Originally published January 18, 2009
On December 6, 1985, Poland issued a 5 stamp set of Paintings by the Polish artist Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz. Witkiewicz was born in Warsaw on February 24, 1885. He was the son of architect and art critic Stanislaw Witkiewicz and his Godmother was the internationally famous actress Helena Modrzejewska.
Witkacy, as he liked to be called, was homeschooled as a child and was encouraged to pursue interests in many fields. After an early tragedy in his life, he was asked to travel to Oceania to act as a draftsman and photographer. Whether he went is in dispute as it was probably interrupted by World War I. On his return he enlisted as an officer in the Imperial Russian Army. He lived through the Russian Revolution while he was in St. Petersburg.
Witkacy was determined to be an artist and some of his earlier work received critical attention. He was also known as a photographer, playwright, philosopher and novelist.
His self-portrait completed in 1931 is pictured on the 10 zloty stamp.
Witkacy was a member of the Polish avant-garde artists called the Formists. He also opened the Portrait Firm which was a commercial enterprise where he painted portraits based on customer specifications often under the influence of Narcotics.
The 5 zloty stamp features the painting “Marysia and Burek in Ceylon”. It was completed between 1920-21 and was done in oil. It is in the National Museum of Cracow. The second 10 zloty stamp features the painting “Woman with a fox”.
Completed in 1917, Witkacy’s “Compositions” is on the 20 zloty stamp. The final stamp in the set is the 25 zloty value featuring the “Portrait of Nena Stachurska” which was done by Witkacy’s Portrait Firm in 1929. It is currently housed in the Tatra Museum. During his life, he wrote 3 novels that have been translated into English. He also wrote over 40 plays 21 of which still survive.
After the invasion of Poland in World War II, he escaped to eastern Poland with his lover. After the Russian invasion later in September 1939, Witkacy committed suicide.
It wasn’t until after the war that Witkacy’s reputation started to shine. Several Polish writers brought his works to the forefront at home and internationally. His play “The Crazy Locomotive” won an Obie.
In an ironic twist, while under communist rule, the Polish Culture Ministry decided to relocate Witkacy’s remains to his town of birth for a solemn burial. 50 years after the publication of his last novel genetic testing discovered that the remains were actually that of an unknown Ukranian woman.
Wikipedia. Stanislaw_Ignacy_Witkiewicz. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanis%C5%82aw_Ignacy_Witkiewicz
Culture.pl. Polish culture: Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy). http://www.culture.pl/en/culture/artykuly/os_witkiewicz_stanislaw_ignacy
Mark Rudnicki & Info Poland. Witkacy: Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz 1885-1939 by. http://info-poland.buffalo.edu/classroom/witkacy/witkacy.html