Van Gogh from Czortków Van Gogh from Czortków
“Po pracy”, linocut/paper. Photo from DESA Unicum

Van Gogh from Czortków

The Life of Leopold Lewicki
Zbigniew Libera
time 10 minutes

Leopold Lewicki’s talent was immediately spotted by the critics. They appreciated not only his innovative canvases, but also his grotesque prints, stylized to look as if created by a child. One of the critics even compared the artist to van Gogh.

Leopold Lewicki was born on 7th August 1906 in the village of Burdiakowce (modern-day Burdyakivtsi in Ukraine), not far from Czortków (Chortkiv) in the Tarnopol (Ternopil) Voivodeship, where his father Jan Lewicki was a blacksmith in the estate of Count Gołuchowski. Jan later worked as a metalworker in a railway depot, which was quite useful for Lelek – under which name the young Leopold was known – because, as a national railway worker’s family member, he was entitled to free train travel within the borders of the Polish state. Leopold’s mother – Olga, née Bluss – came from a Ukrainian family, and one of his grandmothers was Jewish. As a grown man, Leopold married Henia, daughter of Benzion Nadler from Czortków, and by doing this, he brought together the then three main blood strands of the historic Podolia region (in what is now western and central Ukraine).

Stanisław Osostowicz, "Portret Leopolda Lewickiego", ok. 1930 r.; ze zbiorów Muzeum Narodowego w Warszawie
Stanisław Osostowicz, “Portret Leopolda Lewickiego”, ok. 1930 r.; ze zbiorów Muzeum Narodowego w Warszawie

In autumn of 1925, after graduating from the Juliusz Słowacki Gymnasium in Czortków, Lewicki began his studies in Kraków. At first, he enrolled at the Law Department of the Jagiellonian University, but in the end decided to study at the Academy of Fine Arts. He was a student of Władysław Jarocki and Józef Mehoffer. At the turn of 1930 and 1931, he went to Paris to continues his studies under Józef Pankiewicz


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In Saturn’s Embraces In Saturn’s Embraces
Teofil Ociepka, “Miner in the Forest”, 1956. Photo from the collection of the National Museum of Ethnography in Warsaw

In Saturn’s Embraces

The Life of Teofil Ociepka
Zbigniew Libera

Teofil Ociepka found himself living and painting under the protective wings of the Polish United Workers’ Party, but in fact his art was created under the auspices of more immaterial realms.

He was born in 1892 in Janów, near Katowice [at the time, part of the German Empire, with a high proportion of ethnic Poles – ed. note]. Teofil’s father was a miner in the ‘Kaiser’ coal-mine in Giesche (renamed ‘Wieczorek’ in 1946 to commemorate a workers’ movement activist and Silesian uprising fighter). Teofil’s mother worked as a housekeeper for the Mayor of nearby Szopienice. Little Teofil, like his peers, went to a primary Volksschule, intended for autochthonous residents of Upper Silesia. When the boy turned 14, his father died in an accident underground, and Teofil had to go to work to help his mother in supporting the family. Because he was too slender to work in the mine, he tried his hand at being a municipal messenger, then he worked in an inn, at a post office, a railway, and finally as a clerk.

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