Year XXIV, Nr. 197 (7198), SUNDAY, 22 AUGUST, 1976
THE PEOPLE FROM OUR CITY
CHARM OF FLOWERS,
BEAUTY OF LANDSCAPES
A painter’s atelier. The invigorating odor penetrates through the open windows, and blending with the smell of freshly diluted paint creates an amazing constructive atmosphere. Canvassses on the walls, on the easels. Not a very tall slim old man is standing by one of the canvasses, with a palette and a brush in his hand. Gently, he applies paint on it, steps backwards a little, looks at it under perspective and then another stroke with the brush follows. He is absorbed in the mystery of creation.
I don’t really want to disturb him but it is time that I introduce to the Readers the owner of the garden and the atelier. This is Czeslaw Znamierowski, a plastic artist, famous and appreciated not only in our republic but also in many countries abroad.
- There is such a harmony of colours and smells here that I do not know from where exactly to start.
- Let’s start from the beginning.
- In this connection, when did you get this love for painting?
- Since my childhood. My house in Zacisze (Latvian SSR), where I was born, was always abundant in flowers. My mother, a teacher in music and singing, adored art. She herself, painted as well.
- And under her influence you took the brush?
- Yes. First attempts were by the way not very successful but they bore that willingness to reveal the surrounding world through the means of colours. I remember I often used to observe the work of the local painter Mr. Hofman. He was making good reproductions. I aksed him to teach me. – You are too young – he said.
- In the meantime you were growing…
- I painted. After I enrolled in high school, in Dzwinsk, my aunt A. Bobrowicz, also a painter, started to take care of my education. There I met A. Pliszko, a student from the Arts Academy in Petersburg, who apparently saw something in my works and invited me to Petersburg. I did not hesitate much, I sold my bicycle, with the cash collected I bought a railway ticket and in 1911 I found myself in a building at Moika where the School of the Association at Zacheta National Art Gallery was. Then Rerich used to be its head-master and lectures were read by Dmochowski, Chimona and other well-known artists. The 5-year course I completed within two years.
- Such a talent is to be envied.
- Yes, I was talented then but my works did not give me satisfaction. Extremely precisely I was composing the painting, meticulously finishing off the smallest details. I remember that Dmochowski always said: “you have to paint broadly, not as if you are making an orengburska bandana”. I then decided I will continue further my education and in 1913 I was accepted in the Higher School at the Arts Academy, and after a year of studies I had to withdraw because of a difficult family situation and had to go back to our farm. After a year of interruption I went back to continue my studies, but I did not manage to graduate this time either. It was 1917. The revolution burst out. I could not be indifferent to what was fermenting everyone else. In Zacisze I was carrying out propaganda among the peasantry and was appointed a secretary of the Communal Committee of peasants in misery. In January 1918 the white guardsmen arrested me, I was running the danger of being executed, I hardly saved my life. Possible imprisonment, however, could not hold me from further actions.
In Ludze (Latvian SRR) I became president of the “Proletariat”. I was writing short drama plays, which I was later performing on stage. When the Soviet power crushed, I was arrested again. It was a serious problem, but thanks to the efforts of my family I was released.
- And what about painting?
- It was exactly painting that took me to Vilnius. I heard Ruszczyc was running the Faculty of Painting in the University and decided to continue my studies with him. My mother and I sold off our property and in October 1926 we arrived in Vilnius. Ruszczyc saw my works and assessed them very favourably. I was accepted as a third year student. I attended landscape classes at Ruszczyc’ workshop, and from time to time at Sledzinki’s where I was making efforts as a portraitist. In 1929 I initiated the preparation of a political composition for my diploma thesis. Ruszczyc and Sledzinski estimated my intentions very critically. Too much politics – they said. What should I have done if these were my persuasions.
- Did you give up your diploma?
- Yes. It is talent that is important, not diploma. In the same year I organized an author’s exhibition of 40 of my works. It was successful. Ruszczyc also saw it, later he said: “You draw too well. In painting it is colour that matters.”
- Did you comply with this in your next works?
- I started to paint more often outdoors because this sharpens the observational skills for the shades in light and colour combinations. My paintings I sent to the hall of Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw. In 1931 I got an honour prize, and in 1932 in a contest in Krakow I obtained an Honorary Diploma for my landscape painting “Before rain”. In 1933, again with my canvass “Before rain”, in Zacheta National Gallery of Art I achieved a bronze medal. These are landscapes showing a realistic tendency. In 1933 I established the Vilnius Association of Independent Plastic Artists which had the purpose to propagandize realistic art. I am an adherent to this tendency today as well.
- On what are you currently working?
- Literally, in this moment the easel is taken by my landscape “Waterfall”. Besides this I am preparing an exhibition sale in the Warsaw Art Gallery which will take place in the middle of September. I organize such exhibitions very often. This year I will expose 50 canvasses. Other painters have asked me many times why I price them so low. I just want them to be reasonable for everyone.
A scarce part of Czeslaw Znamierowski’s canvasses are in his atelier. Here are only the most valuable ones for the painter, in whose creation he experienced biggest joy and these, on which he currently works. The rest are part of private collections and museums not only in our republic but also abroad: in Poland, Canada, Spain and France. If we put them together in one place there will make a big gallery. For at this moment the artist is the author of more than 3 000 paintings. Most of them are landscapes with which he subtly shows the countryside beauty of the Vilnius region, he abstracts from it what hides from the naked eye but delights on the canvass. He is one of the few panoramic landscape painters in our republic. His biggest canvass [8m x 2.5m], called “Panorama from Vilnius City” was exhibited in a Lithuanian pavilion on WOGN.
Another realm of Czeslaw Znamierowski’s works is portrait painting. In his achievement, the artist and painter has 5 author’s expositions on which he had canvasses showing different periods, and also different types of his creation work. In 1965 he was granted the title of an Honoured Worker of Art of the Lithuanian SRR Culture.
The garden in front of his house is another piece of art he created. All flowers there he has planted and cares of himself. Usually he spends here every free minute he has when not making art. May be this is where he gets inspiration from? We thank for the nice conversation and wish him that inspiration never leaves him.
Interviewer: H. JUCHNIEWICZ
Photo: G. Jakubowski
Translated from: Polish
Library reference card: