Pawel Wróbel was born in 1913 in the coal mining village of Szopienice in Katowice,
Poland, the son of an unmarried mother. In his childhood he had to beg and steal to get some
food. Reluctantly he attended primary school for 3 years and at the age of nine he went to
work in the local coal mine Wieczorek, first as a loader and later as a coal cutter. As
compensation for the gray miner`s existence, he made drawings of cowboys and beautiful
women that he sold for next to nothing to buy vodka.
Kite flying in Katowice. 1974. Akryl on canvas 60 x 50 cm
On the eve of World War II, he was drafted into the Polish army and took part in the
September campaign of 1939. After being wounded in the battle of Przemysl, he was captured
by the Germans but managed to escape. Back in Katowice, he signed the ‘Deutsche
Volksliste’ which was intended to retain workers with an ethnic-German family background
for the Silesian heavy industry. Despite this, he was in December 1944 conscripted into the
Wehrmacht. He deserted, was captured by the Soviets and deported to a POW camp on the
Siberian Kamchatka Peninsula. In Kamchatka he was put to work with tens of thousands of
other prisoners of war under inhumane conditions on the construction of the Stalin railway. 60
degrees frost in winter and horrible mosquito infestations in summer. After Stalins death in
1953, the prisoners were granted amnesty. The railway project has completely failed.
Cloakroom in the mine. 1974. Akryl on canvas. 51 x 61 cm.
After returning to his native village, he went back to work in the coal mine. As a leisure
activity, he founded the Grupa Janowska, a mining association of a dozen highly talented
amateur painters, all living in the Nikiszowiec district. Over the years, the group has
conquered a top position in non-professional Polish painting with artists such as Teofil
Ociepka, Erwin Sówka, Ewald Gawlik and Eugeniusz Bak.
Wrobel paints the Silesian landscape with its high mining towers, smoking chimneys, cone-
shaped slag heaps, and coal trains, the work in the coal mine and the social and cultural life
with its parties, weddings and funerals. In their cheerful color richness and intensity, his
images are in strong contrast to the gray reality of the miner’s existence.
(Miners marriage. 1971. Akryl on board. 50 x 82 cm.
Almost from the start of his painting career, his art was received with great enthusiasm. He
became very popular and was nicknamed "the Silesian Bruegel". He has won many awards in
regional and national competitions. His work is included in the permanent collections of
museums in Poland (Warszawa, Katowice, Bytom, Zabrze, etc.), Germany, Switzerland and
Sweden and has been exhibited in France (Laval) and the Netherlands (Zwolle, Dordrecht and
Zwijndrecht). Polish television has produced several very interesting documentaries about his
life and art.
He died in 1984 in the village where he had lived all his life.
Funeral of a miner. 1971. Akryl on canvas. 61 x 51 cm.