Dorota Seweryn-Puchalska

Aleksander Jędrzejewski (1903-1974)

Aleksander Jędrzejewski, nicknamed “Jędrzej” by his colleagues, was a member of the Brotherhood of St. Luke, among whom he was dubbed a “colorist”. This is how not only his colleagues, but also the critics referred to him. In his review of an exhibition hosted in 1936 by ZAP (the League of Polish Artists), Stanisław Rogoyski described Jędrzejewski as having “an acute sense of color”[1]. His painting was characterized by a light palette, quick, free brushstrokes, and luminosity. This post-impressionist tendency was also noticed by the critic Stanisław Ciechomski in 1929, who included Jędrzejewski together with Eliasz Kanarek in the Brotherhood’s impressionist faction. The counterbalance to this fraction was the “passé faction” based on traditional art. This stylistic divergence was in line with the idea of artistic plurality propagated by Pruszkowski. It was a mark of the artistic tolerance he purposefully manifested. Zamoyski also stressed this diversity, noting that there was nothing in common between Gotard and Jędrzejewski.

Aleksander Jędrzejewski, Lubelska street in Kazimierz, 1936 – Muzeum Nadwiślańskie in Kazimierz Dolny

He was also called a “Wołyniak” because he was born in Żytomierz, in the region of Wołyń. His first professor was Konrad Krzyżanowski – and then from 1923 to 1928, professor Tadeusz Pruszkowski. He was among the eight students who in 1923 came to Kazimierz Dolny on the Vistula – namely: Antoni Michalak, Jan Gotard, Jan Wydra, Mieczysław Szulc, Jan Zamoyski, Edward Kokoszko, and Janusz Podoski. From 1925 he belonged to the Brotherhood of St. Luke. Like his friends, every year he came to Kazimierz Dolny, where he painted – often accompanied by Jan Gotard – in the open air. He was among those who were mentioned by Jan Kleczyński in his article in Kurier Warszawski about the first exhibition at the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts in 1928, as being “distinct, strong, bold (…) creative talents”. He presented his works together with his colleagues over the following years, all the way until 1938.
The Brotherhood’s exhibitions divided reviewers. On the one hand, their work was very positively evaluated, on the other, there were also critical voices. The public reacted with great interest. This also applied to exhibitions held abroad, including one organized by the Society for the Propagation of Polish Art Among Foreigners at the Musée Rath in Geneva in 1931. The Brotherhood exhibited its works together with artists from the Warsaw School and Jadwiga Umińska. The exhibition was praised in the local press and was widely received. Other foreign exhibitions in which Jędrzejewski participated included the Venice Biennale in 1934, an exhibition in Amsterdam as part of a collaboration with the Dutch Brotherhood of St. Luke, and a second exhibition at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh in 1938.

Aleksander Jędrzejewski, Arc de triomphe, Paris, 1932 – Muzeum Śląskie

In 1936 the Institute of Art Propaganda organized an exhibition entitled Sport in Art, wherein Jędrzejewski presented his painting Cyclists[2]. The artist succeeded in depicting the movement of the cyclists in a peloton, emphasized by the arrangement of the road on hilly terrain. Jędrzejewski often used elements of tension in his compositions – arcs, slants, and diagonal arrangements. This can be seen in his works such as Lublin Street in Kazimierz Dolny (1936)[3], Harvest Festival (1926)[4], At Sunset (c. 1930) and Whitewashing of Canvas (1935)[5]. Another feature we can conventionally call mannerism is the characteristic “overhead” shot – that is, the bird’s eye perspective. This is how Jędrzejewski depicts the panorama of Kazimierz Dolny and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris (1932)[6]. In the latter, cars are speeding around the huge monument on Charles de Gaulle Square, giving the illusion of movement, or even spinning as if on a carousel. This movement and rhythm can be seen in other paintings, such as the symmetrically composed one depicting a street running downward, with the rhythm determined by hanging white sheets (Naples, 1935). The painting Sailors on the Peninsula Hel (1936) has a similar layout. The centrally located street is marked by a row of half-timbered houses on either sides. The rhythm of the houses is complemented by sailors walking down the street. In one of the paintings depicting Kazimierz Dolny (a lost work), the simultaneity of composition and fantasy in juggling with objects characteristic for the town, which the artist lays out freely on the canvas, allows him to render the uniqueness of the place. He composed Lunapark (1928)[7] in a similar way, adding the humor and brilliance of a great commentator on reality.

Aleksander Jędrzejewski, A courtyard, 1934

When we add to this the work depicting a street in Cagnes-su-Mer entitled Townhouses (1930)[8], we create a map of the artist’s travels. He traveled to Italy, North Africa, southern France, and Paris. He traveled with Jadwiga Przeradzka, who became his wife. During their travels they also met with Przeradzka’s friend, Teresa Roszkowska. Both were pupils of Tadeusz Pruszkowski, but belonged to the Warsaw School group.

In the early 1930s Jędrzejewski and his wife lived in Łuck where they both designed sets for the Wołyń Region Theater that was based there. In 1937, together with Antoni Łyżwański and Jadwiga Przeradzka, they created decorations for the 8th Wołyń Trade Fair in Równe. They prepared advertising at the entrance gate, the Horses exhibition pavilion, and the visual setting for the stage.

Jędrzejewski also designed sets for the Municipal Theater in Bydgoszcz. He continued his stage design activities after World War II. In 1945 he briefly served as a stage designer at the Dom Żołnierza (Soldier’s Home) Theater in Łódź. In 1946 he moved to Wrocław and worked there for the City Theater (today, the Polish Theater). He also collaborated with the Wrocław Opera, the Contemporary Theater, the Musical Theater, the Jewish Theater, and the Pantomime Theater.

In 1948 he created painting compositions for the Recovered Territories Exhibition. He also created decorations for Polish pavilions at international fairs. Together with Stanisław Pękalski and Władyslaw Wincze he designed colors for the townhouses on Wroclaw’s Market Square and Solny Square realized in 1961.

[1] See I. Kossowska, Artystyczna rekonkwista. Sztuka w międzywojennej Polsce i Europie, Toruń, 2017, p. 407.
[2] Property of Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie.
[3] Property of Muzeum Nadwiślańskie w Kazimierzu Dolnym
[4] Property of Muzeum Nadwiślańskie w Kazimierzu Dolnym
[5] Private property
[6] Property of Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie
[7] Property of Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie
[8] Property of Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie