Andrzej Turowski

Andrzej Turowski is a critic and art historian, professor emeritus of modern art history at the Department of Art History and Archaeology at the University of Burgundy in Dijon, France. His research focuses on the history and ideology of the avant-garde in Central Europe, Russia and France in the 20th and 21st centuries. He is the author of several hundred academic dissertations and critical articles, published in many languages, and of twelve books, among them: W kręgu konstruktywizmu (In the circle of Constructivism) (Warsaw, 1979); Konstruktywizm polski. Próba rekonstrukcji nurtu (1921–1934) (Polish Constructivism. Towards the reconstruction of the tendency) (Wrocław 1981); Existe-t-il un art de l’Europe de l’Est? (Paris, 1986); Wielka utopia awangardy (The Great Utopia of the Avant-Garde) (Warsaw, 1990); Budowniczowie świata. Z dziejów radykalnego modernizmu w sztuce polskiej (Constructors of the World. A history of radical modernism in Polish Art) (Kraków, 2000); Malewicz w Warszawie: rekonstrukcje i symulacje (Malevich in Warsaw: reconstructions and simulations) (Kraków, 2002)He is the curator of many exhibitions, among others: Fin des temps ! L’histoire n’est plus (Toulon, 2004); Maranatha (Poznań and Warsaw, 2006); Awake and Dream and Particolare (Venice, 2009, 2011); Theory of Vision: a Review (Warsaw, 2010). The text that follows is a chapter from his forthcoming book Radykalne oko. Awangarda XX wieku w Polsce, being prepared for publication by Wydawnictwo“Słowo/obraz terytoria” in Gdańsk. It is a reworked version of a chapter of the same title published in his monograph Budowniczowie świata. Turowski offers an overview of the particularities of successive developments in Polish avant-garde art of the 1910s, arguing that, just as the Polish Dada discourse was specifically characterised by its symbiotic nature, its parasitic existence within Futurism, its traces within Expressionism, this same form of parasitism characterised the Polish avant-garde project as a whole. Polish art, he writes, ‘oscillated between the universalism of linear, historiographical utopias and the particularism of agendas whose artistic solutions were determined by a concrete history’. (KKW)


Andrzej Turowski


The question of the role of Cubism and Futurism in Polish art cannot be reduced to that of its relations with a radiating centre, whether Parisian or Italian. Cubist and Futurist discourses of the first decades of the twentieth century were entangled in modernist ideologies, which, in Polish art, oscillated between the universalism of linear, historiographical utopias and the particularism of agendas whose artistic solutions were determined by a concrete history. In this respect, like Expressionism and Dada, in accordance with the context, Cubism and Futurism were treated as the source of all modernity in Poland, initiating a new art in a nation that had become independent after the First World War. If the Constructivism of the 1920s sought to see its history in close relation to the ‘international avant-garde’ (as announced in the subtitle of the magazine Blok), then, in the eyes of its founders, Formism emerged on ‘Polish soil’, nourished by the Romantic-Expressionist tradition. This did not prevent ‘universalist’ Constructivism from treating the Formist experience of Cubism as the most significant experiment of early Polish modernism. Neither did it prevent Formism, in its search for a modernist identity, from negating ‘German’ Expressionism, to which it owed a great deal. Revolutionary Constructivism needed Cubism to paint a picture of formal progression, while Cubism provided Formism, in its search for ‘lasting style’, with an argument in favour of a new order, albeit one it could not connect with the emotional experience of history. Constructivism, victorious, saw Expressionism as less and less useful.



News in the press of French Cubism reached Poland without much delay, and a number of Polish artists may have seen Cubist paintings in Paris as early as the beginning of the 1910s.[1] Nevertheless, an understanding of Cubist concerns only really began to emerge as of the turn of 1912 to 1913, and still only within a limited circle of artists. The first to devote more attention to the new tendency was Adolf Basler, a critic living in Paris who served as an artistic correspondent for the Polish press. Basler delivered a lecture on Cubism for the students at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków at the end of 1912, which he published shortly afterwards.[2] His articles stressed with enthusiasm the birth in France (Cubism) and in Germany (Expressionism) of a ‘universal European style’ in which the ‘mechanism of perspective, calculated simply as a naturalist illusion, has been surpassed by the rhythm of architectonic compositions’.[3] He went on to describe the Cubist achievements of Pablo Picasso in a somewhat Expressionist spirit:

He arrived at fantastic creations produced as fetishes by nations without history by way of Cézanne’s lessons in cuboid construction, seeking forms that were entirely liberated from natural proportions. Only [the following] could attract this unique representative of contemporary art: forms with grotesque deformations, of a pure expressive quality, enormous in their primal being, summarising the most primitive of metaphysics; fear of the powers of nature, worship of evil forces.[4]

Basler had not yet set up an opposition between Cubism and Expressionism, simply seeing these as two conventions in contemporary painting ‘elevating the work to abstraction’. He wrote:

In Cubism, as in Fauvism, expression is not in the least limited to the pathetic expression of a face or to a sudden movement. It lies in the layout of the picture: in the manner in which weighty figures are disposed, in leaving empty space around them, in the proportions, in short, in the composition, that is to say in the art of decoratively arranging various elements, which provides the painter with a means to express sensation.[5]

The first Exhibition of Futurists, Cubists and Expressionists in Poland, at the Industrial Museum (Muzeum Przemysłowe) in Lwów, organised by The Association of the Friends of Art (Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Sztuki) in mid-1913, presented a similar point of view.[6] The exhibition had already been shown in many European cities and travelled to Lwów directly from Budapest. It was organised by Herwarth Walden’s Der Sturm gallery in Berlin.[7] The exhibition comprised the work of twelve artists—among them Aleksei Jawlensky, Vassily Kandinsky, Egon Adler, Oskar Kokoschka, Bohumil Kubišta, Hans Richter, Lasar Segall, and Ludwig Meidner—who had relatively little to do with French Cubism or Italian Futurism at that time. No Futurist paintings came to Lwów from Budapest, and Cubism served to represent the general idea of modernity in Poland rather than a concrete artistic practice. The exhibition poster designed by Józef Wodyński, featuring Kubišta’s painting Murder (Vražda, 1912), appears to convey the character of the exhibition well. The characteristic geometric forms of the Czech artist were rendered in an Expressionist style. The murder was that of art.

There is nothing paradoxical about the fact that the earliest traces of Cubist style, coloured by Expressionism and Primitivism, are to be found in the work of Polish and Jewish artists studying and living in various parts of the Russian Empire, rather than in France. The artistic experiments of Zygmunt Waliszeski serve as an example: he is known to have made drawings in the spirit of Cubism, Futurism, and neo-Primitivism, similar to the Russian versions of these tendencies, as early as 1915. Waliszewski encountered avant-garde art in Georgia (he lived in Tbilisi), where plentiful information about the work of the Russian and Ukrainian modernists interested in Cubism and Futurism arrived by way of Moscow and Petersburg as well as Kiev and Odessa (these included David and Vladimir Burliuk, Alexandra Exter, Mikhail Larionov, Natalia Goncharova, Ilya Zdanevich). In the war years of 1914 to 1917, while serving in the Russian army, Waliszewski went to Moscow several times, having been injured on the front. In his recollections about the artist, Józef Czapski wrote:

When the 21-year-old Zygmunt Waliszewski arrived in Kraków, he already had an extensive career as an artist behind him, from his first exhibition as a miracle child in 1908 in Tbilisi, to his later feverish work as a portraitist, illustrator and decorator. He already knew French painting from Manet to Picasso from Shchukin’s gallery in Moscow; in the Caucasus, he met artists of all tendencies who had travelled there from all over Russia, during the war and revolution.[8]

Before the war and the 1917 revolution, there was a large circle of Polish artists in Moscow and Petersburg, who could have encountered the pronouncements of the Russian Futurists and the avant-garde through Sergei Shchukin’s collections of French art. Some of these returned to Poland between 1917 and 1922. Among them were Stanisław Noakowski, a graduate of Petersburg Academy, Władysław Strzemiński, who was studying military engineering, and Katarzyna Kobro, who was at the start of her artistic career. Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy) became acquainted with the art of the Russian Futurists during the war, though by this point he was already fairly well-versed in modern art in France. There were also many Jewish artists, who settled in Poland after the October Revolution, moving in avant-garde circles. Mojżesz Broderson was among them; he returned to Łódź from Russia in 1919, bringing with him information concerning new Russian and Jewish art in Russia. Marek Szwarc, co-founder of the group Jung Idysz with Broderson, studied in Paris in the years 1910 to 1914, moving in the circle of the Expressionists of the School of Paris, and travelled in Russia during the war, also bringing back news of the Russian avant-garde.

man wearing a blue jacket and holding a green book with a loveheart on
Fig. 3.1. Tytus Czyżewski, Portrait of Bruno Jasieński (Portret Brunona Jasieńskiego, 1920). Oil on canvas, 78 x 60 cm Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź.

The first works in Poland to be deformed in a spirit close to Cubism were made in around 1915. They were all by Tytus Czyżewski, and the earliest of these, lost today, were an ink drawing entitled Dance (Taniec), two versions of Madonna (tempera and a drawing in ink) and the somewhat later portraits (1916–1917).[9] In all Czyżewski’s compositions, the Cubist dispersion of form was accompanied by the decorative stylisation of the surface (or surfaces), based on asymmetric composition, the regular ‘rhythmisation’ of individual parts of volumes, with the help of hatching, encompassing forms with curved lines. Similarly, in the Multi-surface Compositions (Kompozycje wielopłaszczyznowe), the most original works in Polish Cubism from the point of view of formal experimentation, created by Czyżewski alongside his other work right up to 1920, we see a similar tension between an attempt at the Cubist destruction of space, and a decorative almost symbolic resolution of the picture plane.[10] Zbigniew Pronaszko, who collaborated closely with Czyżewski, provided a theoretical ground for such a vision of Cubism in 1914. In an article entitled ‘Before the Great Tomorrow’, Pronaszko cited the words of Juliusz Słowacki—‘Everything is created by the Spirit and for the Spirit and nothing exists for a bodily purpose’—and demanded the search for a form that was ‘stronger, more defined, more decorative’.[11]

The strength of the Symbolist tradition, associated with entirely original, decorative, form, was particularly evident in the art of Bolesław Biegas.[12] Renowned French critics were interested in him, seeing in his sculpture and painting a rebirth of the Symbolist tradition; these critics included Guillaume Apollinaire, André Salmon, Louis Vauxcelles, Emile Verhaeren, and André Fontainas. Biegas’s work remained influenced by the decadent philosophy of Stanisław Przybyszewski and Expressionist painting, and was full of allegorical-symbolic references, often connected with ancient Slavonic ideas and myths. In his ‘spherical paintings’ (‘obrazy sferyczne’), the human figure was part of a net of abstract, circular lines and intersecting surfaces. In certain works from 1918, the linear decorativeness of the composition and the flatly-applied colour dominated, creating arabesques of abstract form associated with magic and esoteric signs.

The idea of Cubism as a continuation of the Polish or European tradition of modern art, first Romantic-Symbolist then Romantic-Expressionist, remained fairly strongly implanted in Polish artistic thought until the end of the 1910s. It was in the context of this discourse that Expressionism (as a synonym of the modernity to which Cubism aspired), as opposed to Impressionism (and not Symbolism), began to play a greater role as of around 1917. It is also in this context that we can see the as-yet-amicable relations between Cubism and Expressionism of those times. The early histories of the Poznań group Bunt (Rebellion), of the artists of the Jewish movement Jung Idysz in Łódź, to whom I will return later, and of the Kraków group of Formists, who were officially called the Polish Expressionists in the years 1917 to 1919, are all characteristic in this regard. Nevertheless, as Zbigniew Pronaszko wrote in his programmatic article, published at the time of the opening of the first exhibition of the Kraków group: ‘It is not the name that matters here; it is as incidental as Futurism, Cubism, Orphism and so many others in the field of Expressionism’.[13] Besides Pronaszko’s article, the exhibition catalogue referred to texts by Adam Mickiewicz and extracts from Jean Metzinger’s deliberations on Cubism.

nude figure in grey and blue tones in a cubist style that blends background with foreground
Fig. 3.2. Zbigniew Pronaszko, Formist Nude (Akt formistyczny, 1917). Oil on canvas, 113 x 63 cm. Courtesy of the National Museum, Kraków.

Zbigniew Pronaszko’s first Cubist works are from 1917: a series of nudes drawn in ink and painted, one of which was used on the cover of the catalogue of the first Formist exhibition (Fig. 3.2). It is crucial to stress the difference between the ever-more-clearly ‘Expressionistic’ Cubist works of Czyżewski (for example, the lithographic poster for the Kraków exhibition) and the ‘Cubistic’ (though decoratively over-stylised) works of Pronaszko, declaring himself an Expressionist. One could say that a particular Cubo-Expressionism defined the work of the Polish modernists in the short period between 1917 and 1920. This term would not just serve to encompass the work of Czyżewski and Zbigniew Pronaszko: a similar set of concerns were to be found in certain compositions by Leon Chwistek, Gwidon Gwozdecki, Jerzy Hryńkowski, Tymon Niesiołowski, Andrzej Pronaszko, Kamil Witkowski, August Zamoyski and several others.

The group’s new name, Formists, was announced at the third exhibition of the Kraków Expressionists in 1919. ‘Today’, wrote Chwistek, ‘there is an opportunity to create’:

Zbigniew Pronaszko’s first Cubist works are from 1917: a series of nudes drawn in ink and painted, one of which was used on the cover of the catalogue of the first Formist exhibition (Fig. 3.2). It is crucial to stress the difference between the ever-more-clearly ‘Expressionistic’ Cubist works of Czyżewski (for example, the lithographic poster for the Kraków exhibition) and the ‘Cubistic’ (though decoratively over-stylised) works of Pronaszko, declaring himself an Expressionist. One could say that a particular Cubo-Expressionism defined the work of the Polish modernists in the short period between 1917 and 1920. This term would not just serve to encompass the work of Czyżewski and Zbigniew Pronaszko: a similar set of concerns were to be found in certain compositions by Leon Chwistek, Gwidon Gwozdecki, Jerzy Hryńkowski, Tymon Niesiołowski, Andrzej Pronaszko, Kamil Witkowski, August Zamoyski and several others.

The group’s new name, Formists, was announced at the third exhibition of the Kraków Expressionists in 1919. ‘Today’, wrote Chwistek, ‘there is an opportunity to create’:

a new style, conceived of on the scale of the Gothic. This aim has united us for two years under the banner of Expressionism … yet it transpired that in the public perception this name united us with German art, which remains in a constant state of experimentation, and does not shrink, in many cases, from unsavoury eccentricity. In these circumstances, it has become necessary to signal our distinct character by introducing a new name. This is how we came to call ourselves Formists …[14]

Of course, in this instance, too, it was not so much a matter of the name, but of signalling a clear opposition between Expressionism from Germany and Formism as a Polish art, remaining in close relation to Italian Futurism and French Cubism.

As of the end of 1919 and the beginning of 1920 (though the first traces of this process were already evident in 1918), Cubism began to function in opposition to Expressionism in Polish art. Even though artistic theory and practice made ever less reference to it, it was associated with ideas of order, the desire to create a style, in a word, with a classicist order foreign to the ‘eccentricities’ and ‘nihilism’ of Expressionism (which some people felt to be closer to Dada). Ideologies of construction and organisation, particularly those conceived in stylistic-decorative terms, became increasingly popular in Poland (which had regained its independence as a result of the war), and especially when it was possible to unite them with the ‘authenticity’ of the folk primitive in art. This was also the developmental path followed by most Formists after 1920. Paradoxically, a Cubism that was opposed to Expressionism deprived the first ‘Polish Cubists’ of modernist legitimacy, a ‘modernity’ guaranteed by its association with the Polish artistic tradition, cited in a very free manner: Romantic, Symbolist, or outright Expressionist. The source of the opposition between Cubism and Expressionism, firmly rooted in both European Cubism and Expressionism, was a Nietzschean opposition of the arts common in modernist discourse. As soon as the contemporary version of this opposition was absorbed by Polish artists, the moment the modernist movement became universal, these artists’ declaration in favour of Cubism had the effect of cutting them off from the national tradition. In seeking to maintain tradition, if only in its folkloristic form, while also remaining modern (which is to say Cubist), the ‘Polish Cubists’ had to adopt the new name ‘Formists’, so as to distance themselves from the aforementioned opposition and to found, on new ground, a synthetic, ‘rhythmic-primitive style’ for Polish modernism (the ‘Rytm’ group).

At the beginning of the 1920s in Poland, we can no longer speak of Expressionism or Cubism as synonyms of modernity. The Cubist tradition that reigned universally in avant-garde circles situated Cubism as the only historical basis for the modernist development of art. The opposition between Cubism and Expressionism, to which the Cubo-Expressionist Formists referred, became the key category of avant-garde history. In 1924, the Cubists and Suprematists were named among those collaborating with [the magazine] Blok, while the Expressionists were passed over. The oppositional model of two tendencies in the development of modern art was already strongly rooted in the artistic consciousness, making for clear demarcations. Strzemiński saw the pathway emerging from Cubism as the only creative pathway for the development of art. ‘Formal analysis’, he wrote, ‘leads to the conclusion that Cubism is an enrichment, [an] expansion of painterly form, while Expressionism [is] its demise, decay’.[15] From then on, the avant-garde created a narrative of its own progressive history with a clearly-defined beginning, in which there was a break with everything that was ‘uncreative’. Avant-garde works also signalled the end of this history, and the beginning of a new process, purged of any ambivalence, whose ultimate aim was to be the aesthetic and social unity of art and life. It is clear then, that this unity had to be born of opposition. Cubo-Expressionism thus played an important role in the historiography of the avant-garde: it divided and united.

Along with the recognition of the ‘purifying’ role of Cubism in the process of avant-garde history, Constructivism brought about an appropriation of Cubo-Expressionist Formism and an inclusion of its ‘Cubistic form’, liberated of ‘Expressionistic content’, into avant-garde history. Initially criticised, then later forgotten, Formism was once more supposed to testify (by way of Cubism) to the modernity of Polish art and to its universal sources. ‘Modern art in Poland began with Formism’: this was how Strzemiński began his history of art in 1934. ‘The main postulate of Formism’, he went on, ‘was pure form. This set Formism apart from other contemporary tendencies in art and facilitated its successors’ relatively simple passage from object-based to abstract art’.[16] This all-too-evident mystification was needed by the Constructivists to justify their own ‘logical’ development. In reality, there were few shared features between Formism, in search of expression and style, and Constructivism, which needed Formism because of its pre-Cubist orientation. This notwithstanding, the avant-garde model of the dichotomous development of twentieth-century art was born on the eve of Cubo-Expressionist unity.


The history of Futuro-Dada discourse was rather different. As opposed to Zurich umlaut Dada, whose specificity was defined to a certain degree by an attempt to overcome the Expressionism of which it was born, Dada discourse in Poland operated in the sphere of Futurist terminology. If, seen from Zurich umlaut, Dada appeared homogeneous, from a Polish perspective it seemed to be an amalgamation of statements full of cracks, inconsistencies, and borrowings. Taking Dada as one of the variations of the avant-garde rebellion against culture, consequently saddled with ambiguity, its Polish Futurist version proved the most important element of Dada anti-art, undermining any stylistic or morphological unity, without ever being part of the Polish history of the movement.

This is why, in place of the uncertain history of Dada in Poland, it is important to see Polish Futurism as one of the clearest examples of the movement, in the bosom of which we can trace the specific shifts of emphasis caused by the Dada perspective. From this point of view it is not insignificant that the birth of Polish Futurism after 1918 took place in an atmosphere of sensation and scandal, an inseparable element of the first Dada manifestations of the circle of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich umlaut, among whose collaborators was the Futurist Filippo Marinetti. It is also relevant, as suggested above, that the Polish artists of the first avant-garde who came to the country from Russia between 1918 and 1922 brought with them the experience of the Futurist revolution. An announcement for the Warsaw poets’ café Pod Pikadorem which opened almost immediately after the end of the war, appealed, in a pastiche of a revolutionary decree from Russia: ‘Countrymen! Workers, soldiers, children, elderly people, women, intelligentsia and playwrights! Opening on Friday, 29 November, at 9pm: the first Warsaw poets’ café POD PIKADOREM … Long live the Executive Committee of the POETS’ CAFÉ’.[17]

Information about Italian Futurism, full of ‘dynamism, fury, faith, courage’, had already reached Poland before the war.[18] Fragments of Marinetti’s manifesto were published in 1909 in the Warsaw Świat (The World) with the recommendation that the ‘credo of action as fast as an automobile, as buoyant and lofty as an airplane, is a much needed elixir for our literary association’.[19] In 1911, Cezary Jellenta greeted the birth of the Vitalist poetry of the Futurists, linking it to the Nietschean critique of culture and civilisation.[20] A year later, in an analytical article devoted to Marinetti, he saw in Futurism new possibilities emerging from ‘grasping certain properties of today’s rhythm of life and metropolitan fever’.[21] The Kraków Krytyka (Critique) also included a wide-ranging essay on Futurism by Aleksander Kołtoński in 1914, stressing the particular weight of the phenomenon in contemporary culture.[22] Associating Futurism with the Romantic tradition, like Jellenta, Kołtoński added that there is something in this art

of Schopenhauer’s “will”, something of the Nietzschean “ubermensch”, some of Weininger’s misogyny, and a great, great deal of Bergsonism, an affinity to which Marinetti admits, after all, though with an emphasis worthy of a Futurist demanding for himself and for Dante and Edgar Poe the first place in the final wavering of the all-powerful rule of ideas and according all rights to the intuitive creative imagination.[23]

The painting of the Futurists, referred to by Kołtoński as the art of ‘states of the soul’, devoid of the ‘iconographic aspect of the picture’, tended towards the ‘synthesis of colours and shapes’. ‘Every combination of lines, volumes and colours’, wrote the critic, ‘besides its absolute value, possesses the value of a plastic equivalent of a certain state of the soul, produced externally by a whole complex mechanism of forces, both known and unknown’.[24]

It is often noted that there was a link between the early phase of the reception of Futurism in Poland and the readership of Henri Bergson and Stanisław Brzozowski. Their attempts to transplant the energetic Futurist ideology onto Polish territory resulted in trivialising the Futurist apology for technology, which was alien to the economic realities of Poland. In practice, however, after 1918, and despite earlier expectations, Futurism did not become a philosophy of labour, but rather, in view of its scandalising slogans, took the form of an artistic fashion.[25]

It was certainly a matter of fashion. I am minded to believe that despite a degree of popularity in literature, Futurism did not define itself independently in the history of Polish art, and certainly not in visual art. As a specific Futuro-Dada, Futurism played a significant role in Polish artistic life, simply giving its name to a whole range of manifestations, which grew out of it. Futurism in Polish art could be termed a discourse, which dissipated into Dada. While Dada, a name that was used very reluctantly, could be referred to as having been a discursive parasite on the enigmatic body of Futurism.[26] Let us look at the birth and life of this phenomenon, paying attention to its chronology.

The founding of the ‘Katarynka’ club in Kraków in 1919 by the poets Bruno Jasieński and Stanisław Młodożeniec together with the painter Tytus Czyżewski would be among the earliest events in the circle of the Polish Futurist avant-garde, following on from the Warsaw poet’s café ‘Pod Pikadorem’ and Anatol Stern and Aleksander Wat’s first leaflet, Yes (Tak). It was to be a place for avant-garde artists’ meetings and performances, modelled on the Cabaret Voltaire. Subsequent poetic evenings, organised in Kraków in 1919, were interrupted by the police, and publications were confiscated. At the same time, in Warsaw, Stern and Wat organised the first ‘sub-tropical evening organised by white negroes’, and their phonetically-written manifesto Gga, published shortly afterwards, whose title was intended to resemble the honking of geese, was withdrawn by the censors.[27] The (intentionally-misspelled) A Nife in the Stomak (Nuż w bżuhu), published in Kraków in 1921 proved to be a similar scandal. Futurist concerts attracted crowds in 1921. During Jasieński’s evenings, the actor Helena Buczyńska demonstrated word-art, intended to be a ‘synthesis of recital, music and dance’. At the Futurist ball entitled the ‘The Smiling Steed’ (‘Uśmiechnięty rumak’) in Kraków, the actors improvised a crowd of mannequins from a Czyżewski burlesque, wearing geometric cardboard costumes. If it is really true, Stern pushed the naked Wat about in a wheelbarrow along the streets of Warsaw, on a Sunday full of strolling bourgeoises. In Kraków, in lieu of a concert, a piano was placed on a cart. The history of Polish Futurism, full of anecdotes, ended suddenly at the end of 1923 and the beginning of 1924, along with the emergence of calls for a new art, whose task was to be the organisation of society and, with it, of a new order. Provocation and destruction were to be replaced by construction.

‘Cubism, Expressionism, Primitivism, Dadaism outdid all the “isms”. The only tendency that has not yet been exploited in art is onanism’, ran the manifesto ‘Concerning Futurist Poetry’. ‘Our art’, it went on, ‘is neither the reflection of the anatomy of the soul (psychology), nor an expression of our aspirations to the next world of God (religion), nor a discussion of eternal problems (philosophy) … The work of art is an essence. Dissolved in yesterday’s glass, it should colour it entirely with its own hue’.[28] The Polish Futurists, like the Dadaists in Zurich umlaut, rebelled against art in the name of life; seeing themselves as the prophets of a social revolution, they directed their critique against the myth of art. In the cultural field, social scandals were supposed to shatter the bourgeois world’s conception of art as a sphere of ‘lasting’ values. They were to be directed against an aesthetic perception identified with the sublimated act of contemplation, against artistic institutions sacralising the artist and his products, against the idea of the artist devoting his life to an artistic mission. ‘Art has to be surprising, all-penetrating and [should] knock one off one’s feet’, read Jasieński’s manifesto ‘To the Polish Nation, A Manifesto Concerning the Immediate Futurisation of Life’. And then:

Modern man has long ago lost the ability to be moved or expectant. Legal codes have once and for all normalised and classified all manner of the unexpected. Life, which differs from the modern machine in that it permits fairy-tale like surprises, is becoming less and less different from it … All logical possibilities have been exhausted to the last. The moment of constant rumination until loss of consciousness [has arrived]. Life, in its logic, has become nightmarish and illogical.

We, the Futurists, wish to show you the gate that leads out of this ghetto of logic. Man has ceased to feel joy because he has ceased to have expectations. Only life conceived of as a [ballet] of possibilities and surprises can return this joy to him. In the [devilish] circle of things that are self-evident, we have understood that nothing is self- evident and that besides this logic, there exists a whole sea of illogicalities, of which each can create its own distinct logic, whereby A + B = F and 2 x 2 = 777.

A deluge of wonders and surprises. Nonsense dancing along on streets. Art ­– en masse.

Anyone can be an artist.

Theatres, circuses, street performances, all played by the public itself. We call on all poets, painters, sculptors, architects, musicians, and actors to take to the streets.

The stage is revolving.[29]

A section of the manifesto Gga, entitled ‘Primitivists to the Nations of the World and to Poland’, threw ‘civilisation and culture, with their sickliness’ on the rubbish-heap. It announced: ‘We chose simplicity, vulgarity, merriness, health, triviality, laughter. We willingly renounce uprightness, seriousness, pietism’.[30] The manifesto continued:

We erase history and posterity, as well as Rome, Tolstoy, hats, India, Bavaria and Kraków. Poland should renounce tradition, the mummy of Prince Józef and theatre. We destroy the city. Every mechanism—aeroplanes, trams, inventions, the telephone. Instead of these, primordial forms of communication. The apotheosis of the horse. Only assembled and mobile homes. Shouted and rhyming speech. We understand the social by way of the rule of idiots and capitalists. This is a foundation most fecund for laughter and revolution(…).[31]

The subsequent paragraphs of this so-called Futurist manifesto outlined an agenda of anti-art that was characteristic of Dada, at the basis of which there lay a principle of ‘Primitivism’ intended to replace ‘degraded culture’ with ‘original’ values. The new art, modelled on circus spectacle for the great masses, was to be characterised by triviality and laughter.

The manifesto of the Polish Futurists, published in 1920, was essentially a polemic with the Futurist agenda of Marinetti, though it adopted certain of his slogans. Based on the Dada conception of art as play, as seen from the point of view of the Primitivists, it represented a protest against urban civilisation, technology and logic. Closer to Francis Picabia’s art than to Marcel Duchamp’s, with all the distance characteristic of Dada attitudes, the Polish artists doubted the value of the ‘machinic’ agenda (as opposed to the Italian Futurists proclaiming the cult of the machine, which had been raised to the rank of the highest symbol of modernity). In Polish poetry, the iron stove and the engine, the coffee grinder and the telephone, the electric lantern, and even the gas lamp, were Futurist, rather than Dada machines. The poetic paintings of Tytus Czyżewski in the volumes Green Eye. Electric Visions (Zielone oko. Elektryczne wizje) and the somewhat later The Snake, Orpheus and Eurydice (Wąż, Orfeusz i Eurydyka) are reminiscent of the lyrical schemas of the machinic paintings of Picabia. ‘Red light explodes’, read Czyżewski’s text, ‘the phallus is transformed into a giant electric light bulb. Naked, blackened with coal, the god of the underworld Pluton cries: dynamo phallus; the red shining phallus remains—a bulb’.[32]

Forming an integral part of this ‘drama’, Czyżewski’s drawings were defined by the author as ‘dynamo-psychic studies of specific moments. Each of these pictures is my DYNAMOPSYCHO’.[33] In many of Czyżewski’s poems, there is a Futuro-Dada symbiosis of the primitive and technology; a tendency to connect unconnected images, carried over into other, unexpected contexts; and a tendency to juxtapose religious and mythological symbolism (deprived of its original meaning) with a civilising and erotic symbolism. ‘Man produced and unleashed the engine, which will at some point kill or surpass him’, wrote Czyżewski. ‘We will build machines, we will travel to the stars, to observe the sun. The sun will be surprised at where man acquires so much “knowledge”. Man will build a mechanical sun. The old sun is an old, trusty machine. Let us love the sun and let us not talk about it behind its back. Mankind of the future is an electric machine—sentient, complicated, but stylistically simple’.[34]

Dada play with form and content was constantly present in Polish Futurism: mixing up types, upsetting morphological principles, using new artistic techniques, and, ultimately, negating meaning. Associated with this was contempt for aesthetic values and a conviction that anything can be material for the artwork and that meaning is born of chance. Nonsense, abstraction, and a lack of logic were the fuel and content of anti-art. In this sense, the first Polish mobiles, non-objective assemblages, the sculptures of Mieczysław Szczuka, constructed of pieces of metal, wire, glass, and wood, could all be considered to be ‘Dadaistic’. The reviewers of Szczuka’s exhibition, which opened in December 1921 in Warsaw, noted the ‘elements of Tatlinism and Dadaism’ in his work, interpreting the latter as ‘neo-Naturalism’. In his ‘Dadaistic works’, Szczuka was supposed to be depriving real objects their ‘logic, according to reality’, in order to situate them in the world of the imagination’.[35]

The everyday language used by poets, the language of the press, telegraphic abbreviations, as well as individual words deprived of meaning amounted to a Dada search for triviality and chance. A faits divers news style was central to the structure of a great many of Bruno Jasieński’s poems in his 1923 collection A Shoe in the Buttonhole (But w butonierce). Popular artistic gimmicks of the Polish avant-garde included Czyżewski’s unexpected choreography of graphic texts, the use of typographic signs in the visual organisation of poems or, vice-versa, the use of collages with words of sentences in painting. Czyżewski’s poem ‘The Mechanical Garden’ (‘Mechaniczny ogród’) serves as an example. With a view to the slogan parole in libertà, it was a Futurist poem composed solely of nouns. From a Dada perspective, it is a static poem, familiar from the 1920 manifesto, where the spatial disposition of individual words has been rendered concrete by a graphic arrangement that imposes a visual ‘unity of reading’. Bruno Jasieński’s ‘Manifesto Concerning Futurist Poetry’ proclaimed: ‘We break once and for all with all manner of description (painting), and, on the other hand also with all manner of onomatopoeic means … We rule out the sentence as an anti-poetic freak … We rule out the book as a form of further delivering poetry to the receiver … We break once and for all with the pathos of eternity in connection with art’.[36]

Concealed within Dada was the need to negate the Dada attitude and Dada art itself. We also see such experiments among Polish artists, the best example being, perhaps, the previously-cited sentence from the manifesto of the ‘futurisation’ of poetry. In his manifesto ‘From the Machine to Animals’ (‘Od maszyny do zwierząt’) Czyżewski prophesied the death of ‘Cubism, Expressionism, Futurism and Dadaism’.[37] Stern wrote:

Had they asked me for a more personal opinion on the matter I would have found myself in real trouble. For my part, I stopped thinking of myself as a Futurist worthy of the name as soon as I noticed that people struck up a conversation with me too calmly, and did so without fear or disgust. Futurism died in me when it stopped being a puzzle, often terrifying me, myself. I remember the time with sorrow, despite the understanding that its end was inevitable.[38]

The issue of the end, of abandonment, of loss, and of the ironic distance towards one’s own art that came with it, were undoubtedly a result of the ‘programmatic’ principles of the movement; they were written into its poetics of destroying order, infringing rules, breaking out of schemas. Stabilisation, freezing, and immobility were the enemies of Dada; it opposed these with change, with a categorical alteration of rules that verged on self-destruction. This was the agonism of Dada.

In light of the above remarks, Dada discourse in Poland harmonised with Dada in general, co-creating a common sphere of concerns. Scandalising history, the ideology of contestation, unconventional structure, and, lastly, agonism, were characteristics that were shared by the whole movement. Polish Dada discourse seems to be specifically situated by its symbiotic nature, its parasitic existence within Futurism, its traces within Expressionism. That is its role within Polish art history. Thus, besides the common field of Dada as a whole, there was also another side to the Dada problem, perhaps one that defines what was specific about the Polish avant-garde more precisely.

Let us stress, once more, that what seems to specifically locate the Polish Dada discourse is the symbiotic nature of its parasitical existence within Futurism. Let us try to unearth the consequences of this symbiosis, if only for the purposes of the reflections provided here. Let us look at Futurist Dada from the point of view of that which most upset the Eastern- and East-Central-European versions of Futurism and Dada around the world: the problem of the end of art. From such a perspective, we immediately notice that, in Poland, Dadaistic death did not just mean the death struggle of Dada in its own self-entanglement. Here, the Dada discourse (and in this it was certainly different from Italian Futurism) was born on the ruins of the world in the insanity of a repressive civilisation, in the dehumanisation of cultures, at the time of the death of art. The catastrophic vision appropriated from the Expressionists, which appeared in Poland along with the war, remained somewhat side-lined among Polish Expressionists by the battle being waged for the psychic rebirth of mankind. Not finding strong support in Expressionism, it gently undermined Futurist optimism, only to take root finally in Dada pessimism, bewitching artists with its nihilism. ‘We are approaching the end with mathematical precision’, wrote Jasieński in The Legs of Izolda Morgan (Nogi Izoldy Morgan) in 1923:

Soon, everything around us will be replaced by machines, we will move around amidst machines. We are making our every move dependent on the machine. We are laying down our weapons. We are giving ourselves over into the hands of an alien element, hostile to us. The girdle of iron nerves, which still supports our hegemony over ourselves, has to crack any moment now. Then there will remain war or madness. For the time being nobody can see [or] understand this. We are blinded by our power. There is no way out. We have hemmed ourselves in on all sides ourselves. And, after all, it is already inside us. You cannot live without the machine. Perhaps your forefathers still could. But you cannot. Defence is impossible. We have to wait. The poison is within us. We have poisoned ourselves by our own will. Syphilitic civilisation.[39]

The Futurist attitude to the machine, to technology, and, ultimately, to contemporary civilisation, was ambivalent: it oscillated between adoration and contempt, between elation and disappointment, as in Czyżewski’s poem: ‘the wheels turn in the cities / black gold red / furious machines / delight thunder torment … and then the hour struck on the white clock / and the propeller hummed / and I met four coffins on the way / and the tram ran over the dustbin man’s cart’.[40]

The Dada view of contemporary civilisation, the world of mechanised people and humanised machines, did not share this ambivalence. The Moloch of the metropolis, the wild crowd, the mindlessness of machines, took on a singularly negative tone. No longer apologetical, the world produced within Dada discourse was one approaching catastrophe. Play was overwhelmed by the terrifying unknown. The Futurist utopia of the dynamic equality of forces and the infinite spiral of progress was reversed in the Dada looking-glass. Losing its balance, seduced by the ‘mechanical instinct’, beneath whose mark lurked the devil, it delighted in Apocalypse.

Dada discourse in Polish art was a systematic ‘stepping outside of Futurism’, a shifting of accents unsettling its unity. In his memoirs concerning Futurism, Wat rightly stressed that, in Poland, this movement had ‘the least in common with classical Futurism’.[41] He confessed to Miłosz that

the name was as inappropriate as can be, though we did change it to neo-Futurists and so on, though in fact that was not really it. Undoubtedly the greatest influences were on the one hand Russian Futurism, so Mayakovski [sic], and especially Khlebnikov, and on the other from Dadaism. Our guiding line are some contacts or proximities, or propinquities of avant-garde-revolutionary literary tendencies with the political left … And, at least in my case, for instance, it was not connected with the Russian revolution, but rather perhaps the influence of catastrophist literature, foreseeing catastrophe, the decadence of Europe, Spenglerism even before Spengler, moods which were, after all, so alive in the Europe of those years. Dadaism is that which might otherwise probably be called nihilism, the loss of faith in the possibility of a future European civilisation … The fact of the founding of Poland was, for us, an incident of far less gravity than the general catastrophe of the era, the great unknown that lay before us, although, because we were young, impudent, it was extremely promising for us too.[42]

Like their nineteenth-century forebears, the Expressionists opposed a sense of the emptiness of the world with the riches of the soul, the complexity of experience, the suffering or the scream of the individual torn apart by dramas. The Dada reply to a vision of the world heading towards catastrophe was wild play, continual joking, constant concealment. The Expressionists saw possibility in art, the Dadaists threw art to be consumed by life, they lost the artist in the crowd of the street’. The Expressionists were effectively engaged in a systematic ‘play for the psyche’, while the Futurists, with Promethean pathos, gave art away to future centuries, while the Dadaists, with a clownish laugh, devoted art to the ‘great unknown’ of life.


It is worth recalling, here, a text by Witkacy. It is a most interesting parody, a pastiche of a Dada manifesto, written by an artist who did not want to be taken for a Dadaist. In 1921, Witkacy wrote a text entitled Litmus Paper (Papierek lakmusowy), with the subtitle ‘The latest artistic novelty Pure-Hoaxing’. There has been continuous controversy over Witkacy’s Dada. Though the insistence on absolute creative freedom, the gesture of abandoning art and devoting one’s life to going into business with a portraiture firm were not Dada, they have some experience of Dada discourse. Witkacy’s publication Litmus Paper, signed with the pseudonym Marceli Duchański-Blaga (‘Marceli Duchański-Hoax’, created by Polonising the name of Marcel Duchamp), clearly pointed to Dada as a negative area of reference, in which the whole of contemporary creativity had to be considered. The parodic, and at the same time polemical, tone of this text, is not evidence of disregard for the phenomenon, though it was a warning against it. That which linked Witkacy to the Dadaists was a catastrophic vision of the world, a pessimistic diagnosis. It was the remedy that marked him apart. Witkacy the metaphysician, the rebel inheritor of turn-of-the-century art, the Polish Expressionist, the Formist refusing to submit to the agenda, became a defender of the art of ‘lost causes’ (Fig. 3.3)

cubist style painting of a black woman wearing a colourful dress
Fig. 3.3. Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy), Composition (Visit to Raja) (Kompozycja (Wizyta u Radży), 1921). Oil on canvas, 77.5 x 90 cm. Muzeum Okręgowe, Torun.

The protest formulated by Witkacy was the result of the conviction that negating art (and also abandoning it) could only be carried out within the sphere of a ‘play for art’.[43] Referring to the Futurist utopia, Witkacy wrote: “Art will be finished, and the happy, mechanised people of the Future will no longer need her, in view of the extinguishing of metaphysical feelings that spring from a sense of the singularity of the personality. The point is not to hasten this process, but, as far as possible, to pull back from it. This is also the end towards which my own work tends.”[44]

Witkacy wrote that the Dadaists believed that there was no such thing as art, and, perusing their statements, he wrote: ‘I don’t know whether this has been written seriously or as “farce” and therein lies the whole horror of the thing. A time will come when it will not be known what is True and what is False, what is the result of artistic necessity, and what is purely mechanical chance, or, worse, conscious hoax. This is the terminal, inevitable fate of Art in the social development of mankind’.[45]

In Litmus Paper, he wrote that:

we need at last to tear away the mask that has stifled so many generations and condemned the most talented hoaxers to be pickled in their own juices. It must be said that this way of presenting the problem already contains the substance of a new agenda. Once again, we ask: how can one outstrip Futurism and Dadaism? BY PURE HOAXING. What freedom! What bliss! To be able at last to begin hoaxing blissfully and luxuriously. Hooray!! Our chests expand, our hair blows free, our eyes pop out of our heads. Pure hoaxing!! The first and last to do so, WE speak, shout and howl this magical word, which nobody else has had the courage to pronounce. Nobody is going to outstrip us.[46

With Dada irony, Witkacy, ‘Marceli Duchański’, distanced himself from Dada. The Dada Apocalypse lay between the Promethean utopia of the Constructivists and the anti-utopia of a standardised culture, a dramatic conflict of art and anti-art in Poland conceived of in light of the end of civilisation. This discourse was hard to identify in view of the mask it threw on, appearing unexpectedly where art questioned its identity in the face of annihilation. It was within these, somewhat internal, boundaries, faced with a fascination and horror of defeat, that the Dada game was played out. The Dadaists were surrounded from without by enemies, without whom, nevertheless, they were unable to live.



If, in Western Europe, the alliance between the Dadaists and the Constructivists was founded on both tendencies’ evolving political context, then, likewise, the introduction of Futuro-Dada into the Constructivist orbit in Poland, should be read in relation to Polish artists’ strategic subordination of their missing historical links to their own ends. Sketching out the progressive model of the development of the history of art, the Polish Constructivists, like art criticism of the time, stressed the opposition between Cubism and Expressionism (and the Futurism that was often identified with it), and underlined their rationalist-Formalist provenance, which they associated with Cubism. There was no room for Dada in such a model, and although its representatives were sometimes mentioned under other labels, the name Dada did not appear as a movement shaping contemporary art in survey texts published in Poland.[47] Understandably, given their agenda, neither the catastrophist nor the folkloristic tendencies of the Futuro-Dadaists appealed to the Polish Constructivists. Wishing to keep both Futurism and Dada in their own circle, the Constructivists had to break with the Polish version of Futuro-Dada discourse. Constructivism had need of Futurism and Dada in their international forms, initiated by George Grosz and John Heartfield’s declaration at the Dada-Messe in Berlin in 1920—‘Art is dead. Long live the new machine art of Tatlin’—whose community in Poland was best defined by Peiper’s slogan ‘city, mass, machine’.[48] No wonder, then, that the Polish Constructivists turned to the ‘post-Dadaist’ Kurt Schwitters, collaborating at that time with Theo van Doesburg and El Lissitzky, for an article on Dada.

Responding to the Constructivists’ expectations, Schwitters wrote: ‘Dadaism was born of a certain world view [that was] in no way Dadaist, but rather reform-minded’.[49] ‘In 1924’, he continued, in his article published in Blok:

when they begin to construct skyscrapers in Germany, when, with the help of radio it is possible to hear voices from across the continent, when art returns to normativity and life, while, on the contrary, it is precisely life that demands normative art, then the soul is a sickness, is psychosis. Ah! This is when things get bad! When Dada and the soul descend and the soul, the soul spoils its mortal enemy and wages war….[50]

In inviting Schwitters to write an article on Dada, the Constructivists wanted to stress the universal legitimacy of contemporary art and not the meaning of the artistic agenda hidden behind the word Dada. In appropriating Dada, they sought to forget it as soon as possible. ‘Here in Germany’, wrote Schwitters,

Dadaism is no longer as necessary as it was in 1918. Now artists of Promethean utopias are living and working, and so they have enabled the exceptionally-fruitful development of Constructivism. Dadaistic contestation, superimposing itself onto a catastrophic vision of the world, and other interpretations of technology and revolution, were written into the Constructivist genealogy, colouring the evolution of rational art with a particular irrationalism or alogic. I have in mind here phenomena such as Zenitism, Poetism and so on in the spirit of the times, in the spirit of 1924. Dada paved the way for them and supports them today. To name a few names, I am thinking of people like Lissitzky (Hannover, Ambri-Sotto), Burchartz (Bochum), Moholy, Gropius and Meyer (Weimar), Mies van der Rohe, Richter (Berlin), Schwitters (Hannover) and many others.[51]

Schwitters’ opinion that Constructivism should take the place Dada, creating a new platform of understanding, responding to the new conditions of life, was essentially one that was shared by the Polish Constructivists. Ending his article, Schwitters wrote: ‘I gave to Dadaism the journal MerzMerz should serve Dada, abstraction, and construction. In recent times, however, the constructive formulation of life in Germany has been so interesting that we have permitted ourselves to publish the forthcoming issue 8/9 of Merz, entitled ‘Nasci’, without Dada’.[52]

In Poland, Futuro-Dada, which preferred to call itself Futurism, was bending under the weight of the Dada imagination. This did not last long. When they came on the scene, the Constructivists consigned Dada and Expressionism alike to oblivion. They had no trouble with Dada, as it had never taken firm root in Polish art. A mystified Cubism and a non-existent Futurism occupied a privileged place in the avant-garde history of Polish Constructivism, as forms of the tradition required by modernism. Expressionism was in no way useful, though many of the later constructors of the world specifically tended towards Expressionism in their student work, and its metaphysics provided a good account of the years of crisis.



What was this Expressionism, excluded by Constructivism from avant-garde art history? What were the Expressionisms (for perhaps we should speak of more than one) that were brought back to life in the post-war climate of 1917 to 1922 and condemned sometime later to oblivion?

Expressionism found its direct points of reference in spirituality, interpreted in various ways, as the ‘Polish Expressionists’, later known as Formists, admitted, as did the creators of the Poznań journal Zdrój (Source, 1917–1922), who, in 1918 came together in the Poznań group Bunt, and, finally, the Łódź Jung Idysz, founded in 1919, heading towards similar solutions, though travelling along a separate path. For all these artists, form operated in relation to a religious mysticism filled with heresy or folklorist faith, Romantic idealism, decorative Symbolism, neo-Romantic ‘intensivism’, as well as nascent modernist formalism.[53] Among the Poznań artists (as opposed to their colleagues from Kraków, who were searching for the spatial deformation of shapes), form was separated from the rational construction of the picture and took on intensified expression, finding its basis in the metaphysical, spiritual, and esoteric sources born of abstraction.[54] In the work of Jewish artists, form was rooted in the mystical tradition and in the folklore of the Hasidic imagination, whence they glided towards the spatial dimensions of non-objective worlds. One cannot really speak of a unified artistic agenda among these groupings. Attempts to form alliances did not lead to any wider cooperation between them, and there is evidence of fundamental differences among Expressionisms in Poland after 1917.

This particular crisis is evident in positivist political and philosophical matters, marked out at the beginning of the last decade of the nineteenth century, with the birth in Poland of a modernity that was decidedly more strongly-rooted in the irrational tradition than in the rational processes of modernisation. Młoda Polska’s reaction against the positivist reduction of man to a soulless cog in the machine of nature was accompanied by the popularity of the Vitalist philosophies of, above all, Friedrich Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhauer, and, later, Henri Bergson, which chimed with the decadent moods of the era. It was no coincidence that it was this very problem, as I have already explained, that brought the Romantic problem of the ‘soul’ up to date at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries.[55] The neo-Romantic irrationalism and idealism that appeared at that time did not have the force of the anti-positivistic breakthrough, which characterised the beginning of modernity elsewhere. In Poland, modernism, generally speaking, was strongly grounded in realism and naturalism. In other words, realism and naturalism, inseparable from the positivism of the domain of artistic experience, and filtered through the neo-Romantic breakthrough of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, became the components of the early modernist (Młoda Polska) aesthetic. Realism and Naturalism defined the features of Polish Symbolism (neo-realism) and early Expressionism, giving them an essentially conservative character.

Form took on a decorative meaning in turn-of-the-century art, and the slogan ‘art for art’s sake’, though familiar from Chimera, did not find much favour in the aesthetics of Młoda Polska. Symbolism was more present. It was propagated by Miriam (Zenon Przesmycki), who tried to ‘initiate the reader into the play of invisible elements’, with decadent pathos.[56] In proposing ‘to see the word as a picture and to reveal the secret of its origins’, Stanisław Przybyszewski lent Symbolism and its form a depth of expressive experience.[57] ‘For the Symbolist’, he wrote,

thought is identical to existence. The essence, which only appears in the internal phenomena of existence, is that which lives in the soul of man. The soul and the essence of the world are the same. Moreover, the Symbolist intuitively feels the connection of his soul with the soul of the whole of nature, and besides the accidental thing, sees some secret world, beyond the temporal, the limitless eternities out of which he himself was born.[58]

We are neither ‘Modernists’, nor ‘Symbolists’, wrote the Expressionists in their programmatic article opening the first issue of Zdrój at the end of 1917. In reality, they were even closer to the pan-psychism of the neo-Romanticists:

Art is for us that one, indivisible [thing], which binds us with an unbreakable knot to the invisible world, which is the link between the lower, empirical sphere, with the other-worldly sphere, a ‘phantom’ and ‘vision’ of every higher value in life, in which life at last begins to take on real meaning, and man, in the whole indivisible sphere in which he lives, appears to himself in all his dimensions.[59]

The term Expressionism only appeared on the pages of Zdrój in the fourth issue of the journal in 1917, in Jerzy Hulewicz’s article ‘On the Fullness of Life’.[60]

The path of all ambitious artists of the first decades of the twentieth century to the ‘world of pure values’ passed by way of spiritual expansion and the sifting through of the ‘modernity’ of emotional-expressive elements within Symbolism and the local tradition, so as to penetrate the depths of their own psyche, where they found ‘estranged images, distorted and deformed, fantastical and grotesque, and, ultimately, entirely abstracted’.[61] The journal Zdrój, from which the artists’ group Bunt emerged in 1918, was the first artistic milieu in Poland of a clearly-Expressionist bent, indicating a commonality of interests with the art of the Berlin groups associated with the journals Die Aktion and Der Sturm. Remaining strongly influenced by the art of Młoda Polska, the Kraków Cubo-Expressionism that initiated the history of Formism was only entangled, in passing, in the Expressionist problem that was in the process of emerging in the first decade of the twentieth century in Central Europe (Austria, Germany, and Bohemia).

Expressionist modernity incubated slowly in Kraków, in an atmosphere of uncertainty—what is it?—and almost immediately lost its Expressionist quality. Mieczysław Porębski stressed that soon after their first exhibition, the day-old Expressionists became Formists ‘in order to suddenly join pictorialism, respecting the painterly sphere of post-Impressionism (and post-Symbolism)’. Before Expressionism, the Kraków-based art historian continued,

the giants blocked the path to the new: on the one hand those who, under the leadership of Witkiewicz the Elder and Sygietyński first began to produce naturalistic (why not?) “art for art’s sake”, and on the other, those who, breaking out of these naturalist beginnings, began to search for models, not so much in Impressionism, as this appeared rather repetitively and episodically here, but in Post-Impressionism, by way of the particularly emotive dry divisionism of late Gierymski, the lessons of the Pont-Aven school transmitted by way of Ślewiński, contacts with the Nabis, and, in particular the proximity between Pankiewicz and Bonnard after 1908. Besides this, the particular, unique atmosphere of this art, in which it was not art itself that counted, nor the undoubtedly fruitful, apprenticeship to others: Malczewski and Wyspiański, Mehoffer and the young Weiss, Boznańska and Wojtkiewicz. The atmosphere of Symbolism, interpreted in different ways, the direct encounter with what was unclear, insufficiently defined, ambivalent, somehow suspect, malformed. An atmosphere of heightened (though not, certainly not!, expressionist) expression, a Dionysian rather than Apollonian turn to the classical, a turning away from the corpses and spectres of the nation’s past, in the name, precisely, of a tomorrow arriving by some country road of other, budding with winter corn.[62]

But if there was so little Expressionism in Formism, then what was the unfinished Cubism that was part of the Cubo-Expressionist style? Perhaps the one to write best on Formist Cubism was the artist and theorist of Formism Zbigniew Pronaszko in his 1918 article, notably entitled ‘On Expressionism’. ‘Painting cannot be a “return to nature”’, he stressed, repeating Maurice Denis’ famous definition of Symbolism, viewed as an introduction to French Cubism; ‘painting must always be a return to the picture. [For] a picture is the deliberate, logical filling of a certain space with particular forms, constituting in this way a unified, unchanging organism’.[63] ‘While looking at or contemplating an object’, Pronaszko continued, by now in a Cubist spirit, ‘I do not only see it frontally, quite the contrary: a whole range of its aspects and views enter my consciousness and it is only after I have reassembled them that I come to receive its full expression, its essence’.[64] He concluded his deliberations: ‘The goal here is expression, which is revealed with the help of the sign, conventions, reacting to shapes, which come to us whilst we contemplate an object. For this expression the essential task of painting is to find form and it is this, which Expressionism strives for. Impressionism gave the optical impression of an object; Expressionism seeks to reveal its expression’.[65]

For the Poznań Expressionists, form was all but non-existent, and if it did exist then it did so somewhere in the depths of the soul. It is no surprise that the words of the Alsatian poet Ernst Stadler—an Expressionist poet writing in German but seeking connections with French culture, who had perished at the beginning of the Great War at Ypres in 1914—‘form is a bolt, that must shatter’ (Der Aufbruch, 1914), were close to their hearts.

A significant shift had taken place between ‘Bunt’ and Formism in the conceptualisation of the symbol, which produced one of the essential tensions of emergent modernity. If, in both cases, the source of expression was the neo-Romantic thought of Młoda Polska, with its idealism, irrationalism, subjectivism, spiritualism, and mysticism, then the point of reference was modern form, with its spiritual depth and rational clarity. Form, torn apart in the symbol, was associated with the metaphysics of the absolute in the Expressionist circle of Zdrój, while, among the Kraków Formists, the stylistic continuity of the symbol was associated with the absolute of form. The Poznań artists’ reconciliation with the ‘dark’ ideas of Przybyszewski and the Formists’ with the ‘decorative’ forms of Wyspiański make sense, when viewed from this perspective. The Expressionists saw in Przybyszewski’s texts the modernist passage of the soul (after the example of Kandinsky), liberating itself from Romantic form, but true to the idea of creative individuality; of the artist leading mankind to the heights of spirituality. This made it possible to treat Expressionism in broad association with the metaphysical tendencies of the modern era, and not just with the history of symbolism. Sensing that they were the inheritors of Wyspiański, on their route to ‘pure form’, the Formists had to ‘denude his thinking, with all its nationalist phantoms, of regressive baggage; of those old Hussar’s helmets, lances, and wings’, as Karol Irzykowski wrote, ‘that came with the new wave of Romanticism [and] were assiduously fished out by the authors of irredentism’s idealism; denuded, in order to perceive in them the domination of modern form’.[66] In Stanisław Wyspiański’s Liberation (Wyzwolenie), in his dialogue with Maska, Konrad continued to call for the soul. ‘Do you have no soul?’, he asked, ‘Don’t you know what the soul is, the force that is what it wants to be and is not what it does not want to be; the soul, which is immortal and comes from God, and you say that you know it, for you destroy its godliness, halting its ambition, but you do not have It. You are not it. Because to have it and not to be it, is illogical’. The journal Maski (Masks), which favoured the Formists, selected as the epigraph for its first issue, a fragment from Liberation, in which, avoiding the national problem and Polish spirituality, Konrad said the following to Maska concerning form: ‘It has to have an artistic form … the inducible, artistic, form of inducible beauty, which nothing will be able to resist, which will smash like a hammer and before which all else will crumble’.[67] Not a word about the soul. In subsequent issues of the journal, the abstract floral motifs from Wyspiański’s decorative herbarium were published alongside the Cubist volumes of Pronaszko.

There was something more in the disagreements between these two groups, Józef Ratajczak recalls, something more important, for those advocates of internal narratives, the naturalists of the Soul, could not agree to a cult of pure form, or, in other words, to arriving at the depths of the human soul by way of external form, which, in their view, was just what the Formists proposed. Artur Maria Swinarski wrote that ‘the contemporary Formists from Zdrój, suddenly began to look upon Wroniecki with suspicion, and to call him a Formist, which was the worst insult in those circles’. [68] And yet, as early as December 1919 and January 1920, there was a joint exhibition of the Formists and Bunt in Poznań. Along with ‘Umberto Boccioni’s Theatrical Synthesis’, the Formist dance performed by Rita Sachcetto as part of the ‘Zdrój Evening’ organised on the occasion was a key attraction.

The Jewish artists of the Łódź Jung Idysz group did not maintain close contacts with the Kraków artists. Things were different with the artists of the Poznań Bunt. Although the planned joint exhibition never took place, individual artists from Jung Idysz and Bunt maintained personal relations. Their works could be seen together at group exhibitions: they met in Poznań (Marek Szwarc), in Łódź (Adam Bederski) and in Berlin (Jankiel Adler and Karol Kubicki). They exchanged information and opinions. They valued Expressionism’s spirituality, seeing it as a value common to all mankind and a synonym of modernity. However, Jewish artists stressed the tradition of ‘native’ culture far more strongly, being the source of their universal identity, and associated Expressionism with Symbolism (Adler) as a characteristic of great art as a whole, and Futurism (Broderson) was the source of the contemporary revolution of the soul. ‘Art’, it was written in 1919 on the occasion of an exhibition of Jewish art in Białystok, ‘achieves a higher degree of artistic beauty and truth only in national art, organically and indivisibly connected to all the deepest secrets of the national psyche, revealing themselves through the prism of the universal feelings of mankind and the aims of the artist’.[69] At the same time, though, the artists of the Jung Idysz group were averse to local reality, to the archaic forms of life of Jews in Poland, while also stressing, at the same time, their parallel fascination with metropolitan contemporaneity and new phenomena in art.

The Warsaw literary critic Jakub Appenszlak wrote in 1920 that ‘the gales of the latest artistic transformations are blowing into “young Jewish art”. Its foundations are shaking from the pulsations of the great cities and epochal events. The crumbs of Futurism and Expressionism are dropping onto young Jewish artists’ desks and canvases; the echoes of social tremors and individual perplexities giving rise to new truths are reverberating in their ears’.[70] The most perceptive scholar of the art of this circle, Jerzy Malinowski, has stressed that ‘young artists, with the agenda of Jewish renewal, sought to break with the past and to achieve the cultural level of other nations by way of an accelerated progress. In other words, they were all concerned with the question of how to rationalise tradition in such a way as to become a universal artist.’[71] The problem was far from simple, though key to modernism. For many Jewish artists, Marc Chagall served as an example of an artist freely using Jewish motifs in a syncretic and lyrical manner, as well as being an artist who was well integrated into European culture. The Chagallian renewal of language was not a rejection of the marginal qualities of Jewish culture. On the contrary, the artist aimed to include this somewhat strange atmosphere of provincial thought in the circuit of universal ideas. Of course, this entailed destruction and abandoning religious mysticism, which was difficult to assimilate, and replacing it with a metaphysics of abstraction (Henryk Berlewi) or with expressive stylistics, with the features of the irrational originality of an art expressing the ‘truth of life’ (Broderson).

A specific form of Futurism that rationalised tradition was the re-formulation by Jewish artists of their own Jewish past and a means to look into the future, having arrived at this vantage-point. Mojżesz Broderson defined the whole of modern art as a Futurism that included ‘Expressionism and Cubism’. In a manifesto published in Jung Idysz, the new art represented by the group was to be a search for the ‘essence in the pulsation of existence’, truth and Realism in ‘mystical faith’.[72] This mystical existentialism, allowing for the synthesis of spirituality and corporeality, led to the sensorial understanding of the secret of existence by way of art, music, and dance. The element of Dionysian joy lurking in Hasidic heresy was a means to experience infinity and godly unity. Expressionism ‘does not see only external and accidental things in phenomena’, wrote Jankiel Adler, but was conscious that ‘everything is unity and eternity, and that above “everything” there rises the holy breath of Eternity’.[73] Behind the Expressionism of the artists of Jung Idysz there was the experience of the mysticism of Eastern-European Hasidism, abandoned, but never eliminated from the consciousness.[74] The emotional world of Hasidism exerted a great force of attraction on minds striving for the spiritual renewal of Judaism, and was enormously significant in artistic circles.

The Hasidic movement, with its clear national and folkloristic attitude, took advantage of sophisticated symbolism relating to the tradition of Jewish folklore, and traditional Hasidic art tended to intensify the expressive qualities of representations and to develop ornamental-figurative narrations, in which artists codified traditional motifs. The problem of the Jewish avant-garde, which, in Poland, was born with the Jung Idysz group, was tearing oneself away from this conservative and marginal model in the name of the universal values of contemporary art, while at the same time continuing to identify with one’s own culture. In this way, models of contemporary Expressionism with its irreligiosity and secular metaphysics, expressed in art by way of radical abstraction, came to be superimposed onto traditional Jewish motifs, often taken from the abstract ornamentation of synagogues and various biblical narratives or, occasionally, fairy tales.[75] These problems led the Łódź Expressionists to Constructivism, well known as a result of the many contacts that the Łódź artists made in both the East and the West of Europe, either by way of their studies, or because of their many journeys, or else by way of their international friendships and artistic connections. Berlewi wrote, in 1921: ‘A new idea is ignited under the foundations of old forms; its relation to the old forms it is more revolutionary, it cannot fit within them. Then there is a battle between two opposites, and the form of the past must be surpassed. The new idea has to be given its appropriate shape. The problem is that in order to master form, one has to overcome the old and to create the new’.[76]


Translated by Klara Kemp-Welch


[1] Tytus Czyżewski was in Paris in the years 1908 to 1909 and again in 1911 to1912; Witkacy was there in 1908 and again in late spring in 1911; Jacek Mierzejewski in the summer of 1912; and in autumn 1912, Leon Chwistek (who stayed until 1914), Leon Dołżycki and Tymon Niesiołowski all went to Paris.

[2] The lecture was entitled ‘French Painting from Cézanne to the Cubists’. In the somewhat contentious comments on Basler’s visit and lecture, we read that at the academy he talked ‘about the Cubists in particular’ and also ‘waged a series of disagreements in cafés with painters, sculptors and critics, showed the catalogue, for which he had written the introduction, of an exhibition of the latest Modernists, such as Kokoschka, Kandinsky, and a group with a name rather like that of an inn: Der Blaue Reiter …’. See: Rydwan (Chariot) 11 (1912), p. 170. The following year, it was the turn of Adam Dobrodzicki to spoke about Cubism, having spent time in Paris in 1910, after studying at the Jagiellonian University and the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków.

[3] Adolf Basler, ‘Stare i nowe konwencje w malarstwie (od Cézanne’a do kubizmu)’, Krytyka 38/4 (1913): pp. 210–220; and 38/5 (1913): pp. 260–271; Adolf Basler, ‘Nowa sztuka’, Museion 12 (1913). The editors of Krytyka added a note to the article to say that this was an informative text received from Paris. A discussion of Basler’s Paris correspondence and that of other critics writing about Cubism can be found in Anna Wierzbicka’s book, We Francji i w Polsce 1900–1939. Sztuka jej historyczne uwarunkowania i odbiór w świetle krytyków polsko-francuskich (Warsaw: Instytut Sztuki PAN, 2009), pp. 115–128.

[4] Basler, ‘Stare i nowe konwencje’, p. 264.

[5] Basler, ‘Stare i nowe konwencje’, p. 263.

[6] Władysław Witwicki (ed.), Wystawa Futurystów, Kubistów, Ekspresjonistów, exhibition catalogue, (Lwów: TPSP 1913).

[7] A detailed discussion of the exhibition can be found in Elizabeth Clegg, ‘“Futurists, Cubists and the Like”: Early Modernism and Late Imperialism’, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 56/2 (1993): pp. 249–277. Anna Wierzbicka discusses the exhibition in We Francji i w Polsce, pp. 129–136. Its wider context is interestingly explored in Przemysław Strożek, Marinetti i futuryzm w Polsce 1909–1939. Obecność-konteksty-wydarzenia (Warsaw: Instytut Sztuki PAN, 2012), pp. 45–51.

[8] Józef Czapski, Patrząc (Kraków: Wydawnictwo Znak, 1983), p. 66.

[9] Also noteworthy is Zbigniew Pronaszko’s altar in the Church of the Missionaries (Misjonarzy) in Kraków, dated 1911–1912 (known from reproductions in Nowości ilustrowane 48 (1917): p. 7, and sometimes treated as the first work of Polish Cubism) as well as the Cubist studies (1911–1914) of Tadeusz Matkowski, shown from 1911 onwards at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris. A discussion of Czyżewski’s literary work in relation to his artistic work has been interestingly interpreted in a number of recently-published works: Beata Śniecikowska, Słowo-obraz-dźwięk. Literatura i sztuki wizualne w koncepcjach polskiej awangardy 1918-1939 (Kraków: Universitas, 2005); Agata Soczyńska, Tytus Czyżewski, malarz-poeta (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Neriton, 2006); and Diana Wasilewska (ed.), Między słowem a obrazem. Rzecz o Tytusie Czyżewskim (Kraków: Universitas, 2017).

[10] Czyżewski’s ‘multi-surface’ paintings are known only from the reproductions included in Leon Chwistek’s book Tytus Czyżewski a kryzys formizmu (Kraków: Gebethner i Wolff, 1922). The earliest of these is Salome, reproduced in Wianki 1 (1919) and dated 1915–1917 (the first, watercolour, version is from 1909 and is currently in the National Museum in Kraków), and the remainder are from 1916 to 1920. They have recently been discussed in Małgorzata Geron, ‘Obrazy wielopłaszczyznowe Tytusa Czyżewskiego’, Acta Universitatis Nicolai Copernici. Zabytkoznawstwo i Konserwatorstwo 42 (2011): pp. 547–564.

[11] Zbigniew Pronaszko, ‘Przed wielkim jutrem’, Rydwan 1 (1914): p. 125.

[12] Bolesław (Biegalski) Biegas (1877–1954), studied wood-carving in Warsaw in 1895 to 1896 and was then educated at the School of Fine Arts in Kraków as of 1896. As a result of conflict with his professors, he interrupted his studies and went to Paris in 1901. That same year he took part in the tenth Vienna Secession exhibition. He occasionally studied at the Paris École des Beaux-Arts, beginning his independent artistic activity. He remained in Paris, intermittently travelling to Poland, for the rest of his life. He mostly showed at the Salon des Indépendants, but also at the Salon National des Beaux-Arts and at the Salon d’Automne. He played an active part in Polish artistic life in Warsaw and Kraków. As of 1902, he showed his work within the circle of the Paris journal La Plume.

[13] Zbigniew Pronaszko, ‘O ekspresjonizmie’, Maski 1 (1918): p. 15.

[14] Leon Chwistek, ‘Formiści. Wystawa III. Katalog’ (1919). Reproduced in Leon Chwistek, Wielość rzeczywistości w sztuce i inne szkice literackie, (ed.) Karol Estreicher (Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1960), p. 98.

[15] Władysław Strzemiński, ‘Michał Sobeski – Malarstwo doby ostatniej’, Zwrotnica 8 (1926): p. 214.

[16] Władysław Strzemiński, ‘Sztuka nowoczesna w Polsce’, in Jan Brzękowski, Leon Chwistek, Przecław Smolik, and Władysław Strzemiński, O sztuce nowoczesnej (Łódź: Wydawnictwo Towarzystwa Bibljofilów, 1934), p. 59. For more on Formism, and a full bibliography, see: Małgorzata Geron, Formiści. Twórczość i programy artystyczne (Toruń: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersytetu Mikołaja Kopernika, 2015).

[17] Wiadomościami Literackie 51–52 (1926).

[18] A thorough discussion and a full bibliography on the reception of Futurism in Poland is provided in Przemysław Strożek, Marinetti i futuryzm w Polsce 1909–1939 (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Instytutu Sztuki PAN, 2012).
[19] Przegląd Wileński (The Wilno Review) published the full text in 1913. Ignacy Grabowski, ‘Najnowsze prądy w literaturze europejskiej – futuryzm’, Świat 40–41 (1909).

[20] Cezary Jellenta, ‘Futuryzm’, Literatura i Sztuka (supplement of Dziennik Poznański) 42 (1911), pp. 659–661; and 43 (1911), pp. 676–678.

[21] Cezary Jellenta, ‘Futuryści – dywizjoniści. Manifest malarski’, Rydwan 5 (1912), pp. 179–183.

[22] Aleksander Kołtoński, ‘O futuryzmie jako zjawisku kulturalnym i artystycznym’, Krytyka 7–8 (1914), p. 354.

[23] Kołtoński, ‘O futuryzmie’ p. 354.

[24] Kołtoński, ‘O futuryzmie’, p. 94.

[25] Grzegorz Gazda, Futuryzm w Polsce (Wrocław, Warsaw, and Kraków: Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich, 1974), p. 63.

[26] In contemporary usage in Poland, the word Dadaism has negative connotations and in popular usage it serves to describe something that is either serious or is outright harmful.

[27] The poster announcing this ‘sub-tropical evening’ was the work of the Constructivist Henryk Berlewi. The exhibition space was hung with works by the Polish Formists: Berlewi, Kramsztyk, Witkowski, Żyznowski. The ‘avant-garde stylistics’, if any, were limited to somewhat geometrical, Expressionist deformation.

[28] Bruno Jasieński (ed.), Jednodńuwka Futurystuw. mańifesty futuryzmu polskiego. wydańe nadzwyczajne na całą Żeczpospolitą Polską (Kraków, 1921).

[29] Bruno Jasieński, ‘To the Polish Nation: A Manifesto concerning the Immediate Futurization of Life’, trans. Klara Kemp-Welch, in Timothy O. Benson and Éva Forgács (eds.), Between Worlds: A Sourcebook of Central European Avant-Gardes 1910–1930 (Los Angeles and Cambridge, Mass.: LACMA and MIT Press, 2002), p. 189. Originally published as ‘Do narodu Polskiego: Mańifest w sprawie natyhmiastowej futuryzacji żyća’ in Jasieński (ed.) Jednodńuwka Futurystuw (Kraków, 1921).

[30] Anatol Stern and Aleksander Wat (eds.), Gga, Pierwszy polski almanach futurystyczny (Warsaw, 1920).

[31] Stern and Wat (eds.), Gga.

[32] Tytus Czyżewski, Waż, Orfeusz i Eurydyka. Wizja antyczna (Kraków, 1922).

[33] Czyżewski, Waż, Orfeusz i Eurydyka.

[34] ‘Tytus Czyżewski o „Zielonym oku” i o swoim malarstwie (autokrytyka – autoreklama)’, in Jasieński (ed.) Jednodńuwka Futurystuw.

[35] J. L. (Jan Nałęcz -Lipka), ‘Warszawa. Wystawa Szczuki, Starżewskiego [!], Millera’, Lucyfer 2–4 (March 1922): p. 34; Aleksander Wat, ‘Trzy wystawy’, Nowa Sztuka 2 (February 1922): p. 28. The introduction to the catalogue of Szczua’s previous exhibition had been written phonetically, in small letters, by Edmund Miller. Szczuka’s works in the catalogue were not titled, only numbered.

[36] Bruno Jasieński, ‘Manifesto Concerning Futurist Poetry’, trans. Klara Kemp-Welch, in Benson and Forgács (eds.), Between Worlds, p. 192. Originally published as ‘Manifest w sprawie poezji futurystycznej’, in Jasieński (ed.) Jednodńuwka Futurystuw.

[37] Tytus Czyżewski, ‘Od maszyny do zwierząt. – Kto się gniewa na nas?’, Formiści 4 (1921).

[38] Anatol Stern, ‘Zwierzęta w klatce. O polskim futuryzmie’, Kurier Polski 19 (1923).

[39] Bruno Jasieński, Nogi Izoldy Morgan (Lwów: Spółka Nakładowa “Odrodzenie”, 1923).

[40] Tytus Czyżewski, ‘De profundis’, in Tytus Czyżewski, Noc – dzień. Mechaniczny instynkt elektryczny (Kraków: Gebethner i Wolff, 1922).
[41] Aleksander Wat, Mój wiek. Pamiętnik mówiony. Rozmowy przeprowadził Cz. Miłosz, vol. 1 (Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1990), pp. 25–26. First published London: Polonia Book Fund Ltd., 1977.

[42] Wat, Mój wiek. pp. 25–26.

[43] See: Wojciech Sztaba, Gra ze sztuka. O twórczości Stanisława Ignacego Witkiewicza (Kraków: Wydawnictwo lierackie, 1982).

[44] Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, ‘O skutkach działalności naszych futurystów’, in Teatr i inne pisma o teatrze, pp. 221–231.

[45] Witkiewicz, ‘O skutkach’, pp. 221–231.

[46] Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Manifest [Fest-Mani] Papierek lakmusowy (Zakopane, 1921) / Manifesto [Festo-Mani] Litmus Paper, trans. Klara Kemp-Welch, in Benson and Forgács (eds.), Between Worlds, p. 340.

[47] Texts that were important for the development of Polish Modernism included: Stefania Zahorska, ‘Kubizm i jego pochodne’, Południe 1 (1924); Stefania Zahorska, ‘Filozofia ekspresjonizmu (Uwagi na tle malarstwa)’, Przegląd Warszawski 28 (1924); and Wacław Husarski, ‘Podstawowe zagadnienia malarstwa współczesnego’, Reflektor 1 (1924). It is worth noting that, in referring to his 1918 Zurich exhibition Great Exhibition of Abstract Painting and the exhibitions of Paul Klee, Hans Arp, and Francis Picabia that were organised at the same time, Mieczysław Sterling did not mention Dada as a shared experimental platform for the cited artists. Sterling, ‘Obrońca modernizmu w walce z modernizmem’, Sztuki Piękne 7 (1933): pp. 243–244. One of the few texts in which the word Dadaism appears is the review: Aleksander Wat, ‘Wystawa Szczuki i innych’, Nowa Sztuka 2 (1922).

[48] Tadeusz Peiper was the first in Poland to publish Tristan Tzara’s article ‘Dada’ (Zwrotnica 3 (1922)). It appeared in the same issue in which Strzemiński’s notes on Constructivism in Russia were published.

[49] Kurt Schwitters, ‘Dadaizm’, Blok 6/7 (1924).

[50] Schwitters, ‘Dadaizm’.

[51] Schwitters, ‘Dadaizm’.

[52] Schwitters, ‘Dadaizm’.

[53] Wiesław Juszczak, Malarstwo polskiego modernizmu (Gdańsk: Wyd. Słowo/obraz terytoria, 2004), p. 19.

[54] Lidia Głuchowska, ‘Ezoteryka i polityka w grafice wczesnej polskiej awangardy Formistów, Buntu, Jung Idysz’, in Barbara Chojnacka and Michał F. Woźniak (eds.), Wielość w jedności. Litografia i techniki druku płaskiego w Polsce po 1900 roku (Materiały z sesji naukowej 22–23 października 2015 roku), exhibition catalogue, Muzeum Okręgowe im. Leona Wyczółkowskiego (Bydgoszcz, 2016), p. 59; Agnieszka Salomon-Radecka, ‘Początki sztuki abstrakcyjnej w Polsce na przykładzie twórczości ekspresjonistów poznańskich związanych z czasopismem Zdrój (1917–1922)’, Dyskurs 9 (2014), pp. 179–198; and Salomon-Radecka, ‘Pionierzy abstrakcji’, Arteon 6 (2017), pp. 27–29.

[55] Maria Podraza-Kwiatkowska, ‘Wzniosłość, Słowacki i młodopolski ekspresjonizm’, Teksty Drugie 3 (1999), pp. 33–43.

[56] Elżbieta Grabska, Moderniści o sztuce (Warsaw: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1971), p. 284.

[57] Stanisław Przybyszewski, Z gleby kujawskiej (syn ziemi), 2nd edition (Warsaw: Księgarnia M. Borkowskiego, 1904), p. 15.

[58] Przybyszewski, Z gleby kujawskiej, p. 6.

[59] Editorial, Zdrój 1 (October–December 1917), p. 3.

[60] Józef Ratajczak, Zgasły “brzask epoki”. Szkice z dziejów czasopisma „Zdrój” 1917–1922 (Poznań: Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, 1980), p. 316.

[61] Tomasz Gryglewicz, ‘Malarstwo środkowoeuropejskie około 1910 roku’, in Tereza Hrankowska (ed.), Przed wielkim jutrem. Sztuka 1905–1918. Materiały Sesji Stowarzyszenia Historyków SztukiWarszawa, październik 1990 (Warsaw: PWN, 1993), pp. 221–223.

[62] Mieczysław Porębski, ‘Ubi leones’, in Hrankowska (ed.), Przed wielkim jutrem, pp. 11, 18.

[63] Zbigniew Pronaszko, ‘On Expressionism’ (First published as ‘O ekspresjonizmie’, Maski 1/1 (January 1918), pp. 15–16), trans. Klara Kemp-Welch, in Benson and Forgács (eds.), Between Worlds, p. 179.

[64] Pronaszko, ‘On Expressionism’, p. 180.

[65] Pronaszko, ‘On Expressionism’, pp. 179–181.

[66] Karol Irzykowski, ‘Czyn i słowo oraz Fryderyk Hebel jako poeta konieczności. Lemiesz i szpada przed sądem publicznym. Prolegomena do charakterołogii’ (Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1980), p. 249. Cited in Teresa Walas, ‘Wyspiański jako problem polskiego modernizmu’, Teksty Drugie 3 (2008), pp. 15–16.

[67] Konrad: ‘…Wait, wait, wait. — It has to have artistic form… ha… yes…yes… — form [that is] irrevocable, artistic, form of irrevocable beauty, which nothing can withstand, which will strike like a hammer and before which everything will bow-down’. (‘Poczekaj, poczekaj, poczekaj. — To musi mieć formę artystyczną… ha… tak… tak… — formę nieodwołalną, artystyczną, formę niedwołalnego piękna, przed którym nie ostoi się nic, która jak młot walić będzie i przed którym wszystko polęże’). Stanisław Wyspiański, Wyzwolenie. Dramat w trzech aktach… (Kraków: Uniwersytet Jagielloński,1903), conversation with Mask 18, verse 1829.

[68] Artur Maria Swinarski, cited in Józef Ratajczak, Zgasły „brzask epoki”. Szkice z dziejów czasopisma „Zdrój” 1917–1922 (Poznań: Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, 1980), pp. 54–55.

[69] Jerzy Malinowski, Malarstwo i rzeźba Żydów Polskich w XIX i XX wieku (Warsaw: PWN, 2000), p. 167.

[70] Jakub Appenszlak, ‘Przegląd literacki’, Nasz Kurier 76 (17 May 1920), p. 3. Cited in Malinowski, Malarstwo i rzeźba Żydów Polskich, p. 169.

[71] Malinowski, Malarstwo i rzeźba Żydów Polskich, p. 169.

[72] Mojżesz Broderson, ‘Manifest’, Jung Idysz 2–3 (1919), p. 2. Reprinted, trans. Zbigniew Targielski, in Jerzy Malinowski, Grupa „Jung Idysz” i żydowskie środowisko „Nowej Sztuki” w Polsce 1918–1923 (Warsaw: Polska Akademia Nauk / Instytut Sztuki, 1987), p. 176.

[73] Jankiel Adler, ‘Ekspresjonizm (fragmenty z prelekcji)’, Nasz Kurier 292 (1920), p. 4. Reprinted, trans. Saul Wegman, in Malinowski, Grupa „Jung Idysz” i żydowskie środowisko „Nowej Sztuki”, p. 180.

[74] Hasidism is a mystical sect of Judaism, focused around Tzaddiks. As distinct from the ‘learnedness’ of Rabbis, the Tzaddiks are ascribed para-rational values, and the place of theoretical debates in contacts between people replaced by Hasidic storytelling. The great Tzaddiks were not always the proponents of a new doctrine, but they had something mysterious and charismatic about them, which gave their life the expression of excellence, and also meant that the relationship with them had an irrational character. The lives of the Tzaddiks were surrounded by an aura of legend. Triviality and depth, original and borrowed thoughts were intertwined in a single whole in the vast mass of anecdotes and stories serving an important role in the social life of the Hasidic Jews, all but becoming a new religious value, or at least a religious ritual.

[75] See also: Kazimierz Piotrowski, ‘Irreligia Buntu. Geneza i morfologia poznańskiej apostazji’, in Grażyna Hałasa and Agnieszka Salamon (eds.), Bunt. Ekspresjonizm poznański 1917–1925, exhibition catalogue, Muzeum Narodowe w Poznaniu (Poznań, 2003), pp. 119–139.

[76] Henryk Berlewi, ‘W walce o nową formę’. Reprinted in Karolina Szymaniak (ed.), Warszawska awangarda jidysz (Gdańsk: Słowo/obraz terytoria, 2005), pp. 125–126. This is a corrected version of a translation by Zbigniewa Targielski, published in Malinowski, Grupa „Jung Idysz” i żydowskie środowisko „Nowej Sztuki”, p. 211.

DOI: 10.33999/2019.19