Ksawery Piwocki (1901–1974)
Divisions of PAS
Ksawery Piwocki, (1901–1974) whose scholarly activities occurred during a particularly diffi cult period in Polish history, 1935–1970, was one of the most interesting Polish art historians and organizers of academic life. In his work, he combined an interest in methodology (for instance, as an expert on the concepts of Alois Riegl, and on all the complexities of the nearly century–old dispute about its proper interpretation), with many years of research on non–professional artists, areas of artistic creativity which remained partly on the margins of traditional art history and partly in the ‘no man’s land’ of such disciplines as art history, ethnography and cultural anthropology. Armed with a thorough knowledge of methodology, and starting from the fairly widespread belief in the 1920s and 1930s that the study of the art of the so–called ‘primitives’ would facilitate exploration of the principles of artistic development in general, uncovering the psychological and anthropological origins of creativity, Piwocki researched ‘primitive’ art, reveali ng a fascinating and often surprising relationship between the proposals of modern artists and the trends of the ‘primitives’. It should be emphasized that these studies, which began even before World War II, were completely devoid of any attempt to support them with the theories of race, which was not so obvious at the time. In some ways Piwocki’s popular book “A strange world of modern primitives” was a summary of his investigations, playing in its time a very important role. We must not forget that Ksawery Piwocki was also a well–known organizer of academic life. He was involved in the practice of conservation, becoming an eminent expert on the theory of conservation and restoration of works of art, and greatly contributing to the increase in awareness of these issues in Poland. It is thanks to his efforts that the National Ethnographic Museum was established in Warsaw, whose role in promoting interest in folk, ‘primitive’ and amateur art cannot be overestimated. Combining in his activities the competence of an art restorer, art historian and methodologist, Piwocki remains in the memory of our discipline as a rare example of a researcher for whom there was no gap between the study of art history for its own sake and its embodiment as a living aesthetic and artistic message.