Polish Surrealisms and the ‘Ideosis’ of art history (Streng – Modern Kraków Artists – Żarnower)
(Streng – „nowocześni” – Żarnower)


The following essay addresses a problem of Polish surrealism and its discursive representation in the indigenous art history. Since within this discourse surrealist artistic practice is commonly related to so-called ‘metaphorical painting’ of Tadeusz Kantor’s circle in Kraków of the 1940s, the main aim of the article is to deconstruct this monolithic view of the problem and underline the plurality of historically/contextually different surrealist experiences in Polish visual arts.
In the first part of the article the author analyses the case of pre-war surrealism (dominant in Lviv avant-garde circles in the turn of the 1920s) and compares how it was living in the memories of artists of Kraków and Warsaw two decades later. He also inquires about (political) reasons for which it was almost erased as a starting point for Kantor and others in the 1940s.
The second part of the article is devoted to comparative analysis of three artists whose surrealist oeuvre differ historically and geographically: Tadeusz Kantor’s paintings inspired by his travel to Paris in 1947 (ca 1947–1955), Teresa Żarnower’s gouaches (ca 1944–1949) created in the postwar New York, and Henryk Streng’s drawings and paintings from his Lviv period (1929–1931), partially being a result of his previous studies in Paris of the 1920s.
In terms of methodology the article is based on Andrzej Turowski’s concept of ‘Ideosis’, understood as the power of the text (art-historical discourse), and Piotr Piotrowski’s ‘horizontal art history’, which both problematise the tensions and connections between centress and peripheries.

This article is only available as an abstract in the English version of our magazine.


Piotr Słodkowski


Piotr Słodkowski, PhD, assistant professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Author of the book Modernizm żydowsko-polski. Henryk Streng/Marek Włodarski a historia sztuki [Jewish-Polish Modernism. Henryk Streng/Marek Włodarski and Art History] (2019), which was awarded prizes by the “Polityka” weekly (2019) and Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw (2020). He co-edited Czas debat. Antologia krytyki artystycznej z 1945–1954 [Time of Debate. An Anthology of Polish Art Criticism, 1945–1954]. His research focuses on Polish art after 1939 and the complex relations between the Holocaust, modernism, postwar ‘engaged art’ and socialist realism. Currently he is working on the artistic practice of Marek Oberländer.