Zdzisław Beksiński, Painter

AA78_by_Zdzislaw_Beksinski_1978

About a Man

24 February 1929 – 21 February 2005) was a renowned Polish painter, photographer, and sculptor who is best known as a fantasy artist. Beksiński executed his paintings and drawings either in what he called a ‘Baroque’ or a ‘Gothic’ manner. The first style is dominated by representation, with the best-known examples coming from his ‘fantastic realism’ period when he painted disturbing images of a surrealistic, nightmarish environment. The second style is more abstract, being dominated by form, and is typified by Beksiński’s later paintings. Beksiński was murdered in 2005.

Youth

Beksiński was born in the town of Sanok, in southern Poland. After studying architecture in Kraków, he returned to Sanok in 1955. Subsequent to this education, he spent several years as a construction site supervisor, which he hated. At that time, he became interested in artistic photography and photomontage, sculpture and painting. He made his sculptures of plaster, metal and wire. His photography had several themes that would also appear in his future paintings, presenting wrinkled faces, landscapes and objects with a very bumpy texture, which he attempted to emphasize (especially by manipulating lights and shadows). His photography also depicted disturbing images, such as a mutilated baby doll with its face torn off, portraits of people without faces or with their faces wrapped in bandages. Later, he concentrated on painting. His first paintings were abstract art, but throughout the 1960s he made his surrealist inspirations more visible. His early drawings featured sadomasochistic themes.

Family tragedies and death

The late 1990s were a very trying time for Beksiński. His wife, Zofia, died in 1998; a year later, on Christmas Eve 1999, his son Tomasz (a popular radio presenter, music journalist and movie translator) committed suicide. Beksiński discovered his son’s body. Unable to come to terms with his son’s death, he kept an envelope “For Tomek in case I kick the bucket” pinned to his wall.

On 21 February 2005, Beksiński was found dead in his flat in Warsaw with 17 stab wounds on his body; two of the wounds were determined to have been fatal. Robert Kupiec (the teenage son of his longtime caretaker), who later pleaded guilty, and a friend were arrested shortly after the crime. On 9 November 2006 Robert Kupiec was condemned to 25 years in prison, and his accomplice, Łukasz Kupiec, to 5 years by the court of Warsaw. Before his death, Beksiński refused a small loan to Robert Kupiec (a few hundred złotys; approximately $100).

Although Beksiński’s art was often grim, he himself was known to be a pleasant person who took enjoyment from conversation and had a keen sense of humor. He was modest and somewhat shy, avoiding public events such as the openings of his own exhibitions. He credited music as his main source of inspiration. He claimed not to be much influenced by literature, cinema or the work of other artists, and almost never visited museums or exhibitions. Beksiński avoided concrete analyses of the content of his work, saying “I cannot conceive of a sensible statement on painting”. He was especially dismissive of those who sought or offered simple answers to what his work ‘meant’.

[wiki Zdzisław Beksiński]

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