The Almost Forgotten Polish Art Genius

Born in December 1893 in a humble polish village, Stanislaw Szukalski loved his country and a t a very young age it was clear that he loved art. Though he had moved to the United States with his mother at an early age, it was so clear to all who saw his creations that he had a talent. And so he left his place of study in Chicago and was sent back home to Poland at just 14 to enroll at the Academy of Fine Arts. Here he studied under a great sculptor and furthered his skills which would send him back to America with increased abilities and lead to his steady rise in popularity, which would unfortunately fall quite abruptly.

The 1930s

After slowly achieving recognition thanks to his unmistakable skill, though not without controversy, Szukalski eventually received worthy praise in his home country. Having designed gallery work as well as monuments and other outdoor permanent pieces, Poland eventually labeled the visionary as its ‘greatest living artist’. Given a studio by the government where he would create and display hundreds of original artworks he was finally celebrated, but it wouldn’t last long. The war swiftly took its toll on Europe, and even though Szukalski was actually propositioned by the Nazi’s to make a sculpture of their leader at one time, it didn’t stop them from invading Warsaw, where his studio was. Bombs destroyed the building and he had to escape with his life, though his life’s work was left burning behind him.

California

In 1940, back in America Szukalski found irregular work but little of it had the creativity that he required. Though he designed backgrounds and scenery for some studios, the majority of his real artistry was done behind closed doors in his home. Though he had befriended several creative people in his earlier years, he now stuck to a small collective who did all they could to showcase the work of a master artist slowly becoming forgotten, using it in local posters, magazines and comic books.

Although his life was far from ideal, his impeccable mind would not settle and his sculpting and pseudo-scientific ventures (That he called Zermatism) continued. Szukalksi was obsessed it seemed with the origins of humanity as well as written language, forming his own unique handwriting that was half way between scribbles and glyphs that he used everyday. Symbols clearly meant a lot to him as his magnificent works would hold grand symbolism on several levels. In his later years he created monuments and carved tributes to events in human history and the Europe he had loved as a young boy. With incredible detail, perfect iconography and a masters understanding of form his sculptures are all astounding as are the many paintings and drawings he created. Thanks to a group of friends he acquired towards the end of his life, mainly publisher Glenn Bray and his wife Lena Zwalve, Szukalski’s life story was chronicled through a series of videotapes filmed in his home. In December 2018 a documentary titled Struggle was released on Netflix showing Szukalski’s story through his surviving friends and admirers, including the films producer and his friend Leonardo DiCaprio. Now at least his story and art can be recognised for what it is – genius.