When the weary tourist enters the restaurant atop Mount Gubałówka in the Polish Tatras, in the main dining hall they will no doubt wind up admiring the large-sale panneau from 1937 entitled Zdrojowiska polskie (Polish health-spas). This is a work by Jeremi Kubicki, one he painted for the international exhibition “Art and Technique in Contemporary Life”, at which he won the Grand Prix. In 1938, together with other works from the Polish pavilion, it took its place adorning the interior of the restaurant on Gubałówka. In his memoirs about the artist, published that same year in Wiadomości Literackie (Literary News) Lech Niemojewski wrote: “On mahogany that peers through the painting so compellingly that the panels remain panels […] a painting was cast like a veil, lightly and breezily. The painter simply applied his brush to the wood. With ginger touches, as if jokingly, as if knitting petit point, he coaxed out from the mahogany backdrop a vision of landscape fragments joined with a ribbon, a veritable river wending cartographically from the bottom upwards”.

Jeremi Kubicki, Pejzaż z łódkami, 1926

Mahogany was the material the artist most preferred to paint on. He came into his own when painting murals, and so when he received such a commission, he asked for just one thing: a mahogany wall. The Zdrojowiska polskie present a country of diverse landscapes, and the figures portrayed – veritable guides – underline the mosaic’s rich traditions[1]. The whole is imbued with an idyllic atmosphere with a light admixture of the grotesque. We sense Kubicki’s unrestrained creative efforts, as summoned by professor Pruszkowski. Thus, as did his professor, Kubicki “had only his own willfulness and […] talent as his compass” [2].

Not only in this work do we see an overture to the art of the early Italian renaissance, in particular the figures of Botticelli and the lightness of rococo painting. In 1934 Kubicki created a decoration for the Ladies’ Hall on the ocean liner M/S “Piłsudski”. On the wall in a niche he painted The Life of a Woman, and in the four corners – The Four Seasons. Kubicki made these works on site, in the shipyard in Trieste. He had been recommended by professor Tadeusz Pruszkowski, who was a member of the special Artistic Subcommittee together with Wojciech Jastrzębowski (the chairman) and Lech Niemojewski (the secretary). Financing was meagre, and so the Italians – as Niemojewski mentions in Wiadomości Literackie – suggested that young artists be relied upon, as “there would be a lot of trouble with celebrities”. Kubicki was still a student then. He created a work of balanced composition in a style that became his trademark. “Something from Primavera, from rococo, and La Vie Parisienne. The magic of fantastic fables, yet with something decadent, almost perverse”, as in 1938 wrote Mieczysław Wallis in Wiadomości Literackie. The artist also decorated the children’s room on the ocean liner M/S “Batory”.

Another interesting creation was Kubicki’s painting work in a small room inside the Wedle store on Szpitalna street in Warsaw. A second room was decorated by his colleague Edward Manteuffel. Kubicki evinced a marked artistic freedom. After all, he loved to paint from memory and imagination. Here at Wedle he created a daring, colorful tale of “choco”. As Pruszkowski enthusiastically described Kubiski’s work, it contained “both conquests of chocolate neighborhoods, off-loading ports, and plantations, and gardens, and tea cups, and those drinking from them, and simply everything”. The simultaneously presented scenes, ones full of life and movement, are fables unto themselves.

Jeremi Kubicki, Cyclists

The movement just mentioned marvelously lent itself to the 1935 painting Cykliści (Cyclists), done in light tones.[3] The work was presented in April 1936 at the exhibition Sport in Art held at the Institute for the Propagation of Art.

Tadeusz Pruszkowski wrote that Kubicki’s “works will not be buried under the enormous weight of today’s art production”. As his professor was to recall, Kubicki’s originality was also manifested in the fact that – differently than with the rest of humanity, wherein pencil, charcoal, and brush were held in three fingers – Kubicki held them in a closed fist.

Tadeusz Pruszkowski was Kubicki’s professor from 1929 to 1935. Kubicki had begun his art studies earlier at Warsaw’s Institute for the Graphic Arts under Stanisław Rzecki and Wacław Borowski. He joined the Lukians in 1935 and – like his colleagues in that endeavor – often travelled to the picturesque town of Kazimierz on the Vistula to paint in plein-air. He immortalized the town i.a., with Zdrojowiska polskie.

In early 1936 Kubicki took part in the exhibition ‘Bloc of Professional Fine Artists’. His works were also shown in Amsterdam and at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburg in 1938.

Jeremi Kubicki took his own life in 1938. His wife had preceded him in death. Anna Henneberg was a painter and pilot, the first woman trained at the Warsaw Aeroclub. Władysław Bartoszewicz described a painting Kubicki made after his wife’s death: a group of smiling girls were sitting in a circle in the grass, and yet there was one empty place. Above them all floated the figure of a young woman of “flaxen hair” in a black mourning dress.

[1] About this work by Kubicki, see I. Kossowska, “Wielki głód piękna” [Famished for beauty]. The Paintings of Jeremi Kubicki, in: Wystawa paryska 1937 r. Materiały z sesji naukowej Instytutu Sztuki PAN, Warszawa 2009, pp. 169-183.
[2] T. Pruszkowski, „O wielką popularną sztukę” [Encountering great, popular art.], Wiadomości literackie 1934, nr 4, p. 2.
[3] The property of the National Museum in Warsaw.

tłum. Ph.E. Steele