Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

The Dystopian Surrealism of Zdzislaw Beksinski

Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland. © Gallery of Zdzisław Beksiński

Artists' Stories

The Dystopian Surrealism of Zdzislaw Beksinski

There are many fans of gruesome and gore art who are attracted to the dystopian surrealism of Zdzisław Beksiński. After all, he created such a gothic, haunting and stressful ambience in his paintings, making it hard to look away. He was a pioneer of Polish contemporary art. So, let’s have a look at his life and of course his work!

The Man before the Artist

Zdzisław Beksiński was born on 24 February 1929 in Sanok, southern Poland. He studied architecture at the Krakow University of Technology. He survived World War II and continued to draw provocative pieces during Communist times in Poland, when many forms of art were frowned upon, especially by the Soviet Government.

Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, ©Gallery of  Zdzisław Beksiński,  The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
©Gallery of Zdzisław Beksiński

In 1955, Beksinski returned to Sanok after completing his studies and worked as a construction site supervisor and as a bus designer. He didn’t like either of the jobs.

Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, 1978, oil on fiberboard, ©Gallery of  Zdzisław Beksiński,  The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, 1978, oil on fiberboard, The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
©Gallery of Zdzisław Beksiński

The Photographer


While working at the construction site, Beksinski also occupied himself with photography and sculpture. His photographic works were characterized as surrealistic and expressionist.

Zdzislaw Beksinski, Sadist Corset, 1957, photograph, ©Gallery of  Zdzisław Beksiński,  The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Sadist Corset, 1957, photograph, The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland. ©Gallery of Zdzisław Beksiński,

In the early 1960s he gave up on photography. He was disappointed by the limited possibilities of altering the images. So, he turned to painting.

The Heyday


Beksinski started experimenting mostly with oils, even though he used acrylics too. He started working on the photographs he had previously taken by using the original photo and adding whatever he wanted. He never visited museums and did not admire any great artists in particular. While painting, he always listened to classical music, although he enjoyed rock music too. It was to music that owed his inspiration.

Regarding the meaning of his works, Beksinski insisted that there was none. In fact, that is the reason why the vast majority of them is untitled. He left it to the observer to comprehend each piece as he or she wanted.

Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, 1984, ©Gallery of  Zdzisław Beksiński,  The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, 1984, The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
©Gallery of Zdzisław Beksiński
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, 1978, ©Gallery of  Zdzisław Beksiński,  The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, 1978, The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
©Gallery of Zdzisław Beksiński
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, ©Gallery of  Zdzisław Beksiński,  The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
©Gallery of Zdzisław Beksiński

Dystopia is defined as an imaginary, undesirable and horrific place. It is the exact opposite of utopia, which is the ideal place or society, where there is no crime or poverty. Surrealism was a 20th-century movement which promoted the full liberation of the subconscious. The two of them combined create the dystopian surrealism of Beksinski. It is this nightmarish ambient with scenes of grotesque, horror, death, anxiety and decay.

Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, ©Gallery of  Zdzisław Beksiński,  The Historical Museum, Sanok., Poland.
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
©Gallery of Zdzisław Beksiński
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, ©Gallery of  Zdzisław Beksiński,  The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
©Gallery of Zdzisław Beksiński
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, ©Gallery of  Zdzisław Beksiński,  The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
©Gallery of Zdzisław Beksiński

Beksinski named this period “Fantastic” period and it lasted up to the mid-1980s. The concept throughout the years, and even in his latest works, remains the same: oneiric and hellish, disturbing landscapes and figures.


Despite the grim overtones, he felt his works were misunderstood. According to him, they were optimistic and even humourous. Plus, he painted in great detail because, according to his words:

“I wish to paint in such a manner as if I were photographing dreams.”

Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, 1970, ©Gallery of  Zdzisław Beksiński,  The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled 1970, The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
©Gallery of Zdzisław Beksiński
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, 1986, ©Gallery of  Zdzisław Beksiński,  The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, 1986, The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland. ©Gallery of Zdzisław Beksiński

International Acclaim


In the mid-1980s, Beksinski saw his reputation skyrocket due to two factors: the first one would be his contract with Piotr Dmochowski in 1984. Dmochowski spread Beksinski’s art to the west. He had exhibitions in the USA, France and even Japan. The second factor would be Beksinski’s denial to paint what was popular in the art industry. He didn’t have any interest in becoming the critics’ favorite, he always created what he wanted and what was true to him.

Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, ©Gallery of  Zdzisław Beksiński,  The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
©Gallery of Zdzisław Beksiński
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, 1976, ©Gallery of  Zdzisław Beksiński,  The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Untitled, 1976, The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
©Gallery of Zdzisław Beksiński

Personal Tragedy

In 1977, Beksinski moved to Warsaw with his wife, Zofia, and their son, Tomasz. In 1998, Zofia died of cancer. The next year, Tomasz, who had become a famous radio presenter, a music journalist and a movie translator, committed suicide. Beksinski never recovered from that and he closed himself off, even though he wasn’t very social anyway. In 2005, age 75, he was stabbed to death by the 19-year-old son of his caretaker, Robert Kupiec, because he refused to lend the teenager some money (around $100). Kupiec was sentenced to 25 years in prison on 9 November 2006.

Beksinski completed his last piece (the one underneath) on the day of his death, 21 February 2005.

Zdzislaw Beksinski, Y, 2005, ©Gallery of  Zdzisław Beksiński,  The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Y, 2005, The Historical Museum, Sanok, Poland.
©Gallery of Zdzisław Beksiński

Artistic Legacy

Beksinski inspired many artists. Guillermo del Toro credits him for the movie Pan’s Labyrinth, for which he won an Oscar in 2006. Also, Beksinski’s works are often compared to those of Hans Giger, the Swiss painter who designed the eerie creatures of the movie Alien in 1979. In 2016, Jan Matuszynski directed a movie, The Last Family (Ostatnia rodzina), which is about Beksinski’s life.

A big red cross is placed today at the Burning Man location in the USA, as an ode to the artist.

Zdzislaw Beksinski, Red Cross, 2005, Source: Burning Man Galleries.
Zdzislaw Beksinski, Red Cross, 2005, Source: Burning Man Galleries.

In 2016, the Historical Museum in Sanok opened a gallery with more than 600 works of Beksinski. It is the biggest exhibition in the world with his artworks!

****

Here, you can read about Surrealism in Great Britain and in Poland!

Errika has a masters degree in Modern and Contemporary History and she is really into History of Art. Some of her favorite artists are Otto Dix, Zdzislaw Beksinski, Frida Kahlo and Vincent Van Gogh. In her free time, she reads literature, she listens to music, she enjoys a good old movie and she creates miniatures of macabre versions of classic fairytales.

Comments

More in Artists' Stories

  • dailyart

    Painting of the Week: Edvard Munch, Madonna

    By

    The Norwegian painter Edvard Munch realized the colored lithograph Madonna in 1895. He is considered the head of Expressionism, therefore his Madonna is imbued with its characteristics. Expressionism, born in the early 20th century, expresses a reality distorted by the subjectivity of the artist. The use...

  • 20th century

    Disney Figures in Art that Make You Think Twice

    By

    Who doesn’t like Disney characters? They are cute, sweet, and adorable. They also represent an ideal image and simplify our world view. That’s fine in children’s movies, but some artists use Disney characters to portray their criticism of society. Karin Hanssen places her realistically painted characters...

  • 20th century

    The Works of Yves Klein: Lover of Blue

    By

    Yves Klein was born in late April of 1928 in Nice, France. His mother, Marie Raymond, was a renowned member of the Art Informel movement, which involved abstract styles and gesture painting. His father, Fred Klein, was known for his landscapes in a Post-Impressionist style. While...

  • Dadaism

    Painting of the Week: Is La Joconde L.H.O.O.Q?

    By

    The Painting of the Week, La Joconde, is all about codes, reversals, play with conventions and provocation. In other words, it’s an epitome of Dada and Marcel Duchamp‘s entire oeuvre. Mona Lisa vs Dada We all did it at some point in our lives: we drew...

  • 20th century

    Magdalena Rădulescu – a Romanian Woman Painter

    By

    Magdalena Rădulescu (1902- 1983) is a singular phenomenon among the Romanian and European painters. Her work (she had an artistic career spanning half a century) has, of course, common traits with that of other contemporary painters, but cannot be fully inscribed in a specific style or...

To Top

Just to let you know, DailyArt Magazine’s website uses cookies to personalise content and adverts, to provide social media features and to analyse traffic. Read cookies policy