Today when I think back
I realise with some amazement that in all my life
I have not painted a single landscape, a single “still life”.
I did not paint a world from which man would be absent.
When I deviated into abstract meditation
there would always emerge at one point or another the figure
and the image of a man.
Man’s figure.
How strange the artist’s human nature is.
Everything is mixed up in it:
good and evil,
the truth and untruth,
holiness and muck,

love and death,
ecstasy and curse,
elation and everyday pettiness,
chastity and lewdness,
progress, radicalism and a nostalgia for the past –
a desire to go back,
avant-garde and tradition…

No title, from the series: "Emballaged Figures," 1981, Galerie de France in Paris

No title, from the series: “Emballaged Figures,” 1981, Galerie de France in Paris


After this litany of contradictions I can admit
that in spite of all my provocative gestures and protests –
in a remote corner of the Poor Room of my Imagination,
“aside” and for nobody but myself,
I kept drawing and painting… human figures that
could not claim any formal sophistication or theoretical
Just for myself.
Now I understand the greatness of this modest task.
Just for myself!


In such intimate moments, disregarding
whatever was going on around me, I simply talked to myself.
Just for myself. As in the days of my childhood.
A maniac, a crank, an egocentric, an egoist, an enemy of the people.
I recall even more of those invectives and insults.
Today I know for sure that in those moments,
as in no other times,
I  p r o t e s t e d
against the world
with its proud, “herd” civilization,
its mass ideologies,
its mass, progress-inspired theories of art,
its brutal demands of a sacrifice, which it was allegedly my
duty to make of my inner, personal life,
Of my personal drama,
of my pain and suffering,
of my weaknesses,
of my fears…
Today I know for sure that the pictures made “for myself”
were really “mine”,
And I know for sure that it was my biggest rebellion and protest.


Tadeusz Kantor, “Intimate Comments”, 1986-88, typescript in the Cricoteka Archives, p. 39-40.


The figures grew more and more numerous,
whole processions of them:
wanderers and their luggage,
Boys from the time of my happy childhood,
Old men returning to their Dead Classroom,
Children imprisoned in their schooldesks,
Clochards, Wandering Jews.
People, who have grown into one with their objects,
Human wrecks, hanged convicts, hangmen, prostitutes, the whole
retinue of Saint François Villon – as I refer to them.
Draftees leaving for the front,
my Family, my mother, father, my relatives…
Sometimes I got very angry and turned into a ruthless Judge,
and had people nailed, bound or their faces disfigured,
I made them into “Pies” and “Pancakes” devoid of the ability
to think or feel for themselves.
I took my revenge.
But that was also an accusation.

"Embalage III," 1967 - 73, the National Museum in Wrocław

“Embalage III,” 1967 – 73, the National Museum in Wrocław


Tadeusz Kantor, “Intimate Comments”, 1986-88, typescript in the Cricoteka Archives, p. 40-41.

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