Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy) - Photographs London Wednesday, May 15, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Berinson, Berlin

  • Exhibited

    Face au néant: les portraits de Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, Musée des Beaux Arts, Nantes, 7 May - 4 July 2004, for this lot

  • Literature

    Metaphysical Portraits: Photographs by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, Leipzig: Connewitzer Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1997, p. 57
    Face au néant : les portraits de Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, Nantes: Musée des Beaux Arts, 2004, p.159

  • Catalogue Essay

    This compelling self-portrait by Polish artist, playwright, novelist and philosopher Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, known as Witkacy, is among a series of about a dozen tightly-framed, close-up portraits he created in the years preceding the outbreak of World War I. At a time when Pictorialism dominated the photography scene, Witkacy pursued his own artistic vision, modifying the camera equipment he received from his artist father to produce formally innovative portraits. In a letter to Helena Czerwijowska in August 1912, he writes: 'For two weeks now, I have had that camera to which Helman added a lens with the help of a water tube. I have taken some wonderful photos and when I have printed them, I’ll send them.' The resulting photographs depict close-up faces that fill the entire frame, isolating the sitters from their environment and exposing their psyche.

    In this self-portrait, Witkacy has cropped the edges of the frame along his hands, which rest on either side of his face. His dark hair disappears into the background, removing any spatial awareness from the composition and focusing the viewer on the eyes of the artist. Although Witkacy never regarded himself as a photographer nor exhibited his photographic output, photography played an important role in the life and creative practice of this eccentric genius.

    Other portraits by Witkacy reside in various public institutions, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art.



Gelatin silver print.
17.4 x 12.3 cm (6 7/8 x 4 7/8 in.)

£30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for £50,000

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London Auction 16 May 2019