Yet, another artist born in Poland and displaced by World War II whose work can be found in the Hunterian collections is  Janina (Janka) Małkowska. Małkowska was born in Warsaw in 1912, trained in Warsaw and Vienna and was just starting her artistic career when the war broke out. After the war, she joined her husband who was sent to the Polish settlement in Inveraray.  She settled in Scotland and lived here until her death in 1997. A long-time member of Glasgow Print Studios Małkowska remained faithful to the wood carving technique which she claimed she self-taught during the war. She started creating woodcuts when hiding (and supporting the resistance movement) in the Polish mountains. She later recalled that she carved  her first woodcuts with a knife and printed them using a spoon to press the image onto the paper as there were no other tools available.

GLAHA:53376, “50 Years After”, Malkowska, Janka; 1912-1997, 1989 – 1997, woodcut, print, printed in black/brown on cream Arches paper

GLAHA:53379, “Elleni”, Malkowska, Janka; 1912-1997, 1989 – 1997, woodcut, print, printed in brown and blue-green on cream paper

GLAHA:53378, “Old Town”, Malkowska, Janka; 1912-1997, 1989 – 1997, woodcut, print, printed in black on dark grey paper

Of the five works in the Hunterian authored by Małkowska two are portraits (including one self-portrait), one depicts an urban landscape and two have  complex cultural references.

GLAHA:53377, “Prima Vera”, Malkowska, Janka; 1912-1997, 1989 – 1997, woodcut, print, printed in black on brown laid paper

“Prima Vera” means ‘spring’ in Italian and the artwork references the famous ‘Spring’ by Botticelli as well as potentially one of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’. However, Prima Vera depicted by Małkowska  carved in wood and wearing a wreath resembling a bird’s nest with a bird in it, positioned against the backdrop of the sun or full moon, also evokes  traditional folk art and references Slavic folk stories. Additionally, the date of its creation – year 1989 – brings to mind the story of the fall of communism in central Europe – ‘Storia della primavera europea’ –  as the Italian translation of the ‘The Magic Lantern: The Revolution of ’89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Prague and Berlin’ by Garton Ash Timothy suggest.

GLAHA:50824, “Petrushka’s Ghost”, Malkowska, Janka; 1912-1997, 1982, woodcut, print, ink on paper

Petrushka’s Ghost, on the other hand, refers to a Russian folk story – a  story of a puppet that is more human than the evil magician who brought it to life.  The story of his tragic love has been adapted by Igor Stravinski into a ballet. Stravinski, a composer of Russian origins, Polish heritage and complex migratory history was meant to work on the ‘Rite of Spring’ for Sergei Diaghilev when he started playing with the theme of the Russian folktale. Encouraged by Diaghilev he developed it into a ballet entitled ‘Petrushka’. The role of  Petrushka was given to Vaslav Nijinsky yet another fascinating artist with a complex biography and Polish roots.  Małkowska’s work magnificently captures the dance movements through which the  the humanity of the puppet at once rejected and tragically embodied in his clunky moves is expressed.


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