Alfred Lenica

Alfred Lenica

Born August 4 1899, Pabianice
Died April 16 1977, Warsaw

Alfred Lenica was a Polish avant-garde painter in close contact with the members of a Krakow group based around Tadeusz Kantor and Kazimierz Mikulski, and he was a founder member of the 4F+R group. He combined features of surrealism, expressionism, and abstraction in his pre-war works. After the war, he returned to figuration, but experimentation remained predominant in his work. He participated in the activities of the Krzywe Kolo Gallery in Warsaw in the second half of the 1950's.


From 1922, Alfred Lenica studied at the Faculty of Economy and Administration at the Uniwersytetu Poznańského/ Poznan University (Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza). A year later, he joined the local conservatory (Konserwatorium Muzycznego w Poznaniu) as a string player. And in 1925, he started at the Private Institute of Fine Arts (Prywatny Instytut Sztuk Pięknych) in Poznan. Adam Hanytkiewicz (1887-1946) was one of Lenica's first teachers. His works were strongly modernistic from the very beginning.


In the first half of the 1930's, Lenica was primarily inspired by cubism. In figurative paintings (Wiolonczelista I and II/ Violoncellist I and II, 1933


During world war II, Lenica and his family lived in Krakow. He made friends with Jerzy Kujawski (1921-1998) who helped deepen his interest in surrealism and invited him to join an avant-gard circle centred around Tadeusz Kantor (1915-1990), Kazimierz Mikulski (1918-1998), and Tadeusz Brzozowski (1918-1987). In December 1948, Lenica participated in an exhibition of new paintings (I. Wystawa Sztuki Nowoczesnej/ 1st Exhibition of Modern Paintings) by the Krakow group. He was moving further and further away from reality


Lenica returned to Poznan at the end of the war. He joined the Polska Partia Robotnicza/ Polish Workers' Party and the Związek Polskich Artystów Plastyków/ Association of Polish Artists and Designers. Two years later, he was elected the regional chairman. His works still resonated with war motifs. He preferred non-objective, strongly symbolical painting. He primarily used dark shades and combined them with pure colours to produce a strong expressive effect. Lenica experimented with the techniques of collage, photomontage, decal and their combinations (Zagrożone dzieciństwo/ Endangered Childhood, 1948). He approximated the Tachisme style by gradual layering and the uncovering of pure colourful areas which he then contoured by pouring on black and white colours. Therefore, he gradually approximated the principles of Pollock's (1912-1956) action painting (Farby w ruchu/ Colours in Motion, 1949). In 1947, along with Ildefons Houwalt (1910-1987) and Feliks M. Nowowiejski (in memoriam, 1877-1946), he established the avant-garde group 4F+R. The name was derived from the initial letters of the following words: Forma (form), Farba (colour), Faktura (structure), Fantastyka (fantasy), and Realizm (realism). Thus, the name itself was also the manifesto of the group. It followed the surrealist, expressive, and abstract tendencies. Their activity was based on the programme of Przybyszewski's (1868-1927) and Zegadłowicz's (1888-1941) magazine Zdrój (1917-1922). They were directly inspired by the work of Jan Spychalski (1893-1946), but they also tended to the soviet model – they emphasized their socialist tendencies in their first manifesto.


I Exhibition of Modern Art (group exhibition, Kraków)


Group 4F + R exhibition (group exhibition, Poznań)


With the advent of the new regime, Lenica started to prefer comprehensibility and social appeal to experimenting. For political reasons, he became a moderate follower of the doctrine of socialist realism (Młody Bierut wśród robotników/ Young Bierut among Workers, 1949


Flames IV
Flames IV (drawing)


In 1956, Lenica settled in Warsaw and was actively involved in the Krzywe Koło/ Crooked Circle gallery. At the end of the decade, a great retrospective of his work was presented in Zachęta in Warsaw. Informel dominated Lenica's work and he continued with other technical and formal experiments: he used oil and also industrial varnishes and pigments


II Exhibition of Modern Art (group exhibition, Warsaw)


Wystawa malarstwa Alfreda Lenicy (solo exhibition, Warsaw)


Between 1959 and 1960, Lenica stayed in Geneva in connection with his local presentation. At that time, he made the wall painting Trzy elementy/Three Elements (water, fire, and love) at the UN headquarters. He kept in touch with the avant-garde artists. He exhibited jointly with the Krakow Circle and participated in plain-air painting in Osieki k/Koszalina. In 1966, he participated in the Sztuka w zmieniającym się świecie/ Art in the Changing World symposium in Puławy.
III Exhibition of Modern Art (group exhibition, Warsaw)
From Młoda Polska to our days (group exhibition, Warsaw)


At the 1. Festiwal Polskiego Malarstwa Współczesnego/ 1st Festival of Contemporary Polish Painting in Szczecin, which was held in 1962, Alfred Lenica was awarded the Grand Prix. During the 1960's, his expression became evidently more dynamic. The period was later referred to as the Biological Period, which also corresponded with the names of canvases: Stacja fauny (Animal Station, 1962), Silnik biologiczny II (Biological Drive, 1965), Muza (Muse, 1969). Extensive pastosis of the colours and bright effects which, in spite of their abstract nature, gave a feel of living objectivity that was typical of his works: Czyhanie (Lurking), Urojenie (Delusion), Smak gorzkiego owocu (Taste of Sharp Fruit).The artist often pointed out that his main goal was to express, through paintings, experiences and emotions which are difficult to define. In his case, music played an important role in the formulation process.


I Festival of Polish Contemporary Painting (group exhibition, Szczecin)


Alfred Lenica (solo exhibition, Poznań)
Confrontations 63 (Warszawa) (group exhibition, Warsaw)


Alfred Lenica (solo exhibition, Kraków)
Alfred Lenica (solo exhibition, Łódź)
17 Polish Painters (group exhibition, New York (NY))


Exhibition of Contemporary Polish Art (group exhibition, Edinburgh)


Five Polish Surrealistic Artists (group exhibition, Copenhagen)


Alfred Lenica (solo exhibition, Warsaw)


Faces of socialist realism (group exhibition, )
Alfred Lenica 1899-1977 (solo exhibition, Katowice)
Faces of socialist realism (group exhibition, Warsaw)

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