Dorota Seweryn-Puchalska

The famous Polish artist Włodzimierz Bartoszewicz described Mieczysław Schulz as “a ranking expert in artistic techniques”[1]. Schulz studied at the School of Fine Arts in Warsaw. The art historian Ksawery Piwocki reports that Schulz enrolled at the School in 1919 and received his diploma in 1932[2]. In 1926-1929 he served as a librarian there. Jan Zamoyski lists Schulz among those who in 1923 were the first of Professor Tadeusz Pruszkowski’s group of students to attend an open-air workshop in Kazimierz Dolny[3].

Schulz was one of the founding members of the Brotherhood of St. Luke (1925), but as Jan Zamoyski wrote, he left the group, as did Edward Kokoszko, in 1930, during an exhibition in Kraków[4]. In fact, he had excused himself from joint artistic appearances even earlier, including the group’s first exhibition in February 1928 at the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Nonetheless, the catalog for that exhibition lists Schulz as a founding member of the Brotherhood. It also notes that “the group is bound only by the ties of camaraderie and long-term co-operation. Our sole purpose is to paint as well as possible – within the limits of our abilities, of course”. What seems likely is that Schulz was so distinct from the other members of the group that he found it difficult to identify with them. For when we look at his work and compare it with that of other artists belonging to the Brotherhood of St. Luke, we see that the stylistics of his works differ significantly from those of his colleagues. Irena Kossakowska writes that, together with Kazimierz Zielenkiewicz and Mieczysław Szymański (the Freemasons’ Group), Schulz represented “the modernist end on the neo-realist spectrum”[5]. Schulz simplified form and minimized details. In his 1932 painting “Two Women” he used a line suggestive of avant-garde. He emphasized texture by juxtaposing it with a flat surface, thus achieving additional expression. He created a world of poor, unemployed people. He elongated the silhouettes of his figures, thereby slightly deforming them. And here we can refer to the message of Tadeusz Pruszkowski, who gives the artist the right to deformation, even deeming it a natural feature of painting. Pruszkowski believed that everyone is, to the extent of his individuality, “a deformer”[6]. Mieczyslaw Schulz can therefore be described as the greatest deformer among the Lukians.

What most strongly linked Schulz to Pruszkowski’s other students was his emphasis on the importance of technique in painting. In an article in the magazine Plastyka, Mieczysław Schulz referred to the crisis in the art world. He discerned “a disease that lies in the very method of the artist’s work”, something he considered “technically aimless, unfathomable and devoid of prospects for the future”[7]. He wrote that a thorough knowledge of painting techniques and technology was necessary, also stressing the importance of painting material. Later, again in the magazine Plastyka, another extensive article by Schulz appeared, “The Problem of Resin Painting”, referring to painting techniques[8].

Schulz was the editor of Plastyka from 1936, and chairman of the Inter-Union Conciliation Committee, established in December 1938, and which consisted of various artistic organizations in the aim of ensuring conflict-free co-operation among artists. The Committee was formed, as was stated, “in the awareness that only in unison, via our joint forces, will visual artists be able to successfully resolve the issues of great importance to them”[9]. He served on the Audit Committee of the Association of Art School Educators, which was established in Warsaw in 1938. He also worked at the Municipal School of Decorative Arts and Painting, where he taught mural painting techniques.

[1] Włodzimierz Bartoszewicz, “Buda na Powiślu”, Warszawa 1966, p. 107.

[2] Ksawery Piwocki, Historia Akademii Sztuk Pięknych w Warszawie, 1904-1964, Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków 1965, p. 213.

[3] Jan Zamoyski, Łukaszowcy – malarze i malarstwo Bractwa św. Łukasza, afterword by Zbigniew Florek, Warszawa 1989, p. 9.

[4] Ibidem, p. 85.

[5] Irena Kossowska, Artystyczna rekonkwista. Sztuka w międzywojennej Polsce i Europie, Toruń 2017, pp. 376-378, 400.

[6] Tadeusz Pruszkowski, “O deformacji. Rozważania plastyczne”, Gazeta Polska. Feb. 12, 1938, p. 5. See also: Kossowska, ibidem, pp. 376-378.

[7] Mieczysław Schulz, “Tragedja współczesnego malarstwa”, Plastyka 1935, no. 2, p. 32.

[8] Schulz, “Problem malarstwa żywicznego”, Plastyka 1935, no. 5-6, pp. 91-108.

[9] Jerzy Wolff, “Centralny Komitet dla Spraw Plastyki w Polsce”, Plastyka 1938, no. 8-9, p. 217.

tłum. Agnieszka Wolska