The colour: warm or somewhat cool (it is easier to define the temperature than to give the name of the colour), is particularly transparent. Within this colour forms are suspended forms which contact each other or float away; with soft contours. The line is the limit of the colour, the paintings do not have a centrifugal structure. Towards the end of his text Unizm w malarstwie, Strzeminski wrote that one has to be aware of the evolution of modern painting from the dramatic quality of the Baroque to the Unistic conception of a painting as a painterly organism.16 Eight factural Unistic paintings produced up to 1934, are organisms built of a mass of forms and colours. In five of these paintings the particles of colour are formed regularly (so that they can be compared to the molecules seen through a microscope). They are grouped not for the effect of contrasts, but to link them. The eye can - with some effort - discover shades of rose colour, yellow in a warm or coolish tone, up to light celadon - the meaning is in a holistic view. The colour is sometimes made equally tense, by means of horizontal lines, its haradly visible boundaries create a contour of an asymmetric form; the tension of the colour creates sometimes irregularly arranged groups, mes the factural structure is so dense that the differences betweer the shades appear from under the surface only after a very close scrutiny. Unistic Compositions no. 13 and 14 solve the same problem in a different way - they are of solid colour (cool blue no. 14 and cool yellow no.13). The facture which forms the circles or the system of vertical undulating lines disperses in the centre of square paintings and concentrates regularly near the edge. The eye wanders deep into the painting and one can imagine that the composition may be continued infinitely both deep into the painting, and outside. These two paintings from 1934 stand at the end of Unistic experiments Unistic paintings answer the question asked of Malevich, whether artistic form can be as natural as nature. They are closed organisms inborn in the limits given by the "creator" - physical, visual, mental temporal. When the organism crossed the limits - Unism reached its end. According to Strzeminski's evolutionary theory, Unism, as earlier Suprematism, had been the goal and became the starting point.

Simultaneously with Unistic Compositions Strzeminski painted Architectural Compositions. The first of these was produced in 1926. In his text Unizm w malarstwie (Unism in Painting, first edition from 1927) Strzeminski wrote about constructing a painting by the uniform numeric expression of the whole, i.e. about referring the size of the first chosen dimension to the whole composition, emphasizing that the same rhythm of numeric proportions of the forms is its "truest link". In the book written together with his wife Katarzyna Kobro, Kompozyq: przestrzeni. Obliczenia rytmu czasoprzestrzennego (Space Composition. Time-space Rhythm and its Calculations) 17 the authors analyzed relations and numeric antirelations of architecture and sculpture of the past, and defined as their result contemporary, sculptura phenomenon of time-space rhythm. Strzeminski's education in engineering allowed him to calculate precisely the projective surfaces their divisions, modules and measures. Seventeen paintings form: series of Architectural Compositions, twelve of them have the size of 96x60 cm. These are surfaces of two or three elements. The relation between the fields depends on a series of natural numbers or the proportion of the 1 :2 division. There is a Chinese belief, supported by experience, that parts in their deepest layers separate by themselves.18 It seems that Strzeminski divided the surfaces according only to numeric relations, since the appearance of the whole is subordinated to the structure - and numeric dependencies can be read only later. What is important in the first glance is: similarity and difference groupings, layout, overlapping forms, straight or curved limits, contrast between the left and the right side, relation between the bottom and the upper part of the painting, etc. All these elementary features of architectonic paintings make us see them as another version of Unism - since no part of the structure can exist independently, the architectonic series succeeds only as a sequence of forms and colours. In opposition to Katarzyna Kobro's Space Compositions where the artist consistently eliminates the unity of the colour range in favour of elementary colours (her aim: to disrupt the cube), in the paintings, sequences and ranges are selected with great mastery. In the works of Mondrian's who uses elementary colours, e.g. red is different in each painting. In Strzeminski's paintings, shades are never repeated, colours are created sometimes by means of applying scumbling layers. Gradation within one painting is very subtle. E.g in the composition no. 14d - dark, almost black olive green is reflected in white, the phenomenon of simultaneous contrast appears only in one painting - no. 10 c, and is justified there by the particularly deep indentation of forms. The structure of the surfaces of colour is delicately, yet visibly, factural. The series belongs to the years 1926-1932, to the period of Strzeminski's most intense theoretical and artistic work.

--- In 1934 three paintings were produced (different in structure and size), in which the artist used again the system similar to the former "Unisms"- we can find here floating surfaces against the background of the colour which is related to them - but braced by the visible line as if in the foreground. Yet despite this the form disintegrates. His white composition (in the collection of the Museum in Stuttgart seems also to be such a disintegrated form - its factural line entwines it and makes it dynamic by contrast. Unism has within definitely reached its end .

In 1931 -1934 Strzeminski had painted a series of Seascapes and City -scapes of Lodz. In 1935 Leon Chwistek in a discussion with Strze minski expressed his satisfaction with the fact that he "moved a little towards reality".19 Strzeminski however had not departed from reality he created it - a different reality, the work of art is not a sign of anything, it is (it exists) by itself. 20 The sea and Lodz landscapes also exist by themselves. Strzeminski wrote in 1934 that "the most important effect of the period of pure art is the understanding that the perfect artistic form demands translation of the material elements of nature into artistic equivalents. . . the unity of artistic vision" 21 - when no Unistic paintings were to be produced. The sea and Lodz landscapes introduce the element of time, they are painted sometimes day after day, the dates of their production were scrupulously written down by the artist. He was aware of the time-space activity of vision, the complex penetration of the elements of space and time, he made them "the rhythm of the whole as a fluid continuity of irregular symmetry".22

In the discussion with Chwistek, Strzeminski maintained that repeating reality is equally distanced from life as its transformation and organization in art. "The work of art is the expression of the social and cultural aims of the artist, sublimated and translated into artistic forms" wrote Strzeminski opposing the biologism of Chwistek.23 Slmilar condensation of form as in a painting can be achieved in a functional object. And as if prolonging the discourse Strzeminski wrote in 1936 about the need to build a form and about its association with human activities; about the links between art, technology and the whole complex of productive processes; about scientific methods of investigating the form and its objective verifiable massive influence; about the need not to express the feelings of an individual but to organize the life-functions of a society in a utilitarian way by means of art. Opposing Russian Productivism, the left-wing utilitarianism of Szczuka and Zarnower, functionalism (understood by him as consumptionism) of the architects from the group Praesens - Strzeminski saw such an alternative for the society of the 1930's.

In his text from 1936, written after the painting of his last works before the war, Strzeminski wrote that his paintings hitherto had looked as if "human beings were exclusively visual beings - one great eye observing purely visual impressions. . . receiving all impulses from the process of seeing. We know that it is not so. (my underlining - J .L. Apart from sight there is the world of other senses, emotions, thoughts which have nothing to do with sight. . . These experiences - reflexes of the subconscious and the subconscious associations of images fill the free space between purely visual moments Under the influence of the subconscious association of images the visual content is deformed. The visual content, invaded by non-visual experiences transforms itself and creates an intricate tangle of elements which characterize the psychic life of each individual." 24 The lithographs from the portfolio Lodz bez funkcjonalizmu (Lodz without Functionalism) from 1936 as well as the drawings from 1939-1945 - soft contours delineating human figures as spilt drops, a crippled anonymous crowd, houses like moving ant-hills (contours filled with tiny forms of holes) - traces of existence. "Human reality, the final truth and the basis of being is the pulse of blood and the uncontrolled movement of psycho-physiological images" - Strzeminski wrote prophetically in 1936. These works, inspired without any doubt by Hans Arp's drawings, became more dramatic. The summary can be found in the cycle To My Friends the Jews, from 1945, in which the artist juxtaposed documentary photographs and drawings with dramatic titles. The cycles of drawings and collages produced during the war do not refer to the visual reality, they manifest pure emotion coming from the inside, but inspired by the situation. Because Strzeminski's situation in occupied Lodz - in Litzmannstadt incorporated into the Reich, the humiliated city - was mortifying. There was no alternative to utilitarian, rational and constructive solutions. After 1945 Strzeminski did not return to the horrors of war, only in the words of an unfinished and unpublished novel.

The alternative to utilitarian activities appeared in his teaching at the Higher School of Arts in Lodz. In 1947 and 1948 he presented his opinions on the issues of the new architecture and urban planning in Lodz. He suggested concrete solutions (though today perhaps slightly unreal in their technological aspect), which were to provide the citizens of Lodz with housing space, clean air, the sun, and a quiet atmosphere in their houses; free ventilation, convenient transport to the place of their work, access to nature, easy supply of raw materials, and the ability to collect products straight from the producers; optical impressions "organizing psyche in the direction of intensifying the optimism and productive abilities" 25 It is striking to see how enthusiastic Strzeminski was about the changes which were happening at that time in Poland. There was hope that social utopias might eventually come true. In 1948 the artist designed and realized the Neoplastic Room in the Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz; it recapitulated Strzeminski unrealized ideas of new architecture - the arrangement of colour surfaces (elementary colours) was subordinated to the architecture of the room, and designed in such a way that it could achieve balance. The hall, included in the suite of exhibition rooms was, and still is, the place where the Museum exhibits the paintings of the International Collection of Modern Art, started in 1931 thanks to Strzeminski and the "a.r." group founded by the artist. Among the authors of the exhibited paintings we can find: Theo van Doesburg, Georges Vantongerloo, Vilmos Huszar, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, and above all Katarzyna Kobro, represented here by her spatial sculptures; the laboratories of the new architecture The Neoplastic Room designed as an exhibition room is an intersection of utopian architecture and didactic assumptions, it is the link between the "heroic" decade of the 1920's and the reality and prose of the 1940's. It was created in a vacuum which surrounded at that time all phenomena of abstract and geometric art. Strzeminski himself returned to the issues of Constructivism Neoplasticism and Unism only in his theoretical lectures. The Neoplastic Room was destroyed in 1950, when the original design on the walls was covered with paint, in order to obliterate the traces of the artist's existence in the period of the socialist-realism doctrine. It was reconstructed with great care in 1960.26

--- In 1945-1948 Strzeminski made many drawings: mountain and forest landscapes. The mountain landscapes were compositions of softly undulating lines, the forest landscapes were composed vertically and dynamically. In these landscapes Strzeminski gradually returns to abstract visuality In 1948 he produced a series of drawings of Greek torsos and sculptures, in which the multiplied line of the drawing emphasized the cubical form. A few drawings from that time have survived in which in a very special way the artist crosses the threshold of realism, eliminating gradually the corporeal character of the human figure, retaining the geometric record of the movement. In 1945-50 Strzeminski painted and drew studies and sketches for the painting Harvesters, drawings of peasants - Smallholders, and a series Textile Workers and Women in Textile Mills. These are individual or multiplied figures, drawn from nature in Lodz factories The line breaks, multiplies rhythmically, tangles in central points, acute angles appear. By the use of these devices Strzeminski wanted to show the connection between man and machine. In his text Cztowiek i maszyna w malarstwie (Man and Machine in Painting) (the last text that he published) Strzeminski advocates looking for the art of the new epoch which socialism was to become; looking for aesthetics different from the Futuristic cult of the machine. Let us call it the realism of cognition .27

After-images of the Sun were created in 1948-1949. The artist liberates himself again from the bonds of form. In these paintings Strzeminski departed from the language and the codes of Constructivism so radically, that we can assume that he, the artist of the avant-garde, despite the isolation of his art, and especially during the last period of his career, moved away from the ambitious yet obligatory bonds towards biology, ecology, existence. At the same time Georges Vantongerloo accepted the same challenge leaving behind his passion for mathematics and geometry in favour of the quest for the chances of art in natural history and becoming "the explorer of the aurora borealis".

. At the beginning of his career Strzeminski turned towards Cubism He had a deeply held belief about the evolutionary development of art and already in his notes on Russian art he differentiated between the Cubism of Picasso, who "stopped after having found all possible consequences from the object in order to saturate the painting with form" and Malevich who developed "objective cubism". Strzeminski treats Cubism as a transitory phenomenon , the crossroads, the art of yesterday, which is capable of producing only the style of contemporary applied art. He saw in Cubism the immanent features of modern art: the contrasts of factures, the differences of shapes, the linking of the cubes by making them penetrate each other, the structure i.e. the connection of forms, going beyond the boundaries of objects - and as a result achieving the continuity of matter and form; the organization of form (as in Cezanne) ; getting away from the "over-spiritualized void of romantic dreams", the analysis of form which leads to purely artistic qualities; lines which close in a composition. In his texts Unizm w malartwie (Unism in Painting) and Kompozycja przestrzeni(Space Composition) - Cubism is seen as an important yet transitory stage towards Suprematism and Unism. Despite or maybe due to these theoretical remarks, Strzeminski throughout his life painted and drew Cubist compositions, landscapes and still-lifes: Cezanne-like, analytical, monochromatic, colour, factural, flat. While Picasso, Braque, Malevich, Mondrian, and Polish artists such as Staiewski left and never returned to Cubism, for Strzeminski it was the starting point of his own evolution. He analyzed, experimented, studied again, asked the students to go through the lessons of Cubism. We can assume that for Strzeminski Cubism was what a running-start is for a sportsman. Cubism, as if it were a net, is present in all stages of his artistic career. Contrary to his respected principle of diachronic development of art, Cubism was to Strzeminski a material, a part of the synchronic structure.

Strzeminski, painter, theoretician, the teacher of the constructive synchrony of art, organizer, husband, father, uncompromising man and the man who made mistakes, loved by some, hated and misun- derstood by others, was an absolute creator.

Janina Ladnowska -July, 1993


  1. Dimitriev writes about the co-operation with Strzeminski in Minsk (where he was delegated by Tatlin) in decorating the city. See: J Zagrodzki, Katarzyna Kobro i kompozyqa przestrzeni, Warszawa 1984, p. 32.
  2. S. Dzhafarova, The Creation of the Museum of Painterly Culture, (in: the catalogue of the exhibition) Great Utopia, The Guggenheim Museum, New York 1992, pp 474-481
  3. N. Adaskina, The Place of Vkhutemas in the Russian Avant-Garde, see note 2, pp. 282-293.
  4. A. Shatskikh Unovis. Epicenter of a New World, see note 2, pp. 53- 64.
  5. Od Unowisu, in: LA Zadowa, Poszukiwania i eksperymenty. Z dziejow sztuki rosyjskiej i radzieckiej lat 1910-1930, Warszawa 1982, pp. 299-301
  6. Lenin's letter to Mikhail Pokrovski, who was delegated by the Parly to control Gosizdat, protesting against the publication of the book 150 000 000 by Mayakovsky. See: W. Woroszylski, Zycie Majakowskiego, Vlarszawa 1983, p. 331
  7. W. Strzeminski, 0 sztuce rosyjskiej. Notatki, ZwaoirvicA 1923 no 4, p 114.
  8. W. Strzeminski, Architektonizm mody, 1931 no 819, p342-343; also: Sztuka nowoczesna a szkoly artystyczne, Architektonizm i Budownictwo 1932, no 3, pp258-278
  9. W. Strzeminski Druk funkq'onalny, GRAFIKA, 1933, no 2, pp 37-45
  10. W. Strzeminski, Sztuka nowoczesna a szkoly attystyczne, DROGA, 1932 no 3, pp 258-78
  11. W. Strzeminski, 0 sztuce rosyjskiej Notatki ZWROTNICA, 1923 no 4, p 110
  12. W. Strzeminski, Okreslam sztukg.., in : Katalog Wystawy Nowej Sztuki, Vlilno 1923, p. 21
  13. W. Strzeminski, [o nowejsztuce], BLOK, 1924 no 2, p 2.
  14. W. Strzeminski, B=2, BLOK, 1924 no. 8- 9, p. 17
  15. W. Strzeminski, B=2, op cit p18
  16. W. Strzeminski, Dualizm i unizm, DROCA, 1927 no 617, p 225
  17. K. Kobro, Vl Strzeminski, Kompozycja przestrzeni Obliczenia rytmu czasoprzestrzennego, Lodz 1931 The book was written in 1927-1929.
  18. R Arnheim, Sztuka ipercepqa wzrokowa, Warszawa 1978, p 87
  19. Dyskusja L. Chwistek - W Strzeminski, FORMA, 1935 no 3, p 4
  20. W. Strzeminski, [o nowejsztuce], op. cit, p 2
  21. W. Strzeminski, Magicznosc i postgp, GAZETA ARTYSTOW, 1934 no 12, p. 1 -2
  22. W. Strzeminski, [komentarz do obrazu], FORMA, 1935 no. 3, p. 17 Video-films made in 1980's and 1990's by Zygmunt Rytka show sand smoothed by the water, the movement of the shadow on the water. I refer to these films for their beautiful simplicity and unexpected visual analogy with Strzeminski's sea sea-capes. Neither Strzeminski imitated nature, nor Rytka imitated Strzeminski. This simple natural phenomenon linked them both.
  23. Dyskusja L. Chwistek - W. Strzeminski, op.cit, p 8
  24. W. Strzeminski, Aspekty rzeczywistosci, FORMA 1936, no 5, p8
  25. W. Strzeminski, Lodz sfunkcjonalizowana, MYSL WSPOLCZESNA, 1947 no. 11; also 0 przyszlosci naszych miast i osieal i, WIES 1948, no 26,; Obraz Lodzi kapitalistycznej, WIES, 1948 no 32-33
  26. J. Ladnowska, Sala neoplastyczna. Z dziejow kolekcji sztuki nowoczesnej w Muzeum Sztuki w Lodzi, in: Miejsce sztuki, Lodi 1991 , pp 71-80
  27. Strzeminski's drawings from 1939-1950 included in thematic cycles (eg. West Byelorussia, 1939), and individual works were produced originally on tracing paper. Then the artist impressed them onto the usually soft paper, and delineated the contour with a pencilled line. He designed his own "alphabet" of forms Sometimes on one sheet of tracing paper there are forms used in works separated by the period of several years There are also combinations of forms. One cannot treat however the matrixes of the drawings as if they were graphic plates. ldentical drawings happen only very rarely This method allowed the artist to achieve the greatest possible synthesis of forms.

Strzeminski's Table of Contents -

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