Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz

Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz

Infobox Writer
name = Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz

pseudonym = Witkacy
birthdate = February 24, 1885
birthplace = Warsaw, Poland
deathdate = September 18, 1939
deathplace = Jeziory, Poland
occupation = Writer; painter; dramatist; philosopher
nationality = Polish
notableworks = "Szewcy"

Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, a.k.a. "Witkacy" (February 24, 1885September 18, 1939) was a Polish playwright, novelist, painter, photographer and philosopher.


Born in Warsaw, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz was the son of painter, architect and art critic Stanisław Witkiewicz. His godmother was the internationally famous actress Helena Modrzejewska.Witkiewicz was reared at the family home in Zakopane. In accordance with his father's antipathy to the "servitude of the school," the boy was home-schooled and encouraged to develop his talents across a range of creative fields.

Witkiewicz was close friends with Karol Szymanowski and, from childhood, with Bronisław Malinowski.

Following a crisis in Witkiewicz's personal life due to the suicide of his fiancée Jadwiga Janczewska, he was invited by Malinowski to act as draftsman and photographer on a 1914 expedition to Oceania, a venture that was interrupted by the onset of World War I.

On his return, Witkiewicz, a citizen of the Russian Empire, went to St Petersburg and was commissioned an officer in the Imperial army. His ailing father, a Polish nationalist, was deeply grieved by the youngster's decision and died in 1915 without seeing his son again.

Witkiewicz lived through the Russian Revolution in St Petersburg. He claimed that he worked out his philosophical principles during an artillery barrage, and that when the Revolution broke out he was elected political commissar of his regiment. His later works would show his fear of social revolution and foreign invasion, often couched in absurdist language.

He had begun to support himself through portrait painting and continued to do so on his return to Zakopane in Poland. He soon entered into a major creative phase, setting out his principles in "New Forms in Painting" and "Introduction to the Theory of Pure Form in the Theatre". He associated with a group of "formist" artists in the early 1920s and wrote most of his plays during this period. Of about forty plays written by Witkiewicz between 1918 and 1925, twenty-one survive, and only "Jan Maciej Karol Hellcat" met with any public success during the author's lifetime. The original Polish manuscript of "The Crazy Locomotive" was also lost; the play, re-translated from two French versions, was not published until 1962.

After 1925, and taking the name 'Witkacy', the artist ironically re-branded the paintings which provided his economic sustenance as "The S.I. Witkiewicz Portrait Painting Firm", with the motto: "The customer must always be satisfied". Several grades of portrait were offered, from the merely representational to the more expressionistic and the narcotics assisted. Many of his paintings were annotated with mnemonics listing the drugs taken while painting a particular painting, even if this happened to be only a cup of coffee. He also varied the spelling of his name, signing himself "Witkac, Witkatze, Witkacjusz, Vitkacius" and "Vitecasse" — the last being French for "breaks quickly".

In the late 1920s he turned to the novel, writing two works, "Farewell to Autumn" and "Insatiability". The latter major work encompasses geopolitics, psychosomatic drugs, and philosophy.

During the 1930s, Witkiewicz published a text on his experiences of "narcotics," including peyote, and pursued his interests in philosophy. He also promoted emerging writers such as Bruno Schulz. Shortly after Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany in September of 1939, he escaped with his young lover to eastern Poland. Following the Soviet invasion of Poland on September 17, 1939, Witkacy committed suicide. Witkiewicz lied to his lover, saying that he would give her poison while he was to cut his veins. However, he had not given her poison, but himself took Veronal and slit his wrists. She woke up later to find him dead.

Witkiewicz had died in some obscurity but his reputation began to rise soon after the War, a war which had destroyed his own life and devastated Poland. Czesław Miłosz framed his argument in "The Captive Mind" around a discussion of Witkiewicz's novel, "Insatiability". The artist and theater director Tadeusz Kantor was inspired by the "Cricot" group, through which Witkiewicz had presented his final plays in Kraków. Kantor brought many of the plays back into currency, first in Poland and then internationally.

In the postwar period, Communist Poland's Ministry of Culture decided to exhume Witkiewicz's body, move it to Zakopane, and give it a solemn funeral. This was carried out according to plan, though no one was allowed to open the coffin that had been delivered by the Soviet authorities.

Much later, genetic tests proved that the body had belonged to an unknown Ukrainian woman — a final absurdist joke, fifty years after the publication of Witkacy's last novel.



* " _pl. Nowe formy w malarstwie" (1919), translated into English as "New Forms in Painting and the Misunderstandings Arising Therefrom" (in "The Witkiewicz Reader", Quartet, 1993)
* "Szkice estetyczne" (Aesthetic Sketches, 1922)


* "622 Upadki Bunga czyli demoniczna kobieta" (1911) partial translation into English as "The 622 Downfalls of Bungo or The Demonic Woman" (in "The Witkiewicz Reader")
* "Pożegnanie jesieni" (1927) partial translation into English as "Farewell to Autumn" (in "The Witkiewicz Reader")
* "Nienasycenie" (1930) translated into English as "Insatiability" (Quartet Encounter, 1985)


* "Maciej Korbowa i Bellatrix" ("Maciej Korbowa and Bellatrix")(1918)
* "Pragmatyści" (1919) (translated into English as "The Pragmatists")
* "Mister Price, czyli Bzik tropikalny" (1920) (translated into English as "Mr Price, or Tropical Madness")
* "Tumor Mózgowicz" (1920) (translated into English as "Tumor Brainiowicz")
* "Nowe wyzwolenie" (1920) (translated into English as "The New Deliverance")
* "Oni" (1920) (translated into English as "They")
* "Panna Tutli-Putli" (1920) ("Miss Tootli-Pootli")
* "W małym dworku" (1921) (translated into English as "Country House")
* "Niepodległość trójkątów" (1921) (translated into English as "The Independence of Triangles")
* "Metafizykja dwugłowego cielęcia" (1921) (translated into English as "Metaphysics of a Two-Headed Calf")
* "Gyubal Wahazar, czyli Na przełęczach bezsensu" (translated into English as "Gyubal Wahazar, or Along the Cliffs of the Absurd: A Non-Euclidean Drama in Four Acts") (1921)
* "Kurka Wodna" (1921) (Translated into English as "The Water Hen")
* "Bezimienne dzieło" (1921) (translated into English as "The Anonymous Work: Four Acts of a Rather Nasty Nightmare")
* "Mątwa" (1922) (translated into English as "The Cuttlefish, or The Hyrcanian World View")
* "Nadobnisie i koczkodany, czyli Zielona pigułka" (1922) (Translated into English as "Dainty Shapes and Hairy Apes, or The Green Pill: A Comedy with Corpses")
* "Jan Maciej Karol Wścieklica" (1922) (translated into English as "Jan Maciej Karol Hellcat")
* "Wariat i zakonnica" (1923) (translated into English as "The Madman and the Nun")
* "Szalona lokomotywa" (1923) (translated into English as "The Crazy Locomotive")
* "Janulka, córka Fizdejki" (1923) (translated into English as "Janulka, Daughter of Fizdejko")
* "Matka" (1924) translated into English as "The Mother" (in "The Mother & Other Unsavoury Plays", Applause, 1993)
* "Sonata Belzebuba" (1925) (translated into English as "The Beelzebub Sonata")
* "Szewcy" (1931-34) translated into English as "The Shoemakers" (in "The Mother & Other Unsavoury Plays", Applause, 1993)

Other works

* "Narkotyki - niemyte dusze" (1932), partial translation into English as "Narcotics" (in "The Witkiewicz Reader")
* "Pojęcia i twierdzenia implikowane przez pojęcie istnienia" (Concepts and Statements Implied by the Idea of Existence) (1935)
* "Jedyne wyjście"
* "Kompozycia fantastyczna"
* "Pocałunek mongolskiego księcia"

ee also

*History of philosophy in Poland
*Culture of Kraków
*List of Poles
*Mononymous persons


* Sarah Boxer, " [ A Polish Satirist Obsessed with Identity] ". "New York Times," 24 April 1998
* F. Coniglione, [ Polish Philosophy Page: Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz]
* Halina Florynska-Lalewicz, Monika Mokrzycka-Pokora, Irena Kossowska, [ Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy), multipart profile at]
* Daniel Gerould, "Witkacy: Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz as an Imaginative Writer" (University of Washington Press, 1981)
* [ Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz Bibliography, including Bio]

Further reading

* Łozińska Hempel, Maria (1986). "Z łańcucha wspomnień." Wydawnictwo Literackie.

External links

* [ Witkacy's portraits]
* [ Witkiewicz & Futurism - The Crazy Locomotive]
* [ Witkacy's artwork at]

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