Zdislav Beksinski is an artist who was haunted by death – Don Perdon at DTF

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Zdislaw Beksinski was one of the most famous Polish artists of the 20th century, his works evoked conflicting emotions: some shunned them, while others simply adored them. But few know that the artist, who tried to avoid the fear of death through painting, buried his wife, son and himself was brutally killed because of 100 CDs and two cameras.

On January 24, 1929, during the incredibly cold winter in the town of Sanok, one of Poland’s most recognizable artists, Zdislaw Beksinski, was born. His family founded a boiler plant, which many years later was transformed into the famous Autosan bus plant.

When Zdislav was 10, World War II began, along with his peers, he played in yards dotted with unexploded ordnance. During one of these games, Beksinski lost part of his index and thumb on his left hand.

Beksin student. Photo from the Historical Museum in Sanok.

After graduating from high school, Zdislav applied to the Faculty of Architecture of the Krakow Technical University and the Academy of Fine Arts. The artist himself wanted to become a director, but his father encouraged him to become an architect, as he believed that Poland, destroyed during the war, was an opportunity to earn a good living.

He promised his son that he would finance a film school after he finished school, but, as Beksinski himself said in an interview with Polish Radio in 1999, his father had died and young Zdislav had to work. The film school also ceased to be so enticing for him, because in those years social realism dominated, and Zdislav did not want to make films that were being made then.

I hated architecture because architecture is a plan, a project, and a tedious implementation.

Zdislav Beksinski

in a letter to Maria Turleyskaya dated March 30, 1967

At the beginning of his career he was better known as the author of avant-garde photographs and, by the way, is considered one of the brightest representatives of this artistic trend in the world. Formally, from 1955 he even belonged to the Polish Photographic Society in Sanok, and three years later he joined the Association of Polish Art Photographers (and received identification number 237).

Zdzisław Beksiński, Most

Zdzisław Beksiński, Dziecko 1957

Zdzisław Beksiński, Strefa (Area) 1957

During his studies in 1951, Zdislav married Zofia Stankevich. And in 1958 the couple had a son Tomasz. In the 1960s, Zdislav focused on painting. In 1959-1970, Beksinski worked at Avtosan as a person responsible for designing buses. Most of his developments after prototyping were not launched into production. Working part-time for 6 hours, he devoted the rest of his free time to painting.

SFW-1 “Sanok” (design by Beksinsky). Photo from the Historical Museum in Sanok.

Zdzislaw Beksinski is best known for the period of his work, when he painted gloomy paintings, sustained in an individual style, referring to apocalyptic visions. He drew inspiration for his work from dreams. Thanks to painting, Beksinski tried to get rid of the constant fear of death that haunted him.

He painted for himself and, as he claimed, most likely would not sell paintings at all, but he was forced to do so for a living.

I don’t know what what I drew in the paintings means. However, I would like it to touch the viewer as much as it did me when I did it.

Zdzislaw Beksinski, from a 2004 interview

While painting, the artist loved to listen to music (sometimes incredibly loud), according to him, he could do so for 10-14 hours a day, by the way, this led to the fact that later the artist had to wear a hearing aid.

Interesting fact:

In 1986, the artist became interested in computers (the first was the Casio minicomputer), sparing no money for new equipment on the market, the artist distributed old copies to friends and family. Thus, Zdislaw always had the latest equipment in Poland, and his knowledge at that time was not inferior to qualified IT specialists.

Zdislav Beksinski was a very prolific artist, usually creating several dozen works a year. Most of them he sold, tried to sell or gave to family and friends. However, he kept some of them for himself, hanging them on the walls of his apartment or the apartment of his son Tomasz. He called this kind of private collection of his own paintings “pets”.

Photo from the Historical Museum in Sanok

In the mid-1970s, Zdislav built his own recording studio at his home in Sanok.

When I paint under pop, I make movements of the torso, which, of course, prevent me from working, and therefore meaningless, but turning off the sound system causes a feeling of lack of something without which you can not work. And so it doesn’t matter what is drawn in the picture – the important thing is that I can’t express it in words, but I hope I can express it in some of my best works.

Interview with Zdislav Beksinski for “Projekt” magazine № 6

Zdislav Beksinski in his first studio in Sanok (around 1962). Photo from the Historical Museum in Sanok.

Interesting fact:

In 1960, the International Congress of Art Critics (AICA) was held in Poland. As part of this event, invited art critics from around the world visited Krakow, where an exhibition of folk art and painting was organized, in which Beksinski participated. James Johnson Sweeney, President of AICA and Director of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, also visited the exhibition and offered a scholarship to Bexin, but the artist refused both a six-month Guggenheim Museum scholarship in New York and a trip to the United States.

Neurotic diarrhea predominates in my life, that’s all. Hence the reluctance to travel, and I do not care whether it is a link to Siberia or a yacht trip around the world.

Letter from Zdislav Beksinsky to Maria Turleiska dated August 4, 1973

The artist suffered from OCD from a young age. In his letter to Maria Turleyska dated August 4, 1973, he wrote: “EVERYTHING that separates me from the BASE (which is a house or apartment at my disposal), puts me in a kind of nervous tension.”

It is for this reason that Zdislav tried to avoid changes, trips, unexpected visits or events as much as possible.

Self-portrait XIII. Photo from the Historical Museum in Sanok.

For Beksinsky, Zofya’s wife was an inspiration, great support and love of a lifetime, which is why her death in 1998 was a blow to the artist. Sophia was not only a devoted wife of the artist, but also his favorite model and … personal driver. She also meant a lot to Tomasz’s depressed son, whom she supported as much as she could.

Zdislav, Tomasz and Zofja, photo taken from here

The artist’s son, Tomasz Beksinski, was one of the best journalists in the history of Polish radio. Everyone who knew him said that Tomasz was alone and could not find his place in the modern world. He hated rap and computers, he loved horror and vampire stories. Despite the fact that he never graduated from the Faculty of English Philology, he was considered one of the most valuable translators of dialogue in films. His translations of Monty Python are classics in Poland today.

Teaser of the documentary “Beksińscy. Video album »

Tomasz had a peculiar character and a sense of humor. In September 1977, he ordered obituaries from the Sanok printing house about his own death and funeral, which he hung throughout the city. He was insanely happy to watch the reaction of colleagues and acquaintances, but he was the only one who took what was happening as a joke.

Two years later, he tried to commit suicide for the first time – turned on the gas and took a sleeping pill. After the family moved to Warsaw, he made another suicide attempt, in which he was injured: the gas caught fire, there was an explosion, as a result of which Tomasz received burns and injuries from broken glass.

Ironically, although the young man was fascinated by death, he was terribly afraid of it. On November 2, 1988, Tomasz Beksinski survived a plane crash in Belobrzeg near Rzeszów, in which one person was killed and several were seriously injured. He has since avoided traveling by plane.

On December 24, 1999, on Christmas Eve, a year after his mother’s death, Tomasz Beksinski took a large number of psychotropic drugs. It was another suicide attempt, this time, unfortunately, successful. At 15:00 Zdislav’s body was found.

After Tomasz’s death, Beksinsky was accused of causing his son’s mental health problems. He was constantly reminded that he had brought up the child poorly and could not pay proper attention to him in his youth.

Zdislav and Tomasz Beksinski, photo from here

These accusations were not baseless, because the relations between Mr. Beksinsky were really quite tense. The roots of this problem came from the artist’s relationship with his late father, Stanislav, who severely restricted Zdislav, so he decided to give his son unlimited freedom, which turned out to be a mistake.

On February 21, 2005, 19-year-old Robert K knocked on the door of a lonely Beksinsky’s apartment. The debt was due to be repaid by the end of February, but debt continued to rise.

Before that, Robert had been gathering his thoughts for a long time, hesitating, standing under the house where the artist lived. As a result, having made a decision, he called the intercom, Zdislav Beksinsky’s apartment, pretending to be his father, with whom the artist was acquainted. When Zdislav opened the door, Robert said that his father had talked to a neighbor and would come soon. Asking the artist to lend him money, Robert was refused, and Beksinski also threatened to tell the boy’s father about everything. The artist tried to call an acquaintance and tell about his son’s actions, at the same time, Robert stabbed Zdislav twenty times.

Robert was not alone, in the car on the street he was waiting for his cousin Lukash, who did not know about the murder, but knew that his relative wanted to borrow money from the artist. When Robert called him and asked him to come up and help clean up the crime scene, he complied with his brother’s request.

All of Robert’s apartment and clothes were covered in blood. Two young men, deciding to rob the late artist, were able to take only about 100 CDs and two cameras. Clumsy attempts to cover their tracks led to the arrest of both. Robert, as a murderer, was sentenced to 25 years in prison, and Lukash was sentenced to 5 years for aiding and abetting the crime.

This is how tragically ended the life of one of the most famous Polish artists of the 20th century, who was afraid of death, and fear used it as inspiration to write his incredible paintings.

At the time of his death, the artist was 76 years old.


If anyone remembers the official site Beksinski (who is currently out of work), where all his works and music by Polish composer Zbigniew Preisner were, I found two tracks used on the site (thanks Reddit).

Zbigniew Preisner – Decalogue IV Part 2

Zbigniew Preisner – Crying For Help – Humiliation

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