A doctor by profession after the war worked as an ophthalmologist in Gdynia. Parallelly Szmaj was an outstanding artist associated with expressionism, a valued graphic artist and painter. Known as the representative of Bunt (Rebellion) – an artistic group operating in 1918 -1920 in Poznań. He dealt not only with graphics but also with painting and music. In the years 1917-1918 the artist made a series of expressionist linocuts valued by the critics, in which he often portrayed his friends.
Szmaj came into contact with new avant-garde trends in art during his stay in Berlin (1915-1916). The German variety of expressionism had an influence on the first period of Szmaj’s work. The subject matter of Szmaj’s works oscillated around the issues of the human psyche, communing man with nature, as well as supernatural
23.03 – 15.05.2019
The Regained Independence of Expression
Over 40 works of Stefan Szmaj conceived in between 1916 and 1920 are displayed in the Olszewski Gallery. A closer look up on the artist’s oeuvre is another initiative taken to reintroduce the key figure of a Polish avant-garde movement to a wider audience.
Time period, in which Szmaj was a member of a Poznań based artistic group—Bunt, is the most important within his artistic career. At that time, he executed numerous linocuts, of which significant part was published in the Zdrój ( a leading Polish expressionists magazine).
Szmaj’s linocuts reflect his fascination with Dresden based Die Brucke and Munich based Der Blaue Reitter groups. Relief printing (woodcut and linocut)—was a distinctive technique for the expressionists. It enabled artists to achieve strong white and black contrasts, and to maneuver with a wide, sharply cut surfaces in order to strengthen the final visual effects.
linocut, papier; 17,4 x 15,7 cm
Within Szmaj’s body of work one can find artist’s
self-portraits and images depicting people who he befriended and reckoned as important in his life. These can be seen as a record of the artist’s feelings and his subjective visions rather than an objective rendition of the physical reality. Landscapes, alike the portraits are more a record of a bitter Szmaj’s reflection on the contemporary world, lesser an awe of a surrounding nature. The artist in the linocuts keenly raised subjects that were often perceived as controversial, even scandalous: he often referred to eroticism and religion.
His oeuvre, alike other Poznań based members of the Bunt group, is an expression of a fight for the freedom defined as a personal, artistic and political one just before and little bit after Poland has regained its independence.
linocut, 16,9 x 15,1 cm