Monday, March 9, 2015

Poland 2015 - Witkacy - Creator Visionary

ISSUE DATE: 24 February 2015
STAMP DESIGN: Agnieszka Sancewicz
STAMP SIZE: 31.25 mm x 43 mm
BLOCK SIZE: 70 mm x 90 mm
PRINTING: offset

Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz - 24 February 1885 – 18 September 1939), commonly known as "Witkacy", was a Polish poet, playwright, novelist, painter, photographer and philosopher.

Witkacy - Multiple self-portrait in the mirrors

Born in Warsaw, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz was a son of the painter, architect and an art critic Stanisław Witkiewicz. His mother was Maria Pietrzkiewicz Witkiewiczowa. Both of his parents were born in the Samogitian region of Lithuania. His godmother was the internationally famous actress Helena Modrzejewska.
Witkiewicz was reared at the family home in Zakopane. In accordance with his father's antipathy to the "servitude of the school," the boy was home-schooled and encouraged to develop his talents across a range of creative fields.
Witkiewicz was close friends with Karol Szymanowski and, from childhood, with Bronisław Malinowski (the world-famous anthropologist whose "Argonauts of the Western Pacific" remains a classic text) and Zofia Romer. Following a crisis in Witkiewicz's personal life due to the suicide of his fiancée Jadwiga Janczewska, he was invited by Malinowski to act as draftsman and photographer on a 1914 expedition to Oceania, a venture that was interrupted by the onset of World War I.
On his return, Witkiewicz, a citizen of the Russian Empire, went to St Petersburg and was commissioned an officer in the Imperial army. His ailing father, a Polish nationalist, was deeply grieved by the youngster's decision and died in 1915 without seeing his son again.
Witkiewicz lived through the Russian Revolution in St Petersburg. He claimed that he worked out his philosophical principles during an artillery barrage, and that when the Revolution broke out he was elected political commissar of his regiment. His later works would show his fear of social revolution and foreign invasion, often couched in absurdist language.

Witkacy - "Creation of the World"

Witkacy - Napoleon
author: Tadeusz Langier
He had begun to support himself through portrait painting and continued to do so on his return to Zakopane in Poland. He soon entered into a major creative phase, setting out his principles in New Forms in Painting and Introduction to the Theory of Pure Form in the Theatre. He associated with a group of "formist" artists in the early 1920s and wrote most of his plays during this period. Of about forty plays written by Witkiewicz between 1918 and 1925, twenty-one survive, and only Jan Maciej Karol Hellcat met with any public success during the author's lifetime. The original Polish manuscript of The Crazy Locomotive was also lost; the play, back-translated from two French versions, was not published until 1962.

After 1925, and taking the name 'Witkacy', the artist ironically re-branded the paintings which provided his economic sustenance as The S.I. Witkiewicz Portrait Painting Firm, with the motto: "The customer must always be satisfied". Several grades of portrait were offered, from the merely representational to the more expressionistic and the narcotics assisted. Many of his paintings were annotated with mnemonics listing the drugs taken while painting a particular painting, even if this happened to be only a cup of coffee. He also varied the spelling of his name, signing himself Witkac, Witkatze, Witkacjusz, Vitkacius and Vitecasse — the last being French for "breaks quickly".
In the late 1920s he turned to the novel, writing two works, Farewell to Autumn and Insatiability. The latter major work encompasses geopolitics, psychoactive drugs, and philosophy. In 1935 he was awarded the Golden Laurel of the Polish Academy of Literature for his novels.

During the 1930s, Witkiewicz published a text on his experiences of narcotics, including peyote, and pursued his interests in philosophy. He used narcotics as direct creative stimulus, inspiring creation of his paintings, including a superb series of portraits. In paintings made under influence of the drugs, Witkiewicz was placing the symbols of stimulants taken earlier. He has specially appreciated cocaine, though he has been using also opium, morphine, hashish and mixes of various psychotropic agents. Paintings of Witkacy are characterised by original colouring of a very strong artistic expression. He also promoted emerging writers such as Bruno Schulz. Shortly after Poland was invaded by Germany in September 1939, he escaped with his young lover Czesława to the rural frontier town of Jeziory, in what was then eastern Poland. After hearing the news of the Soviet invasion of Poland on 17 September 1939, Witkacy committed suicide on 18 September by taking a drug overdose and trying to slit his wrists. He convinced Czesława to attempt suicide with him by consuming Luminal, but she survived. Witkiewicz had died in some obscurity but his reputation began to rise soon after the war, which had destroyed his life and devastated Poland. Czesław Miłosz framed his argument in The Captive Mind around a discussion of Witkiewicz's novel, "Insatiability". The artist and theater director Tadeusz Kantor was inspired by the Cricot group, through which Witkiewicz had presented his final plays in Kraków. Kantor brought many of the plays back into currency, first in Poland and then internationally.
author: Deszcze

In the postwar period, Communist Poland's Ministry of Culture decided to exhume Witkiewicz's body, move it to Zakopane, and give it a solemn funeral. This was carried out according to plan, though no one was allowed to open the coffin that had been delivered by the Soviet authorities. On 26 November 1994, the Polish Ministry of Culture and Art ordered the exhumation of the presumed grave of Witkiewicz in Zakopane. Genetic tests on the remaining bones proved that the body had belonged to an unknown woman — a final absurdist joke, fifty years after the publication of Witkacy's last novel.

Play - The Water Hen text by  Mark Matousek)
James Fleming, Lee Taylor-Allan and Linda Chambers
Brad Mays' production of Witkacy's
The Water Hen, Theatre Off Park, 1983, NYC.
"This superb production of Polish playwright 'Stanislaw Witkiewicz's The Water Hen (Theatre Off Park, 28 East Park, 679-6283) marks the first time in several weeks that an evening off-Broadway hasn't left me angry, bored or indiferent. Witkiewicz, who committed suicide on September 1, 1939, as the Germans invaded Poland, uses absurd conventions to enact a tragic universe. Man is a puppet unable to affect his destiny. Essential human relationships are put into question, beginning with those in the family. In the opening scene, the protagonist is discovered pointing a rifle at his wife, who begs him to shoot her and prove his manhood. Afraid of being alone, he hesitates to pull the trigger but finally accedes. This murder begins the cycle of the play, which ends with another gunshot. What hap-pens between the bullets is an eloquent examination of life, art, and destruction, in which art, and destruction, in which characters die and are revivified, knowledge is attained an lost, and everything is in constant motion. As Edgar Valpor, the man in search of a new life, James Curran is a powerful, pathetic hero. Betty La Roe's portray-al of the sirenic Water Hen is smooth and elusive—even better for the actress's unusual, husky voice. Tobias Halle is remarkably agile and charming as the boy who calls himself Edgar's son. James Fleming' is good as the erotch-patting; would-be intellectual, and the object of his affections (Linda Chambers) oozes seedy pul-chritude. The supporting cast —especially Richard Ladd who 'makes the very most of a tiny part—play with consistent, stylish precision. The technical staff are no less to be praised than those on stage. Mina Albergo's graphic design, consisting of pastoral photographs and geometric drawings, provide strong background visuals. The lighting by Pat Dignan frames the moments beautifully, creating tableaux of memorable dramatic value. A. Christina Giannini has cos-strong background visuals. The lighting by Pat Dignan frames the moments beauti-fully, creating tableaux of memorable dramatic value. A. Christina Giannini has cos-tumed the cast well on a low budget, particularly the Albino servants and the S&M torture queen. Finally, Bradford Mays holds it all together with masterful comic direction. The messages of The Water Hen are many and controvers-ial. What Witkiewicz says about women, Jews, family, and the future of the world may rankle you, but two things are certain: You won't go away without thinking, and you won't go away without laugh-ing. Camas said that all great deeds have a ridiculous begin-ning. The deed, for Witkie-wicz, is examining our folly."

Witkacy (Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz)


Witkacy (Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz)
Stamp Sheet

Witkacy (Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz)
First Day Cover (FDC)