11.1 x 8.2cm image; 11.3 x 8.5cm sheet
Stanisław Witkiewicz made many self-portraits throughout his life in order to capture and express inner psychic states. Witkiewicz’s involvement in Formist theatre, a precursor to absurdist theatre, seems to have given a particular intensity to the way in which he depicted himself and others through photography.
Witkiewicz was born in Warsaw into a cultured Polish family who moved to Zakopane in 1890. It was here that he began writing theatrical productions and held his first exhibition of landscape paintings. In 1903 he completed the first of many texts titled ‘Dreams of an unproductive man/a metaphysical consideration’. Between 1912 and 1913 he abandoned landscape painting, taking a series of ‘metaphysical’ photographic portraits and self-portraits. Witkiewicz travelled widely and participated in an ethnological expedition to New Guinea with the anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski in 1914. This trip was to impact upon his aesthetic philosophy.
After returning to Zakopane, Witkiewicz became an active member of the avant-garde painters’ group, the Formists. This period was a most productive and fertile time in terms of the artist’s creativity. It was under his initiative that the Formist Theatre was founded in Zakopane in 1925. It was during the latter part of his life that he took a series of staged photographs of himself in collaboration with Józef Jan Głogowski. Their joint photographic sessions were to produce a notable body of work. Głogowski was a non-professional photographer who had produced many portraits of his family and friends, however his photographic collaborations with Witkiewicz after 1931 are considered his best work.
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
Judy Annear, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'The photograph and portraiture', pg.15-31, Sydney, 2007, 30 (illus.).
Ewa Franczak and Stefan Okolowicz, Against Nothingness: Stanislawa Ignacy Witkiewicz's Photographs, Poland, 1986, (illus.). plate 296
Galerie Berinson, Berlin, Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (1885-1939): photographs 2003, 2003, 11 (illus.).
What's in a face? aspects of portrait photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 24 Sep 2011–05 Feb 2012