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Tadeusz Kantor (Poland 1915‑1990)


To be sold at our Important Sale: Modern & Contemporary Art + Design & Watches 14 – 16 May 2024

Lot 538 Tadeusz Kantor (Poland 1915‑1990). Composition. Signed and dated Kantor X 59 lower right. Oil on canvas, 55 x 68 cm.

Executed in October 1959.
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Fundacja im. Tadeusza Kantora, signed by Dr. Lech Stangret and dated 26 February 2024.


400.000 – 500.000 SEK
€ 34.000 – 43.000


The collection of artist Bengt Olson (born 1930), Gothenburg.


Galleri 54, Gothenburg, ”Kantor”, 20 November-4 December 1960, cat. no. 7 (as ”Komposition”).

As a versatile talent, Tadeusz Kantor became one of Poland’s most interesting and influential cultural practitioners of the 20th century. Not only highly appreciated as a painter, he also gained recognition around the world as an avant-garde stage director, creator of happenings, set designer, art theoretician, writer, actor and lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. Kantor’s artistic career was shaped by the aftermath of the Second World War. During Germany’s occupation of Poland, Kantor both helped to keep his home country’s cultural life vivid and alive, and at the same time transgressed all its boundaries as he constantly sought renewal within his fields. The artist’s role, he believed, was not to invent, but to question and destroy, conventions and systems. To bring art alive, the artist should challenge established values, regardless of his aesthetics prominence or political cast. A theme that was running throughout Kantor’s entire oeuvre was his fascination of what he called the “Reality of a Lower Order”, explained in his own words: “which continuously demands that I examine and express issues through base materials, the basest possible, materials that are poor, deprived of dignity and prestige, defenseless and often downright contemptible.” Quoted after Jan Klossowicz, Tadeusz Kantor.

Kantor studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow between 1934 and 1939. After the outbreak of the war, he remained in Krakow and earned his living as a house painter. During this time, he founded the Autonomous Underground Theatre which eventually evolved into the Young Artists Group. From 1945 and onwards he became a front figure of the cultural scene of Poland, which led him to Paris where he spent six months in 1947 thanks to an artistic scholarship he was granted by the Ministry of Culture. The months in France became influential as he had the chance to get acquainted with the latest achievements of international art by future masters as Miró, Kandinsky, Ernst, Klee, Matta etc. During the following years Kantor developed his art but could not present it to the public due to the political difficulties in Poland. In the year of 1957, he was one of the founders of The Krakow Group, and the year after marks his international breakthrough with several exhibitions in Paris, Basel and Sweden at Konstsalongen Samlaren. Kantor’s imagery develops through the decades, moving from his early almost surrealistic motifs into informal, abstract expressionist works which are followed by experimental assemblages with relief effects. He incorporates objects, symbols, hidden messages, numbers etc. and expresses his feelings and memories into a grand artistry that can be regarded as a laboratory of the arts. Because of Kantor’s constant creativity and fearless approach, he had the courage to question and move the limits of the impossible. As stated by Jaroslaw Suchan, the curator of the exhibition Tadeusz Kantor. Niemozliwe / Tadeusz Kantor – Impossible at Ludwig Múzeum in 2001: 

“To say of Kantor that he is among Poland’s most outstanding artists of the second half of the twentieth century is to say very little. Kantor is to Polish art what Joseph Beuys was to German art and what Andy Warhol was to American art. He created a unique strain of theatre and was an active participant in the revolutions of the neo-avant-garde; he was a highly original theoretician, an innovator strongly grounded in tradition, an anti-painterly painter, a happener-heretic and an ironic conceptualist. These are only a few of his many incarnations. Apart from that, Kantor was a tireless animator of artistic life in post-war Poland; one could even say he was one of its chief motivating forces. His greatness derives not so much from his oeuvre as from Kantor himself in his entirety, as a kind of Gesamtkunstwerk that consists of his art, his theory and his life.” 

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