Stunning WWII Fangor painting ‘rescued’ at auction is entered into Register of Monuments
A historic ceiling painted by Wojciech Fangor during WWII has had its future safeguarded after being entered into the Register of Monuments.
Justifying the decision, the provincial conservator of monuments, Professor Jakub Lewicki, commented: “The plafond was the artist’s first ever large-format work, and is unique both in terms of its subject matter and style.”
Describing it as being “mythical”, Lewicki added that the painting was also notable for the techniques harnessed in its creation – methods that Fangor would later perfect as he rose to become one of the Poland’s most prominent artists.
First unveiled in 1943 on the occasion of Fangor’s 21st birthday, the plafond – titled Plejeda – was created inside the family home, a villa called Janówek, inside what is now the Powsin Botanical Gardens just outside of Warsaw.
Painted under the close guidance of one of his mentors, Felicjan Szczęsny Kowarski, the plafond depicted seven celestial nudes entwined in flowing cloth; floating amid clouds, the ethereal scene was completed by the presence of over a dozen cherubs.
Speaking years later, Fangor revealed that Kowarski had played a crucial role in building his understanding of technical matters. He also credited him with allowing him a free hand when it came to the actual creative process.
“He left me completely free when it came to style, form, colour and subject matter. Today, I sometimes wonder what prompted me to veer towards such an idyllic, rococo style, and think that maybe it was as an escape from the terrible terror that defined the times.”
Measuring 9 x 4.5 metres in size, the spectacular work was further cited by the conservator for its harmonious arrangement of elements and overall coherence.
The plafond’s entry into the registry signals a remarkable turnaround in its fortunes. Despite its importance to Polish art and culture, it was only recently ‘rescued’ after an autumn auction was held to fund urgent maintenance work.
However, whilst Plejeda has had its struggles, the legend of Fangor has continued to soar with the artist’s reputation expanding yet further since his death in 2015.
Born in 1922, his post-war style originally found itself constrained within the parameters of Socialist Realism. The thaw that followed Stalin’s death allowed him to regain his voice and he played a key part in the birth of the Polish School of Poster.
Authoring the world’s first spatial installation in 1958, he left Poland in 1961, eventually settling in the States where his cooperation with Manhattan’s Galerie Challete earned him rave reviews from some of the biggest names in international art.
Invited to headline a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim in 1972, to this day he remains the first and only Pole to be bestowed that privilege.
Moving back to Warsaw in 1999, his body of work has continued to attract both headlines and enormous bids. In December, mosaics authored by Fangor inside Warszawa Śródmieście station were added to the Register of the Monuments; in the same month, his M22 painting was auctioned for a domestic record of PLN 7.3 million.