"One of the Highlanders, Jędrek Ślimak, said yesterday: ‘This Staś of yours will be wiser than you are!’- So be it." “Something will come of it,” as said by Sabała.
"Having a wise father is for every child an invaluable life-long asset.” Irena Obuchowska, psychologist (1996).
"A father is one of ‘the most powerful beings' on earth - has great power over his son, even long after he has grown up ... ." Ken Canfield, academic psychologist, philosopher, author of books on fatherhood (2007).
"Every father has a hidden desire with regards to his children. He wants to see how they surpass him, and grow up to be better than him. " Ken Canfield (2007).
Without a shadow of doubt, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz owed his above-average abilities and genius largely to his father. Unquestionably, without the huge feeling, effort, care and energy that his father, as well as his mother - Maria Witkiewicz née Pietrzkiewicz (1853 - 1931), provided in the upbringing and education of their son, there wouldn’t have been such a broad-minded artist of such high calibre as Witkacy.
Contemporary research and practice confer the enormous value that such a way of upbringing, as offered by Stanisław Witkiewicz, can give a child. He was aware that no one is born a genius right away, but was convinced that many children have the potential to become one under certain conditions.
It was this chance that Stanisław Witkiewicz gave his beloved son, providing him with a happy childhood, full of adventure and artistic experiences during his adolescent years. He was aware that the talents and abilities of his son were awakened early and these could be developed in an artistic atmosphere of enthusiasm, delight and zest, though only through systematic work, discipline, and consistent effort.
When looking at the family’s papers, we can see clearly how the father, with the active, passionate involvement of the son, designed and created the mysterious construction of the future genius Witkacy, by teaching him step-by-step, above all how to be diligent and hardworking and passionate in work, moulding and correcting his character.
Among Witkacy’s many qualities, one trait in general is usually not mentioned, though Jadwiga Witkiewicz, the artist’s wife, wrote in a chapter of her memoir entitled Working Man, that "from childhood he was extremely hardworking," and "the enthusiasm to work which came easily to him lasted throughout his life. He was able to work so intensely that he could easily give the impression of a man of leisure because he always had time for enjoyment."
This year is a double anniversary associated with the well-known Witkiewicz family. It marks one hundred years since the death of the father, Stanislaw Witkiewicz (1851-1915), who was a painter, critic, the author of numerous monographs of famous painters and the creator of the Zakopane Style. It is also 130 years since the birth of his son, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz - Witkacy (1885-1939). Their thirty years of coexistence, not only in terms of everyday family life but also spiritual and artistic development, took the form of an unprecedented dialogue between the two artists, bonded together by strong emotional ties.
This unusual, creative and honest dialogue contributed to shaping the personality and artistic direction of one of the greatest and most interesting Polish artists of the twentieth century: Witkacy.
The wisdom of the father allowed the son to work through, in a way that was sincere and free from all pressure, existential issues and psychophysical dilemmas, turning them into indisputable advantages. The exchange of views in the form of mutual "memos", as they used to call them, concerned among other things Stanisław Ignacy’s complicated and turbulent, yet also colourful, maturing process.
Too often, the Witkiewicz father and son have been wrongly accused of mutual antagonism; their dialogue is read as "a strong clash between two worldviews". It is a misleading simplification. What caused their differences of opinion is obvious: different psychological predispositions, temperament, the generation gap, as well as the son’s immaturity. There is nothing too surprising about the fact that the son rebelled against the father, because, as Albert Camus wrote : "In order to exist, man must rebel."
We shouldn’t skip over any part of this exchange of views, but perhaps the most interesting and most valuable thing is not what separated them, but what united them, and what they both achieved in many fundamental matters. The spiritual bond between them was never broken. Throughout all the years it showed in mutual feelings, admiration and respect, which enabled a creative, substantive and uncompromising debate, and at the same mutual understanding and tolerance.
They both benefitted from it. That is why, years later, Witkacy, whilst writing about the theory of Pure Form, could say that:
“... already in 1902 as a sixteen year old I conceived the underlying basis of this theory in discussions with my father, who was a representative of realism in painting, despite the fact that at the end of his life he modified his views so much that if he had consistently developed them he would have been led to recognize the Pure Form as such.”
Earlier, during a trip to the tropics, the 29-year-old Witkacy ended a letter to his father dated 29 June 1914, as he did with most of the letters that he had sent in previous years: "I kiss you Dad, My Dearest Dad," and added: "Bronio [Malinowski] sends Dad his sincere respect, honour and kisses."
Stanisław Witkiewicz, having observed his son from birth, and having a full picture of his character, preferences, predispositions and weakness in discussions with him, responded appropriately to the situation.
Modern science underlines what a significant impact creative contact with the father has on a child’s development, their self-worth, their relationship with peers, as well as their functioning in society.
"The presence of the father in the process of upbringing is not only important and necessary, but impossible to replace. This is because the father gives the child the stimuli and the models for social and moral development that the mother is not able to provide in such a wide range."(J. Witczak, Ph.D. in philosophy, 1987).
The psychologist H.B. Miller (1971.) argued that successful identification with the father strengthens the personality of the son, and induces the son to imitate the father. From as early as the first year of life, a boy starts to see himself as a man and, therefore, someone more like his father than his mother.
“Numerous studies show that if a father wants to effectively influence the development of traits associated with the male gender in his son, he should, apart from demonstrating the features that are typically masculine, also be affectionate and caring towards his son.” (P. Sears, psychologist, 1953)
“There is clear evidence that children whose fathers are more involved in taking care of them, have a higher than average IQ, and that fathers can have a positive impact on the academic achievements of their children,” argues the psychologist M. Tracz in a paper entitled The importance of the presence of a father and his influence on the overall development of his son (2012.), based on research carried out by many specialists.
It should be noted that 130 years ago, already from the moment of his son’s birth, Stanisław Witkiewicz simply sensed and "felt with his heart" a lot of "fatherly responsibilities," which today are the subject of scientific research. Stanisław Witkiewicz’s insightful comments to his son concerning life, work and education, which filled the correspondence to his son, are worthy of consideration and admiration.
“This internal scaffolding, this rafter of the soul, is what I would like to be the strongest element of your character. It must be simple and strong, sublime and great - the rest are decorations in different styles ... [...].
When, years ago, I walked with you through the forest, I looked from your point of view, from the height of 80 centimetres. How many things one sees then which later on disappear from view. Today, I try to see what you see, be with you and feel with you and, like in those days, give you a hand at difficult moments – except that today it is more difficult to do,” Stanisław Witkiewicz wrote, in 1910, to his twenty-five-year-old son.
This exhibition is an expression of admiration for the extraordinary phenomenon of the dialogue and exchange of views between both artists and a kind of homage to the father, Stanisław Witkiewicz, who was not for nothing called “an angel” by his sister Mary (known to Witkacy as “Aunty Mary”). The artist, known for his sense of humour, took this light-heartedly with a pinch of salt.
[Stefan Okołowicz, 2015]
Wystawa jest częścią Krakow Photo Fringe
Krakow Photo Fringe jest organizowany przez Fundację Lablab i Fundację Sztuk Wizualnych