Zdzisław Beksiński

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Zdzisław Beksiński
Self-portrait, 1956–1957
Born(1929-02-24)24 February 1929
Died21 February 2005(2005-02-21) (aged 75)
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 21, 2005, by a 19-year-old acquaintance from Wołomin, reportedly because he refused to lend him money.[2]


Untitled drawing (1958)

Zdzisław Beksiński was born in Sanok, southern Poland. He studied architecture at Kraków Polytechnic in 1947, finishing his studies in 1952.[3] He returned to Sanok in 1955, working as a construction site supervisor, but found that he did not enjoy it. During this period, he had an interest in montage photography, sculpting, and painting. When he first started sculpting, he often used his construction site materials for his medium. His early photography was 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, or 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, receiving an MSc in 1952.[2] His paintings were mainly created using oil paint on hardboard panels that he personally prepared, although he also experimented with acrylic paints. Beksiński listened to classical music while painting.[4]

Fantastic Realism[edit]

An exhibition of Beksiński's works organized by Janusz Bogucki in Warsaw in 1964 was his first major success.[5][6]

Beksiński undertook painting with a passion, working intensely while 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 into the mid-1980s. This is his best-known period, during which he created disturbing images, showing a gloomy, surrealistic environment with detailed scenes of death, decay, landscapes filled with skeletons, deformed figures, and deserts. These detailed works were painted with his trademark precision. At the time, Beksiński claimed, "I wish to paint in such a manner as if I were photographing dreams."[7]

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 notion, he refused to provide titles for any of his drawings or paintings. Before moving to Warsaw in 1977, he destroyed a selection of his works in his own backyard, without leaving any documentation concerning them.[8]

Later work[edit]

In the later part of the 1990s, he became interested in computers, the Internet, digital photography and photo manipulation, a medium that he focused on until his death.[9]

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 philologist, whose translated media includes Silence of The Lambs, Casablanca & Reservoir Dogs and more) committed suicide by drug overdose. Beksiński discovered his son's body.

Beksiński's family vault in 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).[10]


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 don't want to say or convey anything. I just paint what comes to my mind".[11]

He had obsessive–compulsive disorder,[12] which made him reluctant to travel;[13] he referred to his condition as "neurotic diarrhea".[13]

Artistic legacy[edit]

Beksiński in Sanok, 1991

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[14]), 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 opened for the public.[15] A 'Beksiński cross', in the characteristic T-shape frequently employed by the artist, was installed for Burning Man to honor the artist's memory.[12]

Short stories[edit]

During the years 1963–1965, Beksiński wrote short stories. However, he was unhappy with the results and sealed them away, deciding to hone his skills in painting instead.[16] For half a century, they remained a secret to everyone except the artist's closest friends and family. In 2015, a decade after Beksiński was killed, a collection of his short stories was published. Despite their unfinished and chaotic nature, the literary works of Beksiński are considered an intriguing journey into his past, reminiscent of his later dreamlike paintings; they vary from abstract onirist tales and philosophical self-reflections to metaphorical post-apocalyptic fiction and crime thriller stories.[17][18] Beksiński's literary period is described as "short and intensive", as he wrote 40 short stories in fewer than two years, experimenting with form and narrative.[19][20]

Zdzisław Beksiński Art Promotion Archive[edit]

In 2023, the online Zdzisław Beksiński Art Promotion Archive was created. Its creators are Mr. and Mrs. Anna and Piotr Dmochowski. It is a very rich, unique collection of materials, divided into two parts, available to all admirers of Master Beksiński's work.

Symbolism and colors[edit]

Beksiński used a specific oil paint in the hue of Prussian Blue, which he used to symbolize death. This shade of blue has a symbolic connection for the artist to World War II, as the color was named after hydrogen cyanide which was a main component in Zyklon B. When this chemical weapon was used by Nazis in concentration camp gas chambers to execute Jewish prisoners, it left a blue residue on the walls.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Krzysztof Jurecki (August 2004). "Zdzisław Beksiński". Culture.pl, Museum of Art in Łódź. Translated by Marek Kępa, February 2012. Archived from the original on 15 November 2017.
  2. ^ a b Polska Agencja Prasowa (23 February 2005). "Morderstwo malarza Zdzisława Beksińskiego. Zabójca Beksińskiego posiedzi 25 lat – odwołanie oddalone". Super Express (in Polish). Archived from the original on 29 March 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2010.
  3. ^ "Life and work". muzeum.sanok.pl. Archived from the original on 7 February 2022. Retrieved 7 February 2022.
  4. ^ Gerakiti, Errika (11 September 2019). "The Dystopian Surrealism of Zdzislaw Beksinski". Archived from the original on 17 January 2021. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  5. ^ "Beksiński nieobojętny. 27 prac, które poruszą każdego" (in Polish). 16 June 2021. Archived from the original on 10 November 2022. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  6. ^ "Beksiński w Warszawie!" (in Polish). Archived from the original on 4 October 2022. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  7. ^ "Moje sny czasem spotykają się ze snami Beksińskiego" (in Polish). 8 November 2020. Archived from the original on 14 August 2022. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  8. ^ "Artystyczne eksperymenty Zdzisława Beksińskiego" (in Polish). 18 October 2016. Archived from the original on 9 May 2022. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  9. ^ "Beksiński od fotografii do wirtualnej rzeczywistości. Ponad sto prac w Koneserze" (in Polish). 14 April 2019. Archived from the original on 20 May 2022. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  10. ^ "Painter Zdzislaw Beksinski found stabbed to death". Lincoln Journal Star. The Associated Press. 21 February 2005. Archived from the original on 13 May 2018. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  11. ^ "Twórczość Zdzisława Beksińskiego" (in Polish). 20 February 2009. Archived from the original on 24 September 2022. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  12. ^ a b "Zdzislaw Beksinski: The Dystopian Surrealist Painter You Should Know". 5 May 2021. Archived from the original on 19 May 2022. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  13. ^ a b "About Zdzisław Beksiński - biography, techniques, facts, quotes, photography and more". Archived from the original on 28 December 2022. Retrieved 28 December 2022.
  14. ^ Sny Beksińskiego Archived 28 June 2017 at the Wayback Machine November 2015.
  15. ^ "Otwarcie Galerii Beksińskiego w Sanoku w 2012" (in Polish). 7 February 2011. Archived from the original on 9 May 2022. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  16. ^ Chomiszczak, Tomasz (2016). "Posłowie: „Zaledwie okruchy, bezużyteczne szczątki, niedojedzone przez czas resztki". Prozatorskie do-myślenia Zdzisława Beksińskiego". In Beksiński, Zdzisław (ed.). Opowiadania. Bosz. pp. 356–409. ISBN 978-83-7576-253-2.
  17. ^ krzysiek66 (29 May 2015). "Zdzisław Beksiński "Opowiadania"". ksiazkizklimatem.wordpress.com. WordPress. Archived from the original on 12 July 2021. Retrieved 12 July 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ "Opowiadania – Zdzisław Beksiński". lubimyczytac.pl. Lubimyczytać.pl. 12 July 2021. Archived from the original on 12 July 2021. Retrieved 12 July 2021.
  19. ^ "Opowiadania - Zdzisław Beksiński". empik.com. Empik. 13 July 2021. Archived from the original on 12 July 2021. Retrieved 13 July 2021.
  20. ^ Zdzisław Beksiński. Opowiadania. Bosz. 13 July 2021. Archived from the original on 1 March 2021. Retrieved 13 July 2021. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  21. ^ Beksiński, A. case study: Zdzisław (3 December 2020). "The Larger Context". ArcGIS StoryMaps. Retrieved 22 April 2024.


  • Cowan, J. (Ed.) 2006: The Fantastic Art of Beksiński – Zdzislaw Beksiński: 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.

External links[edit]