Wladyslaw Rzab

Selfportrait 1985 or earlier. Oil on board 61×46 cm

Władysław Rząb was born in 1910 as the sixth child in a poor working-class family in Zgierz. He was orphaned at a young age and had a difficult childhood with many setbacks. From childhood, Władysław had an intense interest in music, drawing and painting. As a little boy he managed to get hold of an old violin and taught himself to play it. In addition, he also began to make drawings of historical scenes and battle scenes without instructions from a teacher or supervisor. The economic circumstances were an obstacle to substantially further developing his talents. In order to support his family with three children, Rząb worked among other things in a wire factory, postman and janitor and earned some extra money at weddings and parties as a violinist in an orchestra. Later he started working as a window and theater decorator and painter of billboards, professions in which his artistic talents could be used.

Mrs. Rząb 1985 or earlier. Oil on board 64×48 cm

In 1939 his big dream was realized. He was admitted to an art school. However, the invasion of the German army put a premature end to this dream. He was drafted into the army, made prisoner of war and put to work as a forced laborer in Germany, where in his spare hours he made portraits of representatives of the rulers’ people.

Female nude 1985 or earlier. Oil on board 64×48 cm

After the war, Rząb was given another chance when he was awarded a scholarship for a three-year course at Professor Adam Rychtarski’s painting studio. There he became skilled in drawing, painting, graphics (mainly linoleum cuts) and sculpture. At that time he was inspired by German expressionist painters such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Max Beckmann and the Austrian Oskar Kokoschka. The influence of these artists is clearly recognizable in Rząb’s later work.

Flower sellers 1985 or earlier. Oil on canvas 66×50 cm

However, the training did not lead to official recognition as a professional painter. Before that, membership of the Association of Polish Artists and Designers was required. After several rejections, he was (only) admitted in 1986. In the meantime, he had built up a reputation by participating in exhibitions at home and abroad (Stuttgart, Nuremberg and Rome). After acquiring professional status, many more exhibitions followed in Poland and Switzerland and he received an award from the Polish Ministry of Art and Culture. After his death in 1992, the city of Zgierz named a street after him.

Old town 1985 or earlier. Oil on canvas 55×70 cm

Rząb’s work is represented in the collections of the Krakow Ethnographic Museum, the museums of the cities of Radom, Lódz and Zgierz, the University of the City of Lódz and many private collections at home and abroad. Rząb was a versatile and extraordinarily prolific artist. He left behind hundreds of paintings, prints, drawings, linocuts, sculptures and charcoal sketches.

It is said that some years after his death, his son won a very large sum of money in the lottery and then left for an unknown destination. It is unknown what happened to Rząb’s subsequent artistic legacy.

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INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT WILLEM OTTEN (#wladyslawrzab)