The Great Painters

Henryk Stażewski

- avant-garde apostle

Henryk Stażewski
No 36 - 1975, Source:



An extremely colourful figure, "a gentleman among painters", an authority for the next generations of artists - he was a man-institution, a "classic of modernity", a living legend of Polish avant-garde. Throughout his long and creative life he maintained his youthful vitality and fantasy. He was faithful to geometry, although he was not afraid of brave changes. He has been constantly expanding the language abstraction with new problems: space, color, movement.








(9 January) Henryk Stażewski, son of Leonard (owner of a small foundry of artistic products made of non-ferrous metals), was born in Warsaw, the youngest of four siblings.


graduated from Professor Stanisław Lentz (1861-1920) at the Warsaw School of Fine Arts  



in the interwar years, Henryk Stażewski created several dozen residential interiors "in neoplastic arrangement", painted wall decorations of cinemas, cafés, offices


founded with his friends Mieczysław Szczuka (1898-1927), Teresa Żarnower (1895-1950), Władysław Strzemiński (1893-1952) and Katarzyna Kobro (1898-1951) an avant-garde group „Blok”


he went to Paris, established contacts with Mondrian (1872-1944), Seupbor, Vantongerloo and van Doesburg (1883-1931)


became a member of the "Praesens" group. Henryk Stażewski played an important role in editing the "Blok" and "Praesens" journals, which had a sensational, innovative graphic layout and brought theories of the leading representatives of the avant-garde closer to readers. The periodicals and subsequent volumes of "Praesens"Libraries were a unique phenomenon on an international scale, a bridge between the experiences of the eastern and western avant-garde.


during his next stay in Paris he took part in organizing the group "Cercle et Carre"

Henryk Stażewski
Relief 18, 1965, Source:


he became involved in the collection of works for the International Collection of Modern Art in Łódź and joined the international group "Abstraction-Creation".


The outbreak of war, in September, during the bombardment of Warsaw, all the painter's creative output was lost. During the war, Henryk Stażewski made a living by painting portraits and landscapes and worked on the restoration of the church in Szczekociny. After the war, he returned to Warsaw and started all over again.


the individual exhibition at the Warsaw Writers' Union became an important manifestation of the avant-garde after the Socialist Realist period


was one of the inspirers of the creation of the avant-garde Foksal Gallery, in the wing of Warsaw's Zamoyski Palace


took part in the XXXIII Venice Biennale, where he received an "honorary mention".


he was awarded the Gottfried Herder Prize


In January, he participated in the birthday opening at the Zapiecek Gallery. Henryk Stażewski died on June 10th in Warsaw, at the age of 94.

Interesting facts:

Henryk Stażewski did not start a family, but for years he lived with friends: Mewa, a painter Maria Ewa Łunkiewicz-Rogoyska (1894-1867) and her husband, whom he met back in Parisian times. After their death, painter Edward Krasiński moved into Stażewski's studio. The atelier on the 11th floor at 64 Świerczewskiego Street, overlooking all of Warsaw and the Palace of Culture, was a real artistic salon of the capital.
With passion
The painter lived with fantasy until the end: he wore wonderful, patterned ties, photographed himself in a striped dressing gown against the background of paintings, painted furniture, his own bamboosh and the shoes of his friends in crazy coloured stripes.
He was one of the initiators of the Foksal Gallery - a non-commercial, avant-garde gallery of authors. He remained the gallery's spiritual and artistic patron until the end of his life. His exhibitions in this intimate interior had an unusual, carefully thought-out composition - paintings were hung in the space, on the ceiling, creating an environment - which one entered like the middle of a painting.
90 candles
When hearing problems made it difficult for Henryk Stażewski to contact his surroundings, he gave his friends golden thoughts and anecdotes written on small cartels. On his 90th birthday, the friends lit 90 candles in his studio.
Henryk Stażewski

Composition No 5, 1956, Source:

About the art of Henryk Stażewski:

Henryk Stażewski remained faithful to geometry until the end, although his art is neither cold nor mathematically "calculating". He introduced lightness, poetry and charm to classical abstraction.

"The great revolution of taste intended by artists at the beginning of the century has failed. Stażewski continued to lead it quietly and with a sense of humour, in private".
Dorota Jarecka

The ideal of the first, historical avant-garde was order, discipline and rationalism. Art was no longer an "interior design" and sentimentalism - but organic construction, construction, not decorative aestheticism, but rigor and simplicity. The romantic inspiration was to be replaced by intellectual effort. The avant-garde believed that aesthetic order would introduce justice into social life, logic into thinking and peace into hearts.

 "The new man tries to see the world without objects... Beauty used to be understood differently, we understand it differently today. It is not the task of today's artists to supply nature wholesale and retail, but the visual experience that evokes certain emotions and a sense of harmony in us. (...) The perfection of harmony is realized by a good mastery of technique and means of painting - precision, conciseness, brightness". 
Henryk Stażewski

Henryk Stażewski

Composition white-red, 1956, Source:

However, Henryk Stażewski, faithful throughout his life to geometric abstraction, is ready for surprises and revolutionary upheavals. He works methodically. When he considers the problem to be exhausted, he leaves it without hesitation, bravely starting a new chapter. When he is bored with space - he reaches for colour; when he is tired of colour - he paints monochromatic beams of lines.

"I'm turning into a skin-changing snake."
Henryk Stażewski

Henryk Stażewski

Abstract Composition, 1981, Source:

Both wooden and metal reliefs by Henryk Stażewski are characterised by impeccable precision and workshop excellence. Geometric modules are cut with a laubzeg from a dictation or plywood, then sanded with a file and fixed at some distance from the background, or mounted in space on a nylon grid. The metal parts are carefully polished, sometimes also coated with paint. Later, Henryk Stażewski used polystyrene paints to create a characteristic luminescence effect. Thanks to the use of sheets made of white and coloured metals: aluminium, bronze, copper, chromium, brass and even silver, Henryk Stażewski introduced a specific metallic colour and surprising texture to the picture.

 "We are looking at exhibits where there is elementary, almost childish joy, like in boxes with colourful blocks, and yet sophisticated, ascetic precision of construction. We look at the work subjected to the mathematical discipline, reduced sparingly to the play of the simplest elements, and it turns out that they have been calculated so strictly that any calculation becomes invisible, that mathematics is only the breath and rhythm of forms, the transparency of colour, the logic of spatial phenomena, that through all this it is the embodiment of pure lyricism". 
Janusz Bogucki

HENRYK STAŻEWSKI at the Museums:

galeria marzeń

Warsaw: National Museum. Galeria Foksal. You can admire there, among others..:

  • Kompozycja nr 5” namalowany w 1956
  • „Relief nr 18” namalowany w 1965
  • „Relief nr 14” namalowany w 1965
  • „Relief nr 9” namalowany w 1969
  • „350 km szybkiej jazdy samochodem” namalowany w 1998
galeria marzeń

Poznań: National Museum. You can admire there, among others..:

  • „Obraz nr 31” namalowany w 1973
  • Kompozycja Abstrakcyjna” namalowany w 1949
  • Martwa Natura z dzbankiem” namalowany w 1923
galeria marzeń

Krakow: National Museum - Starmach Gallery. You can admire there, among others..:

  • Kompozycja Abstrakcyjna” namalowany w 1958
  • Relief Kolorowy” namalowany w 1961
  • „Kompozycja” namalowany w 1948
  • „Kompozycja Architektoniczna” namalowany w 1960
  • „Czerwony Relief na białym i szarym tle” namalowany w 1960
  • „Relief biały” namalowany w 1964
  • Relief szaro-biały” namalowany w 1964
galeria marzeń

Łódź: Museum of Art, 86 Gallery:

  • „Kompozycja Fakturowa” namalowany w 1930
  • „Kompozycja” namalowany w 1930
  • „Relief nr 22” namalowany w 1967
  • „Relief nr 17” namalowany w 1967
Henryk Stażewski
"Untitled." (1985), collection of Zachęta - National Gallery of Art. Wikipedia
Henryk Stażewski

Relief 14, 1965, Source:

galeria marzeń


  • Londyn: The Tate Gallery
Jerzy Nowosielski

Czech Republic:

  • Praga: Galeria Narodowa
Jerzy Nowosielski

The Netherlands:

  • La Haye: Collection Haags Gemeentemuseum
  • Amsterdam: Stedlijk Museum
  • Otterlo: Rijksmuseum – Kroller-Muller
Jerzy Nowosielski


  • Gallen: Kunstmuseum
  • Kolonia: Galerie Ucher – Galerie Henn
Jacek Malczewski


  • Berkeley: Uniwersytet Art Museum
  • Minneapolis: MFA Studio
  • Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Nowy Jork: Muzem of Modern Art – Guggenheim Museum
jan matejko


  • Rzym: Galleria Spicchi dell’Est
galeria marzeń

Other Polish cities:

  • Bydgoszcz: Muzeum im. Leona Wyczółkowskiego
  • Gdańsk: Muzeum Narodowe
  • Lublin: Muzeum Lubelskie
  • Opole: Muzeum Śląska Opolskiego
  • Szczecin: Muzeum Narodowe
  • Wrocław: Muzeum Narodowe – Muzeum Architektury



Henryk Stażewski
Composition, 1983, Source: