Nikifor Krynicki (1895 – 1968)
The painter known as Nikifor is probably the bestknown Polish naive painter. Despite a life of hardship, the autodidact with a speech impediment who suffered from tuberculosis and who traveled through the country as a beggar managed to express his artistic ideas in thousands of small watercolors and drawings. On discarded pieces of paper and posters he painted images of saints, church interiors, views of cities and buildings or self-portraits in which he posed as a saint or a distinguished man in a fashionable suit.
The watercolor “Cityscape with River and Bathers” is typical of Nikifor’s subtle style of painting and composition. The viewer is looking from the bridge over a canal down onto the scene. Our gaze wanders over the vaguely suggested bodies of the swimmers. In the right foreground a black-clad man with a hat is standing on a roof; he is as ghostly as the figures of the bathers. In the mid-ground a high, red-brown official building with a tower topped with a flag juts in front of a street. Its dark windows are covered with light blue lines of gratings that echo the hue of the sky. Nikifor fills the dark contour lines with broken, at times luminous colors in green-blue and redbrown tones applied thickly or transparently. These areas are joined with delicate, extensive crosshatching to form a finely woven tissue that at once creates order and movement in the picture as well as generating symmetry and mood. With his unique technique Nikifor convincingly visualizes his world of pictorial imagination.