Zdzisław Beksiński

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Zdzisław Beksiński
Zdzislaw Beksinski in Sanok-crop.jpg
Zdzisław Beksiński in 1991
Born(1929-02-24)24 February 1929
Died21 February 2005(2005-02-21) (aged 75)
Warsaw, Poland
Known forPainting, Sculpture, Photography
AwardsOrder of Polonia Restituta

Zdzisław Beksiński pronounced [ˈzd͡ʑiswaf bɛkˈɕiɲskʲi] (24 February 1929 – 21 February 2005) was a Polish painter, photographer and sculptor specializing in the field of dystopian surrealism.

Beksiński made his paintings and drawings in what he called either a Baroque or a Gothic manner. His creations were made mainly in two periods. The first period of work is generally considered to contain expressionistic color, with a strong style of "utopian realism" and surreal architecture, like a doomsday scenario. The second period contained more abstract style, with the main features of formalism.[1]

Beksiński was stabbed to death at his Warsaw apartment on February 2005, by a 19-year-old acquaintance from Wołomin, reportedly because he refused to lend the teenager money.[2]


Untitled drawing (1958)

Zdzisław Beksiński was born in Sanok, southern Poland. He studied architecture in Kraków. In 1955, he completed his studies and returned to Sanok, working as a construction site supervisor, but found out he did not enjoy it. During this period, he had an interest in montage photography, sculpting and painting. When he first started his sculpting, he would often use his construction site materials for his medium. His early photography would be a precursor to his later paintings often depicting peculiar wrinkles, desolate landscapes and still-life faces on rough surfaces. His paintings often depict anxiety, such as torn doll faces, faces erased or obscured by bandages wrapped around the portrait. His main focus was on abstract painting, although it seems his works in the 1960s were inspired by Surrealism.[1]

Painting and drawing[edit]

1978 oil painting untitled AA78
1984 oil painting

Beksiński had no formal training as an artist. He was a graduate of the Faculty of Architecture at the Kraków Polytechnic with MSc received in 1952.[2] His paintings were mainly created using oil paint on hardboard panels which he personally prepared, although he also experimented with acrylic paints. He abhorred silence; Beksinski listened to classical music while painting.[3]

Fantastic Realism[edit]

An exhibition in Warsaw in 1964 was his first major success, as all his paintings were sold.

Beksiński undertook painting with a passion, working intensely and whilst listening to classical music. He soon became the leading figure in contemporary Polish art. In the late 1960s, Beksiński entered what he himself called his "fantastic period", which lasted up to the mid-1980s. This is his best-known period, during which he created very disturbing images, showing a gloomy, surrealistic environment with very detailed scenes of death, decay, landscapes filled with skeletons, deformed figures and deserts. These paintings were quite detailed, painted with his trademark precision. At the time, Beksiński claimed, "I wish to paint in such a manner as if I were photographing dreams".

Despite the grim overtones, Beksiński claimed some of his works were misunderstood; in his opinion, they were rather optimistic or even humorous. For the most part Beksiński was adamant that even he did not know the meaning of his artworks and was uninterested in possible interpretations; in keeping with this, he refused to provide titles for any of his drawings or paintings. Before moving to Warsaw in 1977, he burned a selection of his works in his own backyard, without leaving any documentation on them. He later claimed that some of those works were "too personal", while others were unsatisfactory, and he didn't want people to see them.

According to Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro "In the medieval tradition, Beksinski seems to believe art to be a forewarning about the fragility of the flesh – whatever pleasures we know are doomed to perish – thus, his paintings manage to evoke at once the process of decay and the ongoing struggle for life. They hold within them a secret poetry, stained with blood and rust."[4]

Later work[edit]

The 1980s marked a transitory period for Beksiński. During this time, his works became more popular in France due to the endeavors of Piotr Dmochowski, and he achieved significant popularity in Western Europe, the United States and Japan. His art in the late 1980s and early 1990s focused on monumental or sculpture-like images rendered in a restricted and often subdued colour palette, including a series of crosses. Paintings in this style, which often appear to have been sketched densely in coloured lines, were much less lavish than those known from his "fantastic period", but just as powerful. In 1994, Beksiński explained "I'm going in the direction of a greater simplification of the background, and at the same time a considerable degree of deformation in the figures, which are being painted without what's known as naturalistic light and shadow. What I'm after is for it to be obvious at first sight that this is a painting I made".

In the later part of the 1990s, he discovered computers, the Internet, digital photography and photo manipulation, a medium that he focused on until his death.

Later life and death[edit]

Beksiński's wife, Zofia, died in 1998; a year later, on Christmas Eve 1999, his son Tomasz (a popular radio presenter, music journalist and movie translator) committed suicide. Beksiński discovered his son's body. Unable to come to terms with his son's death, he kept an envelope "For Tomek in case I kick the bucket" pinned to his wall.

Beksiński's family vault at Sanok

On 21 February 2005, Beksiński was found dead in his flat in Warsaw with 17 stab wounds on his body; two of the wounds were determined to have been fatal. Robert Kupiec, the teenage son of his longtime caretaker, and a friend were arrested shortly after the crime. On 9 November 2006 Robert Kupiec was sentenced to 25 years in prison, and his accomplice, Łukasz Kupiec, to 5 years by the court of Warsaw. Before his death, Beksiński had refused to loan Robert Kupiec a few hundred złoty (approximately US$100).[5]


Although Beksiński's art was often grim, he himself was known to be a pleasant person who took enjoyment from conversation and had a keen sense of humor. He was modest and somewhat shy, avoiding public events such as the openings of his own exhibitions. He credited music as his main source of inspiration. He claimed not to be much influenced by literature, cinema or the work of other artists, and almost never visited museums or exhibitions. Beksiński avoided concrete analysis of the content of his work, saying "I cannot conceive of a sensible statement on painting". He was especially dismissive of those who sought or offered simple answers to what his work 'meant'.

Artistic legacy[edit]

The town of Sanok, Poland, houses a museum dedicated to Beksiński. A Beksiński museum housing 50 paintings and 120 drawings from the Dmochowski collection (who owns the biggest private collection of Beksiński's art[6]), opened in 2006 in the City Art Gallery of Częstochowa, Poland. On 18 May 2012 with the participation of Minister of Regional Development Elżbieta Bieńkowska and others took place ceremonial opening of The New Gallery of Zdzisław Beksiński in the rebuilt wing of the castle. On 19 May 2012 The New Gallery has been opened for the public. A 'Beksiński cross', in the characteristic T-shape frequently employed by the artist, was installed for Burning Man.

In other media[edit]

Cover art for Sun in the House of the Scorpion (2010) by Blood of Kingu, featuring an untitled painting from 1977.


Polish artist Rafael Mielczarek is well known for his drawings inspired by Zdzisław Beksiński.[7][better source needed]


Beksiński's works inspired the surrealist imagery in William Mallone's horror film Parasomnia (2008).[8]

2016 saw the release of feature film The Last Family by Jan P. Matuszynski, a biopic focusing on Beksiński's family life. The film was well received, scoring 86% on Rotten Tomatoes.[9]

An unnamed painting made by Beksiński served as the main inspiration for the physical appearance of the strange skeleton found inside the cave in the 2020 film The Empty Man.[10]


Ukrainian black metal band Blood of Kingu used an untitled painting from 1977 as the cover of their second album Sun in the House of the Scorpion in (2010).[11][12]

The unblack metal band Antestor used "The Trumpeter" as cover art for their album Omen (2012).[13] In a 2013 interview, Antestor explained that they chose "The Trumpeter" because "Our music represents the more broken and monster-like feelings of our humanity, like the apparition in this picture."[14]

Video games[edit]

The video game Lust for Darkness (2018) by Movie Games Lunarium, sees the player character travel through a "perverse land" which, according to the developers, is directly inspired by Beksiński's paintings.[15]

The Medium (2021) modelled its supernatural setting after Beksiński's artwork.[16]

The upcoming video game Scorn draws inspiration from the art of Beksiński and H. R. Giger.[17]


  1. ^ a b Krzysztof Jurecki (August 2004), Zdzisław Beksiński at Culture.pl, Museum of Art in Łódź. Translated by Marek Kępa, February 2012.
  2. ^ a b Polska Agencja Prasowa (29 November 2010), Morderstwo malarza Zdzisława Beksińskiego. Zabójca Beksińskiego posiedzi 25 lat – odwołanie oddalone. Za dziennikiem Super Express z dn. 23 February 2005.
  3. ^ Gerakiti, Errika (11 September 2019). "The Dystopian Surrealism of Zdzislaw Beksinski".
  4. ^ "Guillermo del Toro>Quotes". Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  5. ^ "Painter Zdzislaw Beksinski found stabbed to death". Lincoln Journal Star. The Associated Press. 21 February 2005.
  6. ^ Sny Beksińskiego November 2015.
  7. ^ "Rafael Mielczarek | Fine Art | Photography | Video | filming | Malta |". Rafael Mielczarek. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  8. ^ Parasomnia preview on Hollywood Gothique.com
  9. ^ The Last Family on Rotten Tomatoes.com
  10. ^ Jacob Knight; Marten Carlson (3 April 2021). "Bonus Features #8 - Writer/Director David Prior (The Empty Man)". Secret Handshake Cinema.
  11. ^ http://beksinski.dmochowskigallery.net/galeria_karta.php?artist=52&picture=2461
  12. ^ https://www.discogs.com/Blood-Of-Kingu-Sun-In-The-House-Of-The-Scorpion/master/316711
  13. ^ Synn, Andy (15 January 2013). "Antestor: "Omen"". No Clean Singing. Islander. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
  14. ^ Beck, Chris (February 2013). "Antestor – Taking Care of Unfinished Business" (PDF). HM (163): 46–49. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  15. ^ Movie Games, Lunarium (21 July 2019). "Rafael Mielczarek". Steam – Developer Description. Movie Games S.A., PlayWay S.A. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  16. ^ Watts, Steve (7 May 2020). "Upcoming Horror Game's Key Feature Impossible Without Xbox Series X, Developer Teases". GameSpot. Archived from the original on 8 May 2020.
  17. ^ "Scorn game director Ljubomir Peklar talks sexual imagery". Shacknews. Retrieved 12 April 2021.


  • Cowan, J. (Ed.) 2006: The Fantastic Art of Beksinski – Zdzislaw Beksinski: 1929–2005, 3rd edn., Galerie Morpheus International, Las Vegas. ISBN 1-883398-38-X.
  • Dmochowski, A. & P. 1991: Beksiński – Photographies, Dessins, Sculptures, Peintures, 2nd edn., API Publishing (Republic of Korea).
  • Dmochowski, A. & P. 1991: Beksiński – Peintures et Dessins 1987–1991, 1st edn., API Publishing (Republic of Korea).
  • Gazeta Wyborcza, an interview with Zdzisław Beksiński
  • Kulakowska-Lis, J. (Ed.) 2005: Beksiński 1, 3rd edn.; with introduction by Tomasz Gryglewicz. Bosz Art, Poland. ISBN 83-87730-11-4.
  • Kulakowska-Lis, J. (Ed.) 2005: Beksiński 2, 2nd edn.; with introduction by Wieslaw Banach. Bosz Art, Poland. ISBN 83-87730-42-4.

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