Film inspired by stunning artwork which decorated the palace of the Maharaja becomes available on YouTube

A frame from an animated film "Eternal Fire", based on Stefan Norblin's murals. Instytut Polonika/YouTube

A short film released on YouTube today (Nov 15th), shows how Polish artist Stefan Norblin combined his pre-war art deco style with an ancient Indian epic poem.

The 12-minute-long montage entitled Eternal Fire, shows a selection of the artist’s greatest works for the Maharaja accompanied by a Polish voiceover narrating the poem Ramayana. 

Created by the National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad Polonika, along with visual artist and film director Piotr Janowczyk, the film pays homage to the work of the artist who slipped from public consciousness following his suicide in 1952. 

The son of a rich factory owner, Norblin’s future was intended to lie in business. 

Stefan Norblin in his studio in Warsaw, 1935.Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe (NAC)

Instead, the artist who was born Juliusz Stefan Norblin de la Gourdaine in Warsaw in 1892, inherited the artistic skills of an 18th century relative, Jan Piotr Norblin, and over the years of self-tuition developed the skills which would lead him to the highest echelons of Polish high society. 

It was during the interwar period that he made his name by designing popular travel posters advertising different parts of Poland, and creating book covers with his illustrations.

As his artistic fame grew, he became one of the most fashionable portraitists, painting portraits of pre-war Poland’s celebrities and politicians, including the ‘father’ of Polish Independence Marshal Józef Piłsudski.

A frame from an animated film Instytut Polonika / YouTube

Following his marriage in 1933 to dancer Lena Żelichowska, a starlet of Polish cinema, he suddenly found himself a celebrity himself, becoming an integral part of pre-war Warsaw’s high society.

After the outbreak of WWII, Norblin left Poland and moved, through Romania, Turkey and Iraq to India where he stayed for five years, painting portraits of local personalities and later, decorating the interiors of palaces and mansions.  

Gaining fame and recognition, his work soon came to the attention of the Maharaja who commissioned him to paint large interior murals, combining his European art-deco style with traditional Indian flourishes, in the Umaid Bhawan Palace, located in Jodhpur in Rajasthan. 

One of the murals inside Umaid Bhavan Palace, painted by Stefan Norblin in 1943.Wikipedia / Ankit khare / CC BY-SA 3.0

In 1946, Norblin left India with his wife and new-born son Andrew and moved to the USA where they settled down in San Francisco, and he continued to paint portraits of the rich and famous, including General Douglas MacArthur.

But, by the end of the decade, with increasingly poor eyesight which he suspected was due to cancer, and unable to face the prospect of not being able to work, he committed suicide.