The Great Painters

Tadeusz Kantor

- total artist, outstanding and timeless

Tadeusz Kantor
Tadeusz Kantor, a portrait. Source: Radio Kraków. Author: Unknown. Wikipedia






Tadeusz Kantor


He is considered to be the most outstanding artist in 20th century Poland. He was an inspired artist who took matters of art deadly seriously. During the years of the People's Republic of Poland he was our link with the world - like an emissary, he rode through the Iron Curtain, maintaining the bond of the Polish avant-garde with Europe. He was able to make painting out of anything. He started with elite art - at the end of his life he reached people all over the world. He gained world fame as a man of the theatre, but even on stage he remained a painter who thinks with pictures and uses actors and props instead of paint. He was versatile and it is risky to divide his work into individual "disciplines". Painting, to which he was faithful all his life, is one of the keys to understanding the artistic will. Tadeusz Kantor does not leave us alone, he still attracts our attention and forces us to reflect.





Tadeusz Kantor


On April 16th, Tadeusz Kantor, son of Marian and Maria of Berger, was born to the parsonage in Wielopolska. The father did not return to his family after the war and became a mythical figure for the artist, the hero of his play


He started his studies at the secondary school in Tarnów and was already interested in art. As a 13-year-old boy he admired "Nero's Torches" Siemiradzki (1843-1902), Malczewski (1854-1929) and Wyspianski (1869-1907), dreaming of painting a picture "that would move".



passed the baccalaureate exam in the 1st Grammar School in Tarnów  


he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, where he initially had "enough of himself" and only in Karol Frycz's studio (1877-1963), started "doing something on his own responsibility" and became involved in the Ephemeral Puppet Theatre


premiere of "Balladyna" in the underground Independent Theatre. During the occupation he was the charismatic leader of "Grupa Krakowska", bringing together artists such as: Jerzy Nowosielski, Tadeusz Brzozowski, Janina Kraupe, Mieczysław Porębski.


Tadeusz Kantor's wife was Ewa Jurkiewicz


with the Young Visual Artists Group, he organised the 1st Modern Art Exhibition, which was the last manifestation of modernity before the Socialist Realist period. Tadeusz Kantor was also dismissed from university


in the first half of the 1950s Tadeusz Kantor survived designing scenery and costumes for professional theatres - he was highly valued for his designs


founded the Cricot 2 Theatre together with Maria Jarema, the first premiere of the group (1956) was "Mątwa" according to Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz.

Tadeusz Kantor

Monument to a chair in Hucisko, from the cycle of "Monuments of the Impossible" by Tadeusz Kantor. Author of photography Michał Sapeta. Wikipedia.


became the first President of the Krakow Group


Tadeusz Kantor married Maria Stangret on 10 April


seven months' stay in the USA. As an avant-garde artist, Tadeusz Kantor had the need to "keep up to date", he travelled to America, Paris, imported reproductions and the latest art recipes. He was the first to bring informel, conceptualism and happening to Poland.


premiere of "Dead Class" in Krzysztofory - a spectacle that will shake the whole world


received the Goethe Foundation Rembrandt Prix for painting


premiere of the performance "Wielopole, Wielopole" in Florence. The 1980s are the great world tour of the Cricot 2 Theatre.



Tadeusz Kantor suddenly died on 8 December in the morning, a few hours after rehearsal for the play 'Today is my birthday'. He was buried in the Rakowicki Cemetery. The last performance - with a symbolic scene of the artist's funeral - premiered in January 1991 in France, already without Kantor. Above his grave - Jerzy Nowosielski, a friend from the Krakow Group said that for Polish art the death of Tadeusz Kantor was a symbolic closure of the 20th century.

Interesting facts:

it's a circus

Tadeusz Kantor's greatest work is the theatre Cricot 2, founded in 1955. The name Cricot - referring to the pre-war theatre of Józef Jarema - is a French-sounding anagram of the phrase "it is a circus".


The exhibition in the "Krzysztoforów" hallway of paintings in the Informel current, also known as tascism, proved to be a shock to the conservative audience. "After drinking half a litre I see the same thing""- an inquisitive journalist noted a mocking opinion of the viewer, but Tadeusz Kantor, without losing his humour and self-confidence, when asked: "What is it?" he answers unshakeably: "Ramamaganga, sir".

The Foundation

In 1994 Maria Stangret-Kantor (the artist's second wife) established the Tadeusz Kantor Foundation.


The year 2015 has been declared the Year of Tadeusz Kantor by UNESCO

Jerzy Nowosielski

Tadeusz Kantor's room ("Poor Room of Imagination") in his flat-room at 7 m Sienna Street. 5 in Krakow, where he lived from 1987-1990. photo: Adrian Grycuk - Own work. Wikipedia

About the art of Tadeusz Kantor:

Tak w malarstwie, jak i na scenie Tadeusz Kantor podkreślał emocjonalną, wzruszeniową funkcję sztuki.

„Chciałbym, żeby patrzyli i płakali”
Tadeusz Kantor

In paintings such as "Ramamaganga" Tadeusz Kantor eagerly used techniques typical for "action painting": spilling liquids on an unfolded canvas, hitting with a string or a whip, squeezing paint directly from the tube. Painting turned into a spectacle, where the creative process itself, the record of the painter's gesture, was more important than the effects. Apart from that, I think he simply had a good time.

"An image becomes the very creation and manifestation of life, its extension. It is a completely new concept of the work of art".

Tadeusz Kantor

In the paintings from the "I'm holding the painting, as I'm holding the painting" there appears Tadeusz Kantor's favourite motif of a double, splitting characters, overlapping truth and fiction.

"I have always stood up against illusion - the last series of my paintings is that a character comes out of a painting. (...) "I carry the picture on which I am painted as I carry the picture". And so it really is, although it is difficult to imagine... So the author's character is split up - he is in the work of art and outside it, outside it".

– Tadeusz Kantor

Tadeusz Kantor
School benches and dummies - a fragment of the permanent exhibition for the play The Dead Class at a temporary exhibition at the Adam Mickiewicz Museum of Literature in Warsaw. Adrian Grycuk - Own work. Wikipedia .

Tadeusz Kantor zaczął przyklejać do obrazów różne przedmioty. Jego wynalazkiem jest „ambalaż” (z franc. emballage – opakowanie), nawiązujący do techniki kolażu: potajemna, tajemnicza metafora, sięgająca w głąb – do tego, co zakryte. Do pierwszych „obrazów wypukłych” artysta wkleja kawałki drewna, korzeni, maluje je czarnym lakierem i przezroczystym polichlorkiem winylu. W ambalażach wykorzystuje odpady: kawałki taśm, papiery, foliowe woreczki wypchane watą i przymocowane taśmą „scotch”. Wprowadza też zmięte koperty, pudełka i pakunki, na których widnieją nadruki, znaczki, lakowe pieczęcie. Wklejone fragmenty garderoby są preparowane: podarte, pokryte farbą. Elementy tekstylne są nasycone klejem stolarskim.

"Kantor collected waste, crippled objects, no longer "objects", fetishes... In his hands, this waste of reality, civilisation, culture, becomes an extremely valuable artistic substance. He was the only one who had the power of a sorcerer, (...) to make this waste into a museum of precious things".
Jerzy Nowosielski

Tadeusz Kantor w Muzeach:

galeria marzeń

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

  • Obraz metaforyczny” namalowany w 1950-51
  • Wyrazy” namalowany w 1957
  • „Penetracje” namalowany w 1958
  • „Informel II” namalowany w 1958
  • „Zielone góry” namalowany w 1961
  • „Ukrzyżowanie” namalowany w 1965
  • „Mecyje” namalowany w 1965
  • Emballage Métaphorique” namalowany w 1966
  • Ambalaż – przedmioty, postacie” namalowany w 1967
  • „Kompozycja” namalowany w 1970
  • „Tablica czerwona” namalowany w 1971
  • „Emballage Hołdu Pruskiego wedle J. Matejki” namalowany w 1975
galeria marzeń

Łódź: Museum of Art, 86 Gallery:

  • „Pacyfik VI” namalowany w 1957
  • „Ryby nas opuszczają” namalowany w 1965
  • „Infantka wedle Velazqueza” namalowany w 1966-70
  • „Upokorzenie” namalowany w 1978
  • „Czyszczę obraz, na którym jestem namalowany jak czyszczę obraz” namalowany w 1987
  • „Z tego obrazu już nie wyjdę” namalowany w 1988
galeria marzeń

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

  • Praczka” namalowany w 1946
  • Człowiek z parasolkami” namalowany w 1949
Jerzy Nowosielski

Czech Republic:

  • Prague - National Museum
galeria marzeń


  • Norymberga: Neues Museum – Kunsthalle
jan matejko


  • Palermo: Museo Internationale della Marionette
  • Rzym: Galeria Spicchi dell’Est
galeria marzeń

Other Polish cities:

  • Bydgoszcz: Muzeum Okręgowe. Można tam podziwiać m. in.:
    • Kompozycja” namalowany w 1948
  • Bytom: Muzeum Górnośląskie
  • Szczecin: Muzeum Narodowe
  • Tarnów: Muzeum Okręgowe
  • Szczecin: Muzeum Narodowe
  • Toruń: Muzeum Okręgowe
galeria marzeń

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

  • „Ponad-ruchy” namalowany w 1948
  • „Raamamaganga” namalowany w 1957
galeria marzeń

Radom: Museum of Contemporary Art. You can admire there, among others..:

  • „Sekrety ze Wschodu” namalowany w 1948
  • „Akt we wnętrzu” namalowany w 1961
galeria marzeń

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

  • „Wezwanie” namalowany w 1908
  • „Zjawisko” namalowany w 1908

Tadeusz Kantor (1915-1990)

  • ART VISIONARY 99% 99%
  • SCENOGRAPH 99% 99%
Tadeusz Kantor
Tadeusz Kantor. I am holding a painting on which I am painted as I hold a painting (1987), a private collection.