Władysław Winiecki was born November 4, 1941 in Kutno, to Stanisław and Helena, née Lubańska. He started his education at a primary school in Kutno, where he then went to Henryk Dąbrowski secondary school and obtained his A-level certificate in 1960. Undoubtedly, his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw at the Faculty of Painting in the atelier of Professor Nacht-Samborski proved a crucial experience, one that shaped his approach to visual phenomena. These influences are still visible in his work and pedagogical practice.
In 1966 he graduated with honors. He took part in six exhibitions, including a show in Zachęta and The Warsaw Graphic Artists’ Exhibition in Stockholm. He also became a member of The Association of Polish Artists and Designers. In 1969 Winiecki received a prize and a one-year scholarship at the Second Exhibition of Young Graphic Art (Poznań, WBA) and the Gold Medal (The Italian Republic’s Foreign Minister Prize) at The First International Biennale of Contemporary Painting in Pistoia.
In years 1967 – 1981 he was the laureate of 52 prizes and distinctions in the Warsaw competition for the best engraving of the month. In 1972 he won the silver medal for a collection of works at the Fourth Fine Arts Festival in Zachęta, Warsaw, and in 1973 at the exhibition of the works that won the prizes in the competition “The Best Engraving of the Year,” Łódź, BWA, he won the special prize of the Minister of Culture and Art.
In 1977 he started teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, at the Faculty of Graphic Arts – he began working as a lecturer in the drawing atelier. That same year he won the Special Prize at First Art Encounters in Madrid and in the national competition for the best engraving in Łódź he was presented the Special BWA Prize. In 1978 he became the laureate of the Grand Prix of The Seventh International Print Biennale, Kraków BWA (for the work entitled “Film Frame II”). Professor Ryszard Otręba characterizes this lithograph the following way: “I was struck by the work’s spare language, simplicity and the ease with which the artist delves into realms rarely explored by graphic artists. The print series entitled ‘Frames’ shows a world of enslaved, nameless people, forced into unintelligible frames of their time. Those teeming masses of people are what we see when we furtively observe the enslaved world. Winiecki passes a harsh judgment on people. He asks what we are really like.”
His works are part of the following collections:
National Museum, Warsaw, Kracow, Szczecin; Muzeum w Toruniu; Leon Wyczółkowski Museum, Bydgoszcz; Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź; The National Library in Paris; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo.
Here is an artistic credo Professor Winiecki tentatively formulated: “As an artist as well as a member of the art audience I would like to express my longing for dialogue that could help search for profound life values and processes that could broaden my artistic and intellectual awareness.’”
My memories of Professor? It is easy to tell any story, peppering it with some facts and dates. It is much more difficult to describe somebody’s life not losing its proper content, everything that is squeezed between “he was born” and “he died.” Perhaps we could meticulously reconstruct the sequence of events – the years in which Professor Winiecki was awarded this or that prize or had such and such exhibition. And in 2004 he bought his first mobile phone. Even such a detailed description does not render his true personality.
Professor mentally belonged to an era that did not acknowledge the existence of free market economy. Obviously, it was also a world of difficult contrasts, not entirely black and white, full of nuances and complex decisions; somehow however, it was a time when things manifested themselves more as they were – before advertising and PR specialists started tampering with them. With his heart and his soul Professor belonged to the era where “yes” meant “yes” and no meant “no,” where one and one made two, and where nobody offered you discounts that turned out to be obligatory instead of optional.
Władysław Winiecki was reticent and did not talk about himself much. “I don’t like making fuss,” he would say, with a sneer or an ironic smile. He was sensitive to form and detested excess. In today’s world where floor panels are called harmoniously beautiful, words inevitably lose their meaning. Winiecki enjoyed playing with words, sometimes purposefully multiplying metaphors to reach the essence in a roundabout way, ruthlessly mocking all absurd and loftiness. It is difficult to imagine him without the ever-present expression of self-irony on his face as if he wanted to show the distance towards himself and to the whole world.
He was a recluse and went his own way. Somehow his character makes one think of the mysterious Cheshire Cat – he would appear and vanish again, and was one of the few artists who could stretch and cross the border between dreaming and wakefulness, the visible and the invisible. In a mad procession of quotidian errands not everyone can afford to dream. Winiecki dreamed often and intensely: “the grin […] remained some time after the rest of [him] had gone.” He left suddenly without checking out (as he would always do before leaving his lithography atelier) – he just disappeared without telling anything to anyone.
He passed away on August 25, 2008, at 7.10 a.m., in a nursing home in Łomianki. He is buried in the Kraszewski family grave in Zakopane.