Katarzyna Kobro

1898Moscow, Russia | 1951Łódź, Poland

Polish sculptor and designer.

Katarzyna Kobro studied sculpture at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in 1917, on the eve of the Revolution, then at the city’s Free State Art Studios in 1918. In 1920, she moved to Smolensk, where she joined a community of artists working around Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935). There, she taught sculpture at the School of Ceramics and designed theatre sets and posters. She married the painter Władysław Strzemiński (1893-1952), with whom she set up the local branch of UNOVIS, a group of Russian artists initially led by K. Malevich. The couple left the Soviet Union for Poland in 1922 and settled in the industrial town of Łódź, where their art, theoretical writings, and efforts to promote modern art made them key personalities in the Polish avant-garde. From 1924 to 1927, K. Kobro was a co-founder and member of major national and international artistic groups – Blok, a group of avant-garde artists (Warsaw, 1924); Praesens (1926); Awangarda rzeczywista (1929); and Abstraction-Création (Paris, 1931) – and signed a number of manifestos, including the Dimensionist Manifesto (1936). From 1930, she took part in the development of the Łódź Collection of Modern Art, which, opening in 1931, became the second of its kind, after the Hanover collection. She taught interior decoration until war was declared, and reached the peak of her productivity between 1922 and 1939. It was during these years that she created her famous “spatial sculptures” – combinations of rigorously architectural structures, sculptural forms, and constructivist aesthetics.

In 1931, she and W. Strzemiński published a major contribution to avant-garde discussion on art: Kompozycja przestrzeni. Obliczanie rytmu czasoprzennego (“Composition of Space. Calculations of Spatio-temporal Rhythm”). The War years, spent almost entirely in Łódź, were followed by times of austerity. In 1946, she was denied membership to the Association of Polish artists, a situation which, in regards to the new policies and institutionalisation of art practices by the State, meant she was no longer able to live off her art. She and W. Strzemiński separated in 1947. Faced with the impossibility of finding permanent employment, she supported her family by making felt toys and working briefly as a teacher. Following political accusations, she was sentenced to a prison term in 1949, but the ruling was dismissed after appeal. Only a few of K. Kobro’s pre-war works remain, as she donated most of them to the Łódź Museum of Art in 1945. A first exhibition of her work was held at Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź in 1956, after the political “thaw”. It has since become the subject of frequent research and exhibitions.

Edyta Barucka & Tadeusz Barucki

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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