Artophilia  •  1726   •  16 February 2018

10 things you did not know about Zdzisław Beksiński


Zdzisław Beksiński is one of the most famous Polish painters of the twentieth century. His surreal visions of nightmares, death and passing have become a permanent part of Polish culture. Is there anything else you can discover about this popular artist? We present 10 interesting facts about Zdzisław Beksiński.

Zdzisław Beksiński

Zdzisław Beksiński Self-portrait, source: Muzeum Historyczne w Sanoku

1. Beksiński graduated from architecture at the AGH University of Science and Technology in Cracow.

Zdzisław Beksiński

Zdzisław Beksiński as a student, source: Muzeum Historyczne w Sanoku

After high school graduation, he applied for both architecture and fine arts. However, he chose the architect’s career path and after many years he said: “That’s why I hated architecture so much that architecture is a plan, a project and a boring as a mechanical saw execution”.

2. During 1959-1970 he worked at “Autosan” (Polish bus and coach manufacturer) as a so-called visual artist, a person responsible for bus design.

Most of his projects, after creating prototypes, did not enter into production. He worked part-time for six hours a day and he had free Saturdays. He devoted the remaining time to his artistic activity.

Zdzisław Beksiński

SFW-1 „Sanok” (project by Beksiński), source: Muzeum Historyczne w Sanoku

3. Photography.

Despite the fact that currently Zdzisław Beksiński is known mainly as a painter, his career began with photography. Formally he even belonged to the Polish Photographic Society in Sanok since 1955, and three years later he also joined the Union of Polish Art Photographers (ID number – 237).

4. He refused to accept a six-month scholarship of the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1961.

In 1960, the International Association of Art Critics (AICA) took place in Poland. As part of it, invited critics from around the world also visited Cracow and the biennial dedicated to graphics, the exhibition of folk art and painting which were prepared for this occasion. One of the exhibitions was prepared by the Polish member of AICA Janusz Bogucki and Zdzisław Beksiński took part in it. The exhibition was visited by the president of AICA and the director of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, James Johnson Sweeney, and probably he offered Beksiński a scholarship. However, the artist refused to leave Poland.

After a few years, he said: “I refuse to travel, which (Bogucki) does not understand, because like every Pole, he wants to travel and to have a car and thinks that everyone must have the same. (…) And I just want to tinker, and I have a eudaimonistic point of view and I used to do what I like and not what I need.”

5. He suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder since his youth.

Neuroses have changed over the years, but one remained constant: “my life is dominated by a neurotic diarrhea, and that’s it. Hence my reluctance to travel and it remains indifferent whether the journey concerns deportation to Siberia or yacht trips around the world. (…) EVERYTHING that separates me from the BASE (which is a house or an apartment that I own) exposes me to a specific conditioned nervous tension “. For this reason, he tried to avoid any changes, travels, unannounced visits or unexpected events as often as possible.

Zdzisław Beksiński

Zdzisław Beksiński Self-portrait XIII, source: Muzeum Historyczne w Sanoku

6. He was passionate about computers.

His interest began in 1986 with Casio minicomputers, and since then he was buying every new product entering the IT market, and he distributed older items to his family and friends. In Poland of that time, he had the most modern equipment, and his knowledge was comparable to the expertise of qualified IT specialists.

Zdzisław Beksiński

Zdzisław Beksiński, source: Muzeum Historyczne w Sanoku

7. He was experimenting and creating art using new technologies. He started with a photocopying technique.

As he described it himself: “I photocopied some drawn things, then I covered some fragments with white or black paint and I photocopied them again, etc. With time, thirty prints led to the thirty first one, which was the final print. This allowed you to make some variants. For example, there were characters that had some common elements, but the rest were different. A whole cycle of figures sitting and talking was created. ”

Zdzisław Beksiński

Zdzisław Beksiński in his studio, source: Muzeum Historyczne w Sanoku

Despite an initial skepticism, Beksiński exhibited pictures in Tadeusz Nyczek’s gallery and earned over PLN 40 million on them. Another new form was a photomontage. Beksiński photographed various fragments of reality while hoping that later they would be useful for creating photomontages. Five photomontage exhibitions were held in Poland, but no one was interested in buying them. Beksiński distributed floppies for free with his works.

8. ‘Domestic animals’.

Zdzisław Beksiński was a very prolific artist, usually creating several dozens of works a year. Most of them he sold or tried to sell or give away to family and friends. However, he left some of them for himself hanging them on the walls of his flat or of apartment of his son Tomasz. He called this private collection “domestic animals”.

Zdzisław Beksiński

source: Muzeum Historyczne w Sanoku

9. Beksiński did not participate in his vernissages.

“Hundreds, if not thousands of times, I have emphasized that I do not go to the openings of my own and not my own exhibitions, because it is a terrible stress for me! I cannot stand such situations. ” However, he did not have a bigger problem with interviews: he was interviewed at least once each year.

Zdzisław Beksiński

Zdzisław Beksiński No title | 1988

10. Music.

The artist’s studio was always equipped with a music-sound system, which Beksiński liked to listen to loudly and even very loudly. In the mid-1970s, he built his own recording studio in his home in Sanok. He almost always created with music, and a few years later he started wearing a hearing aid.

Zdzisław Beksiński

Zdzisław Beksiński, c. 1962, source: Muzeum Historyczne w Sanoku

“When I paint while listening to pop music, I make movements with my torso, which hinders my work, seemingly senseless; nevertheless, turning off the sound system creates a feeling of lack of something, without which you cannot work. And that is why it does not matter what I paint – what is important is what I cannot express in words, but I hope I can express it in some of the best paintings. Some kind of indeterminate, but (…) existing exultation, which is most strongly present in post-Wagner’s music.”

Author: Anna Dąbrowska


translated from Polish by Karolina Prawdzik

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