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Eugene M. Dyczkowski

Eugene M. Dyczkowski

(1899-1987)

Eugene M. Dyczkowski (1899-1987) was a noted painter, illustrator, muralist, designer, cartoonist, lecturer, and teacher. Dyczkowski’s father emigrated at the age of 16 from a Russian occupied area of Poland. Eugene was born in Philadelphia, Penn., and was the second child in a family of eleven children.

At the age of five, Dyczkowski began to express his artistic talent. This was immediately noticed by his father, who continued to encourage and support his son’s artistic endeavors, helping the young boy express his natural drawing abilities. As Dyczkowski reached his teens, he became very interested in caricatures and cartooning, and decided to take a course from a well-known caricaturist in Elmira, N.Y., by the name of Eugene Zimmer.

In 1923, at the age of 24, he decided to enter the Albright School of Fine Arts in Buffalo, N.Y., as a part-time student. He studied there under George Wilcox, who nurtured Dyczkowski’s raw talent. In four short months, he received a full scholarship to further his studies fulltime. He was also awarded a scholarship to study in France but was unable to accept due to his family responsibilities and lack of finances.

In 1924, he had his first exhibition at the Buffalo Society of Artists (BSA). Dyczkowski worked in many different media, and his early work favored realism. He traveled extensively and painted in such regions as upstate New York, the Catskill Mountains, the coast of Maine, and New England, among others. People began to take notice after several BSA exhibitions at the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo.

Dyczkowski exhibited in the World’s Fair in Warsaw, Poland, in 1929 and landed the position of assistant educational director of the Albright in 1933. During this period he also began a series of art lectures on the radio.

During the 1930s, as the Great Depression dragged on, Dyczkowski worked under the Roosevelt art program, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), to support himself. As part of his WPA employment he painted several murals, including “Defending Forts,” a 90-foot-long mural at the Officers Club at Fort Niagara in Youngstown, N.Y. Two more examples of his work may be found at Burgard Vocational High School in Buffalo; these represent trades and occupations in the fields of science, aeronautics, automotive engineering, and printing.

In 1936 Dyczkowski became the president of the Buffalo Society of Artists and served until 1939. In 1940 he entered a deliberately incompetent and crude work of art signed “Noga Malowane” (Polish for “foot-painted”). He did so to prove the incompetence of the jury in charge of overseeing the selection of works for the Albright Art Gallery’s annual Western New York exhibitions. Dyczkowski felt that the jury, in its mission to represent more modernist art, had previously accepted very questionable pieces into their shows with no regard for ability, technique, or quality. Proving his point, the jury accepted the “Noga Malowane” painting while rejecting the representational work he submitted under his own name. He followed up the incident with a boastful letter to the Buffalo Evening News.

Dyczkowski was a co-founder of the Polish Arts Club of Buffalo and served as its first president from 1945 to 1946, helping to raise nationwide awareness of Polish ancestry and culture. Before he knew it, numerous Polish Art Clubs began to spring up across the country. From 1947 to 1949, the clubs met together at annual conferences in Chicago, Detroit, and Buffalo, leading to the formation of a National Council. Upon its founding, the American Council of Polish Cultural Clubs elected Dyczkowski to be its first President. His values and ideas continue to thrive in Polish Art Clubs across the nation.

In the 1950s, Dyczkowski underwent a radical shift in his perception of representational painting and felt that his previous work and training had been wasted. He began advocating modern art and painting in the style of abstract expressionism. Dyczkowski once said that "Elimination of realistic subject matter allows complete freedom of expression in pure design." One newspaper ran a profile of him under the headline "Artist Wipes Out 30 Years of Work and Starts Over Again.”

He spent the next 30 years exploring abstract art, while focusing on color, line, and composition. He eventually excelled in this form of art and his works were highly regarded. He also continued to lecture and teach both locally and nationally. In 1982 he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Buffalo Chapter of the Polish Arts Club. Dyczkowski died in 1987 at the age of 88, but his legacy of Polish-American pride lives on.

 

Adapted from David Martin, “Eugene M. Dyczkowski,” http://www.meibohmfinearts.com/artists.aspx?ID=259.(Accessed 12/30/2011)

For more information on Eugene Dyczkowski, see http://info-poland.buffalo.edu/classroom/Dyczkowski/Eugene.html