Jan Lebenstein Seal of Eros and Thanatos. Paris, 60's.

26.06 – 22.08.2010 Jan Lebenstein Seal of Eros and Thanatos. Paris, 60's.

Zachęta National Gallery of Art

curator: Piotr Kłoczowski
cooperation on the part of Zachęta: Anna Tomczak
cooperation: Agnieszka Szewczyk
exhibition design: Paulina Tyro-Niezgoda

The exhibition presents a key period in the work of Jan Lebenstein: that of the whole decade of the 60s, with special attention to the first “three Parisian winters”: 1959/60, 1960/61 and 1961/62. This is when Lebenstein’s private mythology found its characteristic expression. Up until then it had remained “encoded” in axial figures and “decoded”, but not publicly revealed, in intimate mini sketches and gouaches. This duality of the artist’s creativity was shown for the first time.

It gathers completely unknown drawings, sketches, documents and photographs from this decade, coming from the private collections of the curator and people close to the artist. It is thus based above all on the never before exhibited legacy of Lebenstein: the private collections of Bogdan Jakubowski, Wojciech Fibak and Krzysztofa Musiał, as well as many other private collectors from Poland, France, the U.S.A. and Sweden. Works will also be exhibited from the National Museum in Wrocław and the Museum of Literature in Warsaw.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue with a rich selection of reproductions of works from the decade under consideration, published thanks to the support of a private publisher in collaboration with the publishing house Pracownia.

Jan Lebenstein, was born in Brest-Litovsk in 1930. He was one of the greatest Polish painters of the second half of 20th century. After the war, he studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, in the atelier of Artur Nacht-Samborski. Since the mid-1950s, his Axial Figure – the very emblem of his painting art, had been crystallising. In autumn 1959, Axial Figures were presented on the 1st Biennale de Paris, initiated by the then Minister of Culture, André Malraux. Lebenstein was granted the main award of Biennale and in 1961 there was great monographic exhibition of his works opened at Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. Since 1960, he had been living in Paris permanently. The 1960s, and especially early years of the decade, were a great international success of the young Polish painter. His paintings were found at the most prominent European exhibitions, in private American collections as well as, inter alia, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. During that time, Lebenstein built close friendships with Konstanty A. Jeleński, Aleksander Wat, Mary McCarthy, Romain Gary, Jean Seber, and Jean Cassou. The year 1968 was an important turning point, as its social and cultural consequences led to far isolation of the artist. On 1987, the closest Parisian friend of him, Konstanty A. Jeleński, died. In 1992, a great monographic exhibition of Jan Lebenstein took place at the Zachęta National Gallery of Arts in Warsaw. Jan Lebenstein died in Cracow in 1999, when exhibition of his works, The Stages, was presented at International Cultural Centre.

Artist's works in the Zachęta collection

  • Zdjęcie pracy
    Jan Lebenstein1960
  • Zdjęcie pracy
    Jan Lebenstein1962
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    Jan Lebenstein
    Seal of Eros and Thanatos. Paris, 60's.


Jan Lebenstein
Seal of Eros and Thanatos. Paris, 60's.
26.06 – 22.08.2010

Zachęta National Gallery of Art
pl. Małachowskiego 3, 00-916 Warsaw
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The exhibition supported by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
sponsors of the gallery: Netia, Caparol, Lidex
sponsors of the opening ceremony: Blikle, Freixenet
media patronage: Gazeta Wyborcza, TOK FM, The Warsaw Voice, Stolica, Art&Business, Artinfo.pl