Halima in ‘Wonderland’

 

“My painting went through different phases”, Halima
Nałęcz would say in 1992 commenting on her artistic output
standing in front of a stretched canvas in her studio with
a view on the sea in Brighton. “In the 1950s — she continued
— I was an abstract painter. There were very few artists like
that in London at that time. It was obviously because of the
inspiration of Denise René from Paris and because of the
influence of my Professor Henri Closon59 [member of La
Nouvelle École de Paris]. Then there was time for evolution
and a change of style, which was stimulated by the School
of Marian Bohusz, whose influence became superimposed
on my previous experience from the studio of Professor
Michał Rouba [from Vilnius]. However, it took me as many
as 30 years to create my own style. The very fact that I do
not sign my paintings means that they are immediately
recognizable. Anyway, I want my paintings to have their
own life and not to be static or academic. I never imitated
nature — I interpreted nature. I worked on colour, texture
and rhythm — painting must have its own rhythm”.

A description and evaluation of one’s own work
in words like that fully reflects all aspects of the artistic
output, the result of a half‑century’s work, of one of the
most attractive and fascinating figures of the Polish artistic
world in London after WW II.
In the rich documentation of the exhibitions of the
works by Halima Nałęcz, both those organized in the Drian
Galleries and those from other exhibition centres within
Great Britain or outside its borders where Nałęcz would
present her work, we can find many critical assessments of
her painting, which are in accordance with the opinion of
art critic and painter at the same time Stanisław Frenkiel,
who would share his view on her painting at various
occasions. In 1992 he said the following words about the
artistic output of the Polish painter: “Nałęcz changed her
style a few times. She started as an abstract painter, then
she returned to figurative art. However, one thing remained
always unchanged — her remarkable sensitivity to colour
and the ability to arrange composition according to the
absolutely finest rules of decorative painting”.

The fascination with abstract painting, which had
a strong impact on Halima Nałęcz in the middle of the
1950s seems to be a natural reaction to art for a young
painter who returned to the world of art and found her
place within the new and developing artistic life of the
capital of Great Britain. This return is even more significant
in the context of her difficult experiences connected with,
among other things, her work in the spinning‑house in
Manchester and an escape from there.

At the beginning of the 1950s, Nałęcz would discover
anew, not only British but also European post‑war artistic
circles, which turned out to be much different in their
essence from pre‑war fashions and tendencies in Polish and
European painting, which she knew so well. Undoubtedly,
Paris and especially the contact with Jean Henri Closon
exerted a profound influence on an as‑yet artistically
inexperienced painter. The capital of France was still,
next to New York, the largest centre of modern art at that
time and undoubtedly that was the best place for Halima
Nałęcz to familiarize herself with the newest achievements
of, among others, abstract expressionism, art informel or
— being at its peak at that time — tashisme.
However, as it soon turned out, at the very beginning
of her artistic career the Polish artist was closer in her tastes
to those creators who worked within geometric abstraction.
Still, almost immediately and with increasing strength, in
the paintings by Nałęcz one would discover fascinations
with expressionism and tachisme. A retrospective
exhibition of the paintings of Piet Mondrian, organized
with considerable effort in the Paris gallery of Denise
René, remained not without significance for the ‘abstract
stage’ in her painting. This exhibition was organized by the
French gallery owner precisely on the first anniversary of
the opening of Halima Nałęcz’s Drian Galleries.

Paulina Laskowska, the author of an unpublished
dissertation about the Drian Galleries, is right in
assuming that during her stay in Paris, the fascination of
Halima Nałęcz with abstract art was an expression of her
psychological condition influenced by wartime exile and
hard work in industrial institutions in northern Britain.
Hence it was in art that Halima Nałęcz found a certain
refuge from brutal realities. As Paul Klee would say, the
more brutal the world, the more abstract the art, while
those who are happy create the art rooted in the earth62.
The abstract paintings by Nałęcz, which were created
between 1953 and 1963, are marked undoubtedly with a need
for recording personal and deeply individual experiences of
the artist, through the means of expression that she created
herself. Geometric, mostly flat divisions of the canvas surface
into regular and less regular geometric figures assuming most
often the shapes of squares, rectangles, lozenges or triangles
were, in the words of the artist herself, an attempt at finding
her own ‘style’ through conscious inspiration drawn from
the achievements of European (continental) contemporary
art, which she was simply enthralled with. And even though,
at that time, Halima Nałęcz was far from the fascination
with nature and the environment, which awaited her in
the future, it can be easily observed that the artist’s abstract
compositions created at the turn of the 1950s and 60s started
to betray her great love for colour, as a result of the influence
of her pre‑war ‘Vilnius school’. Initially filling separate flat
geometric sections on the canvas, the colour would ‘develop’
and cover spaces creating an increasingly distinct texture, in
which one can feel the artist’s individual sensitivity to the
very experience of colour, which is so undeniably unique
a feature of her creative work.

The decisive brush‑strokes, the clearly tangible
texture of the paint spread with a dynamic hand seem
to be suggestive of the impact of the school of Marian
Bohusz‑Szyszko, for whom it was primarily the expressive
voice together with painting freedom that constituted the
essence of artistic expression. This emanation of energy in
the logical and geometric compositions in Halima Nałęcz’s
early paintings was noticed also by her English colleagues.
The work of Halima Nałęcz from the 1950s Denis
Bowen would perceive in 1973 in the following way:
“I remember her paintings. I was struck by their vitality and
energy. The colour was sharp and intense. The expressiveness
was pervasive both in the way of spreading the paint and
in the artistic imagination that must have drawn from the
surrounding environment. Some of the canvases were a large
size, contrary to the fashion prevalent in Europe at that
time. They had a lot in common with the large paintings
of American expressive abstractionists, who later influenced
the younger generation to a large degree”. Neither can one
disregard the opinion of Krystyna Fabijańska‑Przybytko
[although it would be difficult to prove it] who after learning
about the work of Halima Nałęcz in her own studio, at the
beginning of the 1980s, wrote that in her early compositions
one can discern “Slavic motifs intertwined with oriental
elements, which must have been inspired by her wartime
travels through Turkey, Egypt (she saw the Valley of the
Kings and Luxor) and the Middle East”.

The first years of the 1960s are marked by the symptoms
of a change in the way Nałęcz understood painting, which
can be traced in the painting compositions she created at
that time. And even though Halima’s closest colleagues,
like for instance Denis Bowen, quoted above, concentrated
fully on abstract painting, she was the very first one to
perceive, also in the work of artists she presented in her
gallery, that there was an increasingly high potential in the
painting of new figuration.

One could venture a claim that Halima Nałęcz in some
intuitive way was ahead of the main stream of development
in European art, which took place in the 1970s. This
development consisted in the decline of “the attractiveness
of attitudes and tendencies preferring the cult of novelty and
progress, together with the secular and homocentric model
of culture. In the place of radical analytical, constructivist
principles and modernism aiming at separating art from
life there appeared more and more examples — also in her
pictures — of the tendency to endow art with existential
and emotional meaning”.

Halima Nalecz- Discovery of Nature and the Four Seasons
Violet and turquoise,
Salmon and strawberry,
Furry brown and grassy green,
The blues of ice, hyacinths and the sky,
The yellows of a sunflower and of a lion’s mane.
Max Wykes‑Joyce, “Arts Review” 1971, 13 March.

The discovery of new creative inspirations, derived
directly from nature and the environment surrounding
the artist, initiated a new stage in the creative activities of
Halima Nałęcz, which came to be known as early as the mid
1960s among English art critics as ‘Rediscovery of Nature’.
This new quality in the paintings of the Polish artist came
to the surface after ten years of her fascination with abstract
art, which was presented to the general public for the first
time at an individual exhibition at the Walker’s Gallery in
Bond Street in 1956. As we know, apart from the works
close to geometric abstractionism, her paintings from that
time would contain elements of expressive abstractionism
and, most of all, her work was unique in her sensitivity to
colour, which would “explode on the canvas in fountains
and geysers of paint in bright tones of blues and pinks”.
A dynamic change, both in terms of her working
methods and thematic content of her paintings, occurred
about 1956. It was at that time that Halima Nałęcz
recognized a chance for developing her own style and
a chance for complete artistic fulfilment. She consciously
extended her interests from the narrow territory of abstract
art, which defined her area of work from the beginning of
her career, towards new broad possibilities of an art filled
with narrative elements and figurative motifs.

The decision to change her style was a conscious
decision, and (apart from some foreshadowing of future
changes in the period of her fascination with abstract
art) one can say that it was a very radical one. As if in
one move, the artist departed from the compositions in
abstract geometry, which she enjoyed so much. In the
second half of the 1950s, her attention was increasingly
drawn towards nature, although for many years, as if
parallel to her fascinations with themes closely connected
with the surrounding world of nature, Halima Nałęcz
found fulfilment in various forms of expressionism. This
can be clearly seen especially in her large canvases, which
would explode with dynamic, passionate, intense energy
of a distinctly expressionistic character. The character of
her paintings seems to clearly show the background of her
fascination with abstract art through the influences of the
established masters of European abstract expressionism.
Finally, at the end of the 1960s, after a complete
rejection of all previous borrowings and shades, derived
especially from her French experiences of abstract geometric
art, the new paintings by Halima Nałęcz acquired a very
personal and unique character.

The first London manifestation68 of the new stage
in the painting of Halima Nałęcz was the exhibition of
39 oils organized in 1967 by the London Ewan Phillips
Gallery. The paintings presented at this exhibition, as
Alicja Drwęska wrote, “radiate poetry, somewhat naïve,
somewhat childish, delight with beautiful colour, as if of
a female quality, but also of intense and deep tones. At
the exhibition there is an atmosphere of serenity, smile
and eternal spring: exotic countries, full of bouquet‑trees
resembling flowers in folklore jigsaw puzzles, charming
jungles inhabited by mysterious human‑creatures, animals
half real and half fantastic, ponies, ducks, turtles, butterflies,
marvellous tropical birds. These landscapes from fairytales,
from naïve dreams of childhood, which always remain
asleep in the subconscious and which the artist managed
to bring back to life with the magic of her art; they all
emanate with light and fluctuate with gentle rhythm. The
landscapes are embraced by the warm azures of the sky,
by ultramarine of the evening, by the reds and golds of
dawn and dusk. They sing the beauty of nature, but there
is also a discernible trace of nostalgia for the lost paradise
of childhood, the longing for a reality more beautiful than
human life. The painting of Halima Nałęcz unites in itself
the charm of naivety, simplicity and sophistication”.

The turn of the 1960s and 70s brought with itself an
extraordinary outburst of artistic activity on the part of
Halima Nałęcz, but it was not until a little later in her
professional career that a real explosion of her creative
potential came to stimulate her work. The paintings done
at that time, called by Stanisław Frenkiel “the period of
mature style” of the artist, were always about “mysterious
gardens”. “These gardens were not taken from books
on botany or biology, but there are some strange plants,
which are nowhere to be found on the earth, which are
filled with busy and uncanny animals. Her compositions
preserve the harmony of the painting surface — that is
Halima Nałęcz would never leave colour(less) gaps in her
paintings. Everything holds together, and this is for her the
most important quality in the painting”.

Today, when we compare and analyse all the works
created over the period of professional involvement of the
artist, it transpires that the paintings from the period of
her attraction to nature automatically, as if of themselves,
define their place on the line of development of her painting
experience. They are all individual compositions, carefully
considered in terms of their content and decorative edge,
and most of all, which should be specifically emphasized,
they are filled with a whole range of details and nuances.
This sphere is an integral part of exotic forests with their
mysterious insides vibrating with independent lives and is
filled with enlarged (as if under a microscope) fragments,
and with buoyant, half‑European and half‑Amazon flora,
being a natural habitat for the whole array of animals and
birds, which found a safe haven in her painting.

This fascination with nature, which the artist would
find in her vicinity, for instance in London’s Hyde Park,
which was a short distance from the location of the Drian
Galleries, were central to her art. Her regular daily walks in
the park, which were her habit for over 40 years, and her
memories of a childhood spent in the Vilnius region would
become integrated in her mind and then transferred onto
the canvas. This love for nature, fascination with various
species, interest in the flora and fauna found a realization
in a large, almost fairytale garden surrounding the estate of
the Nałęcz family on the outskirts of London in Milland,
which they cultivated with the utmost care. This garden as
if from a dream, full of innumerable species of trees, shrubs,
multi‑season and single‑season flowers, was not only an
oasis of peace and a place for rest for Halima, but it would
also bring back the memories of a childhood spent at the
Eastern Outskirts, at the Polish eastern frontier, which the
artist had to leave in 1940.

“I was born in a beautiful place — the artists
remembered — full of marvellous colours. It stayed with
me for my whole life. Remembering that I always search for
similar places. I evoke those colours. It is not an accident
that they are to be found in my paintings […] I consider
my paintings as part of nature and I want them to speak to
the observer not only with colour. My intention is that my
paintings could be seen and heard at the same time”.

Close contact with the paintings of Halima Nałęcz, full
of wonderful secrets and impregnated with a rich palette
of colours inspired by nature, can evoke in the observers
a charm similar to that experienced by the painter, which is
pointed out by Pierre Rouve, who says that one day Halima
Nałęcz must have woken up under a spell, looking through
masses of air towards light, flowers and birds, towards a finer
world than ours, where only in winter it seems that each
grove is visited by spirits73. This wonderland would grow in
Halima for years. It is her ‘secret garden’, which she never
leaves. It is a garden of psychological recovery, in which
we can unexpectedly find half‑grotesque, half‑fantastic
animals and birds living among exuberant and entangled
vegetation.

A rich palette of colours, which Nałęcz would spread
over canvas in an expressive but, which should be strongly
emphasized, methodical way, is strengthened in many
compositions by superimposed and juxtaposed layers of
colours which complement one another on the surface of
the canvas. In many parts of the artist’s works one can find
an abundance of contrasts, especially in fragments where
from the density of dark green ‘interiors’ there appear both
wild and domesticated animals in yellow, red, violet or
brown shades. Cats and mongrel dogs feel in the imaginary
space of forests, meadows and home gardens created by the
artist as comfortable as an ordinary blackbird or a noble
woodpecker.

After the success at the Ewan Philips Gallery, Halima
Nałęcz decided to present her works in her own Drian
Galleries, ten years after the inaugural exhibition there. In
August 1967 fifty paintings by Halima Nałęcz were hung
on the walls of the gallery at Porchester Place. The artist
entitled her exhibition exactly as she had before: Rediscovery
of Nature75. It was a presentation which initiated the most
prolific stage in the artistic career of Halima Nałęcz.
The year 1970 brought a new title for an individual
exhibition of the paintings by Halima Nałęcz in the Drian
Galleries: The Four Seasons76, about which Max Wykes‑Joyce
wrote that apart from the theme of the four seasons, which
on the artist’s large canvases is expressed in groups of
flowers, trees, animals and birds, what is equally important
is the colour, which is subtle and harmonious, with many
shades of violet, turquoise, salmon and strawberry, with
the browns of fur and the greens of grass, with the blues
of ice, hyacinth and a summer sky, with the yellows of
sunflowers and a lion’s mane. It is in these colours that
Nałęcz returned to her family home, vibrant with singing
and music, in the Vilnius region.

For her next individual exhibition a year later in March
1971, her seventh in London and third in the Drian
Galleries, Halima Nałęcz selected 29 oil compositions and
gouaches and 10 drawings. The exhibition received many
favourable reviews and the London “Arts Review” magazine
used eight colour reproductions by Halima Nałęcz for its
front cover80. Three months later one of her canvases won
the bronze medal at a painting exhibition organized by
the Museum of Fine Arts in Ostend and at an auction in
a London auction house one of her works Christie went
to enrich the collection of an anonymous buyer and the
money from this transaction Halima Nałęcz granted to
help refugees from East Pakistan. This good fortune was
to remain with the artist for the whole time.

In July 1972, at the 15th anniversary of the opening
of the Drian Galleries, Halima Nałęcz organized a large
exhibition of her works, in which she presented 28 oil
compositions and 10 gouaches, which provided further
proof that “despite the tremendous effort which is
necessary in managing a gallery, despite a constant lack of
time, the artist did not abandon her own painting. On
the contrary, her talent developed and literally blossomed
[…] The fifteenth anniversary of the opening of the gallery
was rightly celebrated with an exhibition of works by its
owner. The paintings exhibited in the Drian blossom and
sing with colour. They charm the audience with joy of
life, with beauty, with poetry of naïve vision, full of grace
and imagination […] The atmosphere of the exhibition
spreads in front of the audience an aura of optimism,
peace and harmony. And a Polish observer will find in this
joyful melody a note of nostalgia because in these exotic
landscapes, in these jungles of fantastically blossoming
flowers one can hear distant, but still distinct, echoes of
Polish folklore.

In the preface to the catalogue of her next exhibition
presented in March 1973, Denis Bowen wrote not only about
Polish sources of inspiration, but also about Halima’s wide
perspective of perceiving nature. He says that each painting
by Halima Nałęcz is different from the previous one. He
believes that it is a very original art, which is impossible to
imitate both in the general form and in the brushstrokes.
In the 1960s this magical world, which could be that of
Alice in Wonderland, became filled with a procession of
dancing animals, fish, birds, plants and flowers, pulsating
and vibrating with unrestrained energy.

The opening of this exhibition, in the words of
Cezary Wędrowski, “was a triumph. Many paintings of
the largest sizes were sold, and the artist received very
high praise from the audience. The ground floor and the
first‑floor of the gallery changed into a flowery garden of
extraordinarily intense colours. More than fifty paintings
and several drawings under the heading Walking the Park85
gave a thorough overview of the artistic output of Halima
Nałęcz between 1963 and 1973”.

A similarly enthusiastic tone in relation to representation
of parks by Halima Nałęcz one can find in the opinion of
Polish artist and art critic Alicja Drwęska, who knows her
work very well: “The thematic content of Halima’s painting
is still the same: imaginary landscapes shining with bright
juxtapositions of colours, blossoming with astonishing
bouquets of trees and flowers, and in this jungle growing out
of the artist’s imagination one can spot various examples of
grotesque fauna. It might seem that those flowers, birds, cats
and dogs would appear to be sentimental and banal, but they
are not. These fairytale childish visions are so rich in multiple
colour shades and their texture is so ornate and sophisticated
that their thematic content becomes almost unimportant”.

Parks and ‘secret gardens’ remained Halima’s most
important themes in her painting also in subsequent years
of her artistic career. However, since the late 1970s, the
artist’s work underwent slow modifications, which were
not necessarily easily discernible. Her gardens ‘calmed
down’ and started to bloom with different species of plants,
“as if because of a change of seasons or climate conditions;
the sun is muffled by the fog and the light seems sprayed
through mist and vapours, which create a unique tonal
glow, reducing colour schemes to homogenous structures
dominated by one tone. These paintings can be easily
compared to musical compositions written in one tonality:
there are etudes, scherzi and sonatas, but there are no operas
or oratories. The music of those paintings is reminiscent
of a pastoral, and at the same time, presents a brilliantly
executed orchestration and instrumentation”.
This stage in the life of the artist brings to mind also
her earliest, smaller compositions from the period of her
fascination with geometric abstractionism. On canvases
significantly smaller in size than she would traditionally
use and in place of fluid fibre‑like shapes one can notice
“sharply drawn edges through which Halima’s paintings
acquired greater compactness as if through geometric
scaffolding. The colour — brave, saturated even to the
point of brutality — has become the essence of these
paintings. The compositions of gardens are intensely
sensual and carefree, presenting the world of animal‑plants
of anti‑naturalistic morphology out of this world, where
multi‑petal flowers bare their teeth and small animals
ostentatiously blossom”. It is difficult to resist Stanisław
Frenkiel’s suggestion that her works from that period
brought Halima “close to the gates of surrealism”.

This is the way through which Halima Nałęcz
returned to her pre‑war family home, even though it was
in a “different costume”. This time it was a return full of
music, which she connected with memories of nature from
her childhood homeland. The closest musical associations
that her paintings evoke are musical compositions of
Szymanowski or Debussy, which communicate echoes and
reverberate realities rather than images”.

The painting of Halima Nałęcz, as Stanisław Frenkiel
says, “does not contain ideological manifestoes and does
not try to teach anybody anything. It is creation for its
own sake, without any obligations. This is the root of its
calm strength and trust in independence of forms, which
show the world of flowery nature, where small animals
dart to and for playing hide‑and‑seek with invisible birds
playing the flutes. Nałęcz is unique in the history of Polish
art, which was always abundant in rhetorical exercises. She
expresses herself in a consciously limited form and a freely
chosen discipline of structure and imagination”.

“The art of Halima Nałecz — in the opinion of another
critic Krystyna Fabijańska‑Przybytko dealing with the work of
the Polish artist in the 1980s, at the time of her exhibition at the
National Museum in Gdańsk — is situated at the boundary
between two spheres which interpenetrate each other. The
first sphere refers to the ‘anecdotal’ side, which is the area of
experiences connected with beauty. The starting point here
is rooted in the motifs inspired by nature and fascinations
with processes occurring in nature. The second sphere
starts where nature undergoes transformation, consisting in
a metamorphosis into a new system of forms, suggestive of
a new meaning. This sphere cannot be named or described as
it belongs to the very essence of artistic expression and in this
way it requires individual reception. The paintings by Halima
Nałęcz filled almost entirely with gardens, flowers, trees, fields
and meadows seem like a projection of imagination inspired
by landscapes remembered from childhood. Thus nature,
which is prevalent in her work, combines in itself ‘anecdotal’
features, namely through its exuberance, reverberating spirit
and primeval element, together with a poetic tone and
maybe even a touch of melancholy. In the work of the artist
the crucial role is played by the colour palette. The amazingly
colourful orchestration results in a decorative effect. It is
strengthened by the vibration of contours, an entangled
arabesque of lines, the mobility of colourful smudges which
describe the forms through the way they are flatly applied to
the canvas — without entering the so‑called third dimension.

This colourfulness does not apply to shades and half‑shades,
inevitable in the rendering of spatial depth. As a rule, Halima
creates an open system and the frames of the canvas only
delineate a fragment of a larger, epic whole. The stage of the
exposition is usually set in the foreground. Each painting
becomes a ‘fresh’ creation, impossible to copy or imitate. The
form and tapestry texture are the defining factors here”92.
After forty years spent in London, when each new
painting seemed to adhere to the long established canons
of artistic vision which the artist defined over the years,
Halima Nałęcz yielded to new creative inspirations. This
time it was the influence of the new place of living, the
seaside town Brighton, where she resided from 1986 till
2005. The windows of the apartment bought by the artist
offered a splendid view onto the sea, which in contrast to
the hustle and bustle of London streets provided the artist
with a feeling of peace and tranquillity. The new landscape,
new surroundings, new aesthetic experiences could not
appear without finding a reflection in Halima’s work.
The oils by Halima Nałęcz created in Brighton, even
though still filled with a multiplicity of birds hidden among
dense branches of trees and entangled foliage of unnaturally
large flowers, started to emanate a new colour tonality
oscillating more and more often around various shades of
azure, blue or even cold violet. This colour tonality refers to
the way the artist perceived the horizon combining the ever
changing hues of the sea with dynamic shades of the sky
at different moments of the day and at different seasons.
Symmetry and poise, visible in the distant horizon separating
the water and the sky, would also appear in the Brighton
seaside compositions by the Polish artist. “This symmetry
— Paulina Laskowska says — is underlined by figurative
elements, like for instance in the painting Courtship, where
two stylized birds standing en face mark the main vertical
line and the background is arranged in streaks of colour,
emphasizing the structure of the composition. The plants
from time to time assume a natural, identifiable appearance,
like for example, mallow or agave in the Steps. Apart from
that, one could discern a greater simplicity, especially in
clearing the foreground of dense plants, which resulted in
a new quality of peace and gentleness”.

In the last years of the previous century, in the light
of research conducted by art historians with the aim of
recovering for the Polish history of art the work of various
Polish artists who dispersed all over the world after
WW II, the painting by Halima Nałęcz with her own
stylistics seems to a large degree to be a unique and very
individual phenomenon. However, it cannot be obviously
seen without taking into account the weight of experiences
and inspirations which contributed to the development
of this phenomenon. In the words of Paulina Laskowska,
the artist’s biographer, from the formal side, in the artistic
output of Halima Nałęcz created over the span of more than
fifty years, one can without doubt find “both similarities
with Polish colorism and generally with art informel and,
to some degree, some echoes of folklore. The idealized
images of nature in her paintings are surrounded by exotic
aura. For us this exotic feature is familiar and recognizable,
as it is rendered through cheerful colours. In the stylization
of fantastic flowers one can discover (maybe only through
associations) echoes of Polish jigsaw puzzles”.

The evaluation and opinion on the work by Halima
Nałęcz quoted above must be supplemented with
a comment on the clearly present and very significant
fascination of the artist with spontaneity of artistic
expression in the choice of artistic method, which trait
would bring her close, in many of her works, to creators
of European abstract expressionism. Already the very
names of her masters, Marian Bohusz‑Szyszko and Jean
Henri Closon, who taught her the skill and the method of
expressionistic painting, define her artistic stance both in
terms of methodical principles or mannerism, and in terms
of the philosophy of art in general. Yet in critical studies
on 20th century art created in Great Britain one can find
some other attempts at defining the category of the artistic
output of Halima Nałęcz, which cannot be disregarded.
Apart from others, Eric Lister and Sheldon Williams, in
their important study on British modern art Twentieth
Century British Naïve and Primitive Artists96, included the
artistic output of the owner of the Drian Galleries among
‘naïve’ artists. It should be strongly emphasized that her
painting evidently escapes such clear‑cut definitions.
The most important aspect, as it seems, in our attempt
at describing and evaluating the work of Halima Nałęcz is
the opinion of the artist herself about the art she created for
more than half a century. During the recording of the film
Halima Nałęcz w krainie czarów, she said in her Brighton
studio: “If I paint — everything else ceases to exist, there
is only the painting and me. Sometimes the painting is
done in 20 minutes, sometimes it is difficult to finish it
in three years. But the paintings created spontaneously are
the best. My attitude to painting consists in total, complete
involvement in the work. I painted peaceful pictures
because I believe in medicine of colours […] the art of
painting is similar to the art of music, in order to hear it
you have to see it. Similarly you have to hear the painting.
I paint quickly, with energy, because every brushstroke is
visible and crucial. And what is important for me is for my
paintings to have their own life. I paint as if I was painting
in an escape, in an escape of life”.

 

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