A Singular Spirit: Józef Czapski, His Art and Life
A lecture by Eric Karpeles
February 23, 2022 at 7:00 PM (PT)
Józef Czapski (1896-1993) witnessed the tumult of twentieth-century Europe first-hand, as a military officer, art and literary critic, disciplined chronicler of his own experiences, and above all, as a painter skilled at isolating the subtle significance of the everyday. At a time when abstract art tended to dominate aesthetic discourse, he preferred to observe the world around him, to portray people going about their daily business. Some of his most compelling works depict theatergoers and art lovers engaged in the same process—looking carefully.
Art and life were never differentiated for Czapski. Two inseparable realities—the life lived, and the life examined—served to shape his understanding of what it was to be in the world. He was never without a pencil or a sketchbook; his pursuit of serendipitous visions, translated into paint on canvas, epitomized his belief in what it was to be an artist. Honesty, discipline, and faith radiate outward from both his personal and artistic lives.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER: Eric Karpeles is a painter and a writer who introduced a Polish painter and writer, Józef Czapski, to the American public by translating his Lost Time: Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp. After years of research, Karpeles published Czapski’s critical biography Almost Nothing: The 20-th Century Art and Life of Józef Czapski and an artist’s monography An Apprenticeship of Looking. Karpeles’ interest in the relationship between the visual and the verbal resulted in Paintings in Proust: A Visual Companion to “In the Search of Lost Time,” a book translated into several languages. More…