Paris “Kultura” logo 1 October 2020
Józef Czapski


1896 (3 April) Born in Prague to Jerzy Hutten-Czapski and Józefa (néevon Thun-Hohenstein). Spends his childhood at Przyłuki, the family estate near Minsk.
1915 Enters Petrograd Imperial University in St Petersburg to study law.
1917 Enters the Corps des Pages (an elite military academy in imperial Russia). Enlists in the Polish 1st Krechowce Uhlan Regiment.
1918 Leaves the army. Declares willingness to serve as a soldier, but without bearing arms. Entrusted with locating missing officers from his regiment. Discovers they had been made prisoners of war by the Russians and shot dead.
1919/1920 Serves in a Polish armoured train. Takes part in the Polish Kiev offensive. Awarded the Virtuti Militari and commissioned as a second lieutenant. Enrols in the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków.
1923 With fellow art students, founds the Kapist group of painters.
1924 Travels to Paris with the Kapists.
1926 Meets, among others, André Malraux, François Mauriac, and Jacques Maritain.
1930 Exhibits with the Kapists at the Galerie Zak in Paris. Travels in Spain.
1931 Further Kapist shows at the Galerie Moss in Geneva and at the Polonia Arts Club in Warsaw.
1932 Own show at the Galerie Vignon in Paris. Returns to Poland.
1933 Works on a book about Rozanov (never published).
1935 In Paris again, where he writes a book about Józef Pankiewicz. Meets Czesław Miłosz. Takes part in the “Salon 35” exhibition in Poznań.
1936 Exhibits his drawings at the ZPAP (Association of Polish Artists and Designers) in Warsaw. His book on the life and work of Józef Pankiewicz is published.
1938 One-man show at the Institute for the Propaganda of Art in Warsaw. Czapski also exhibits in Lwów, Warsaw and Kraków, and in the Polish Pavilion at the International Art Exhibition in Pittsburgh.
1939 Mobilized. Travels to Kraków to join his unit, the 8th Uhlan Regiment. Taken prisoner by the Red Army on 27 September and interned in Starobilsk camp.
1940 Taken from Starobilsk, via the transit camp at Pavlishchev Bor, to Gryazovets camp.
1941 Following the Sikorski-Mayski Agreement of 30 July 1941, Czapski is freed and joins the Polish army being formed in the USSR (General Anders’ Army). Heads the Missing Persons Bureau, charged with locating missing Polish officers and soldiers formerly held captive by the Soviets.
1942 Delivers a report to the Polish military authorities concerning Polish servicemen missing in the Soviet Union. Appointed head of the of Public Relations and Information Department of General Anders’ Army. One of the last Polish officers to leave Russia for Persia. Begins writing Na nieludzkiej ziemi (The Inhuman Land).
1942/1943 With the Polish forces in Iraq, Palestine, Egypt and Italy.
1944 The Italian campaign. Promoted to major and appointed director of the Public Relations and Culture Department of the 2nd Polish Corps in Rome. His Wspomnienia starobielskie (Reminiscences of Starobyelsk) is published.
1945/47 Heads the Paris Bureau of the 2nd Polish Corps.
1947 The first issue of Kultura published in Rome includes an essay by Czapski written after the death of Pierre Bonnard. Czapski moves to 1 Avenue Corneille in Maisons-Laffitte with his sister Maria and the Kultura team newly arrived from Rome.
1948 Demobilized from the Polish army.
1949 The Literary Institute publishes Polish and French editions of Czapski's The Inhuman Land.
1950 Lecture tour in the United States and Canada combined with fundraising for Kultura. In June Czapski attends the Congress for Cultural Freedom in West Berlin with Jerzy Giedroyc.
1950 First post-war one man show at the Galerie Motte in Geneva.
1952 Exhibits at Galerie Bénézit in Paris and at Grabowski Gallery in London.
1954 Relocates to 96 Avenue de Poissy in Maisons-Laffitte with the Kultura team. Further exhibitions at Grabowski Gallery in London and Galerie Bénézit in Paris.
1955 Exhibition in the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Czapski travels to South America, where he meets Witold Gombrowicz. He exhibits in Rio de Janeiro.
1956 Exhibits in Amiens and again at Grabowski Gallery in London.
1957 Exhibitions at the National Museum in Poznań and at the TPSP in Kraków.
1960 His collected essays on art, Oko (The Eye), are published by the Literary Institute. Exhibits at Grabowski Gallery in London.
1961 Exhibitions at Sagittarius Gallery in New York and at Galerie Bénézit in Paris.
1962 Exhibition in Toronto.
1964 Exhibits at Grabowski Gallery in London and at Galerie Bénézit in Paris.
1965 Meets Anna Akhmatova in Paris. Awarded the Alfred Jurzykowski Foundation Prize.
1966 First publication in Kultura of extracts of the diary Czapski kept since his internment in Starobilsk. Exhibits at Galerie Desbrière in Paris and at Galerie Motte in Geneva.
1967 Exhibition at Galerie Desbrière in Paris.
1968 Exhibition at Grabowski Gallery in London.
1969 An expanded edition of The Inhuman Land is published in London.
1970 Exhibitions at Grabowski Gallery in London and at Galerie Desbrière in Paris.
1971 Retrospective Exhibition at Galerie Motte in Geneva.
1972 Awarded the Godlewski Foundation Literary Prize in Zurich. Exhibits at Galerie Motte in Paris.
1974 Monograph on Czapski by Murielle Werner-Gagnebin, Czapski, la main et l'espace, is published in Lausanne. Exhibitions at Galerie Lambert in Paris and Grabowski Gallery in London. On 15 November Czapski and Jerzy Giedroyc meet Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in Zurich.
1975 Exhibition at Librairie-Galerie Galaxie in Paris.
1976 Exhibition at Barbara and Richard Aeschlimann’s Maison des Arts Plexus in Chexbres, Switzerland.
1977 Exhibitions at Galerie Dédale in Geneva and Librairie-Galerie Galaxie in Paris.
1978 Exhibition at Galerie Briance in Paris. Czapski’s Wspomnienia starobielskie (Reminiscences of Starobyelsk) is published in Poland by underground publishing house Nowa.
1981 Death of Maria Czapska. The Literary Institute publishes collection of Józef Czapski's essays, Tumult i widma (Tumult and Phantoms). Exhibition at Galerie Briance in Paris
1983 Collection of Czapski's essays – Patrząc (Seeing) – selected and with an afterword by Joanna Pollakówna, published in Poland by Znak publishing house.
1985 Ten Czapski paintings exhibited at the Paris Biennale.
1986 Oficyna Literacka, a publishing house in Kraków, publishes Dzienniki, wspomnienia, relacje (Diaries, Recollections, Accounts) edited by Joanna Pollakówna and Piotr Kłoczowski. Exhibition at the Archdiocesan Museum in Warsaw.
1990 The first official publication of Czapski's of The Inhuman Land published in Poland by Czytelnik. Exhibition at the Archdiocesan Museum in Warsaw. Exhibitions at BWA Gallery in Nowy Sącz and at Kordegarda Gallery in Warsaw. Great retrospective exhibition at Jenisch Museum in Vevey, Switzerland. Znak publishes Czytając (Reading), a volume of essays selected and edited by Jan Zieliński.
1991 The exhibition “Dziennik Józefa Czapskiego” (Józef Czapski’s Diary) is held at the National Museum in Poznań.
1992 The exhibition “Józef Czapski. Malarstwo ze zbiorów szwajcarskich” (Józef Czapski’s Works in Swiss Collections) is held by the National Museums in Kraków, Poznań and Warsaw. Józef Czapski is appointed honorary professor of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków.
1993 (12 January) Józef Czapski dies in Maisons-Laffitte. He is buried in the cemetery in Le Mesnil-le-Roi. 
Józef Czapski
A Biography
Born: 3 April 1896 in Prague Died: 12 January 1993 in Maisons-Laffitte
Pen names: Marek Sienny, J. Cz.

Painter, critic, essayist, art connoisseur and officer in the Polish Army. One of “Kultura’s” keenest advocates and closest associates. He was christened Józef Maria Emeryk Franciszek Ignacy, a scion of the noble Hutten-Czapski family. He was the son of Count Jerzy Czapski and Józefa née von Thun-Hohenstein.

Early years
Józef spent his first years with his many brothers and sisters on his family estate at Przyłuki (in today’s Belarus), before moving to St Petersburg where he attended High School no. 12 and later studied law. During the First World War he joined the Polish 1st Krechowce Uhlan Regiment, which he subsequently left due to his pacifist beliefs. He later undertook to track down his regimental colleagues, last sighted in Petrograd (as St Petersburg was briefly renamed). On arriving there, he found out that they had all been executed. Later he took part in the Polish-Soviet War of 1920, commanding a small unit.

A “Kapist”
After the war, Czapski began studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, under the direction of Józef Pankiewicz. Together with his friends, they formed the Paris Committee (Komitet Paryski in Polish, its members were known as Kapists from the acronym KP). The group sought funds to assist students wishing to travel to Paris, then the art capital of the world. Czapski later used to say that he went to Paris with enough money for six months, and stayed six years. As he spoke the best French of all the Kapists, he soon made himself at home n France and entered the local intellectual milieu.
On his return to Warsaw in 1932, he immersed himself in Polish cultural life, gaining recognition not ony as a painter and writer but also for his critical appraisals of exhibitions and books.

The Inhuman Land
Czapski was arrested by the Soviets on 27 September 1939, and found himself in the Starobielsk POW Camp for Officers. He fell ill, and was transferred first to Pavlishchev Bor, then to Gryazovets. It was thanks to this chance chain of events that he became one of the only 450 Polish officers who came out of Starobielsk alive – the others, and those at similar camps, were murdered by the NKVD at Katyń and other places of mass execution.

Czapski was freed as part of the so-called amnesty following the Sikorski-Mayski Agreement of 30 July 1941, and joined General Anders’ Army. Here he was assigned a task similar to the one he had undertaken in 1918 – to search for his brothers-in-arms in the POW camps. This quest, with his searches for answers to questions about the fate of these Polish soldiers, forms the subject of his book The Inhuman Land, published by the Literary Institute in 1949.

When it became clear that Czapski would not determine the exact fate of the Polish officers, General Anders reassigned him to head his army's Department of Public Relations and Information.

Starting from Issue Number One
It was here that he first met Jerzy Giedroyc, who had been transferred from the Carpathian Brigade to Czapski’s department. The painter became one of Giedroyc’s most valued friends. Thanks to his role in General Anders' Army, Czapski was able to support the Literary Institute as it was startting out after the war. In Paris, where from 1945 he headed the Paris Bureau of the 2nd Polish Corps and of the Ministry of Information, he arranged in 1947 for the Institute to move into premises in Maions-Laffitte, thus making possible the further publication of Kultura.while his role in gen. Anders’ Army proved crucial in the help he could give The Literary Institute as it was starting out: in Paris, where Czapski headed the offices of the 2nd Polish Corps and of the Ministry of Information, he arranged for the Institute to move into premises in Maisons-Laffitte, thus making possible the further publication of “Kultura”.

Czapski was involved with the Kultura project from its inception, and for years gave the editorial team invaluable support. He knew not only about art but also about literature, and he had a lively interest in contemporary cultural life - all these formed the subjects of his articles. From the second issue, he published extracts - entitled The Inhuman Land - from his memoirs of the Soviet prison camps.

Tireless Fund-Raiser
Twice, in 1994 and in 1955, Czapski played a decisive role in securing funds during difficult times for the Literary Institute. In 1949 Czapski undertook a lecture-tour of the United States and Canada, where he spoke about the Katyń massacre and raised funds for Kultura. His observations of the New World were encapsulated in a series of Notatki amerykańskie (Notes from America) published in Kultura. His second journey was to South America, to raise Kultura’s subscription base among the many Poles who had settled in this part of the world after the Second World War. It is mainly as a result of this tour that funds were secured to pay for the purchase of permanent premises for the Institute at Maisons-Laffitte.

Writer and Friend
Czapski's essays were published in Kultura, while Biblioteka Kultury published a collection of his writings on art under the title Oko (The Eye), a second edition of The Inhuman Land, and a three-volume selection of his best writing, Tumult i widma (Tumult and Phantoms).
In his earlier career Czapski used the pen-name Marek Sienny, but later often signed his name just J. Czap. Although not directly involved in the editorial process, he was nevertheless an extraordinarily important figure in the Institute. Giedroyc called him his “foreign minister”, for not only did Czapski speak fluent French, German and Russian, he also had the rare gift of gaining over the people he encountered. It was thanks to him that the editorial team in its early years could collaborate with both France's minister André Malraux and James Burnham, and publish their work in Polish for the first time. Czapski remained a permanent resident of Maisons-Laffitte, he and his sister Maria occupying modest quarters on the first floor of the house to the end of their lives.