Tytus Czyżewski  – the man who wanted to try it all

 

Avant-garde kuva

Written by Gabriela Łukasiewicz

 

Tytus Czyżewski was born the 28th December, in 1880, and he died in May 1945. Czyżewski was a Polish painter, art theoretician, Futurist poet, playwright, member of the Polish Formist movement, and the Colorist movement.

tytus 1

 

Tytus Czyżewski was an artist with a true French spirit, always looking for and trying out something new. So it comes as no suprise that after graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, he travelled to Paris and learned about the artistic trends there. Being young and having no limits, made Tytus prone to the artistic atmosphere of this capital city. At that time, he was strongly influenced by Cézanne and El Greco, whose works he admired until his death.

tytus 2  tytus 3

His early works resemble Cézanne’s style, mostly in colours and themes.

However,Czyżewski never forgot Poland and his love for literature. In the back of his mind, he always remembered the reason why he got involved with art. Bullied as a child, drawing helped him to overcome the fear, to create a world in which he felt safe and sound. Back then already he was fascinated with the use of colours and after having learned the basics of Cubism (it was a year 1907, the beginning of this movement) he started to go into the different direction. Soon he came back to Cracow to share new ideas and to organise his first individual exhibition that truly had a huge impact on the Polish avant-garde artists. They saw new forms, shapes, vivid colours and completely changed perspective. Fascinated with his works, they started to imitate these new solutions. Travelling back and forth from Cracow to Paris, Czyżewski took part of many exhibitions. He compared the works he had seen, and wrote poems and notes based on what impressions they had made on him.

tytus 4

 Tytus Czyżewski: “Nude with a cat”, 1920, National Museum in Warsaw

That time of exploration and admiration was brutally interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War. Notwithstanding Czyżewski continued to write and paint. In 1917, with the brothers Zbigniew and Andrzej Pronaszko, he organized in Cracow an exhibition of Polish Expressionist works. The group later became known as the Polish Formists. Until the break-up of the Formists in 1922, he was the primary artist and theoretician of the movement as well as the joint editor of the periodical Formiści. He was also co-founder of the Polish Futurist clubs, and published Futurist-inspired “visual poetry.”

tytus 5    tytus 4b

The Polish Formists as well as the Polish Futurists completely neglected all the grammar rules. In a way it was a reference to the freedom of speech. Just like the words they used, the artists wanted to be free and they insisted on getting rid of the borders and limits. When it comes to the poems, the lack of sense and the absurdity were the ways to shock and emancipate the reader.

Undoubtedly, Tytus Czyżewski was one of the most influential Polish avant-garde artists who sadly is forgotten. His passion made him unstoppable, even in front of the drastic war. After his Futurist input, he briefly flirted with Surrealism and painted the rest of his life as a Colorist. However, for me he will always be a ‘complete’ artist – fulfilled, inspired and committed, a man who tried it all.

tytus 6        tytus 7

 

***

 

Tytus Czyżewski:

tytus 8

EYES OF THE TIGER.

Black vertical lines

Yellow green sea

Rustle of purple

Chi chi

The scream of a monkey

Blue streaks of green

Blue yellow  purple  palm trees  cloud

The scream of a purple bird

hi hi

On strong feet it goes

Silently

Enormous green                                      eye

Bloody green eye the other one

Monkeys Chi-chi

Parrots hi hi

Green eye

Green-yellow mass

Purple around

Monkey’s heart is shaking

The mystery lets the blood out

Green eye

The palm trees rustle Rhododendron awaits

Butterflies fly

Still eye stays awake

Purple-green

The other one

Green eye

The fear is asleep

Monkeys Chi-chi

Parrots hi hi

Green eyes

Is it already night                is it already day

Is it a dream

Is it fear – is it hypnotism

Palm trees   Silence  Dusk

Monkeys      Butterflies  Parrots

Chi-chi hi-hi chi-chi

GREEN EYE.

 

tytus 9

FEAR.

knife on an open throat and blood

green banknotes thousands

u the dog howls from pain u

give it back or I’ll kill

every night in fear of the escape

prison humid execution

a a pleasure the blood splashes

give it back or I’ll kill

i am the lord red caftan

give back give back the blood

strong banknotes thousands

give it back or I’ll kill

four soldiers under the wall

white band on the eyes

cold bullet bloodstained brain

give it back or I’ll kill

 

Interpretation:  The first poem ‘Eyes of the tiger’ presents typical features of the avant-garde poetry: the use of onomatopoeias, meaninglessness, negligence of the grammatical rules. However, for me, this poem is not completely nonsense. The poet presents a landscape: palm trees, sea, wild animals. He creates an impression by naming the colours and sounds; we can suppose that the whole scenery is happening during a sunset. Still, we don’t really know if it is real, because in the last part of the poem the author implies that it may be a dream. For me, this poem might describe an impressionist painting that could have fascinated Tytus Czyżewski. As we know, he liked to create his poetry on the spur of the moment, under the influence of something he saw or witnessed. That’s why it might be a painting, as well as a real scenery (since he traveled a lot) or just a dream. What’s most important, however, is the use of nouns, which allow us to vividly recreate the image – it clearly shows the impressionist inspiration that helped the poet to develop his art.

The second poem ‘Fear’ is quite different from the first one, mainly because of its theme. The image we get is not as bright and dreamy; we see red (clear reference to blood) and green (money, but it can also refer to the colour the uniforms of Polish soldiers at that time). We can hear sounds: howling, screams of prisoners, gunshots. Again, the poet uses several onomatopoeias, but his message is pretty clear: ‘give it back or I’ll kill’. Tytus Czyżewski survived both the First and the Second World War, the both of which he witnessed. He must have seen the executions he describes in the last paragraph. He was an artist, not a soldier, but I suppose he also wanted to fight for freedom of Poland. The title ‘Fear’ implies however that it was difficult, the times were horrifying, and the fear definitely had an impact on Czyżewski. In general, the war had a huge repercussion on the avant-garde artists, not only in Poland. One of the most famous examples is Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica”. Tytus Czyżewski, instead, expressed his fears and anxieties more powerfully in poems than in his painting. He was also a part of the Polish Formist and Polish Futurist movements, and with the movements he wanted to describe what he saw, but also to motivate people to fight for freedom. That’s why the repeated verse ‘give it back or I’ll kill’ is so strong. The purpose of this poem was not only to present what was happening during the war (in the impressionist manner, of course), but also to motivate others and fight in the best way a poet possibly could.

Written by Gabriela Łukasiewicz. Currently Gabriela studies Language for Business at the Department of Philology, University of Lodz, Poland. Contact: Gabriela.Łukasiewicz@op.pol

 

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