Talented people with an artistic soul rarely limit themselves to just one form of art. It is no different with Andrzej Wajda – not many people know that our brilliant director studied painting and had plans to devote his life to this particular area. In the end, though, he changed his path of learning as well as career plans. We owe plenty of great masterpieces of Polish cinematography to this decision. However, it is also a good idea to discover other works of the master, as they also give us some insight into how the future director perceived the world.
Individual branches of art and culture are not completely separate from one another. It happens very often that the same person has different talents. On top of that, individual works of art and directions intersect and influence one another. It was quite visible with Andrzej Wajda, who went through fascination with art during his youth. And even though his entire professional life was devoted to making movies, it is hard not to notice that his previous experiences impacted his later creativity to a large degree. His perception of the world was typical for artists who are into painting. When directing movies, he paid a lot of attention to the visual aspect of his works, trying to bring out the desired atmosphere the best he could. The frames of his movies had a painting charm to them and were perfected like paintings on easels. This attention to detail and artistic sense were certainly among the factors that made his movies so good and suggestive.
The master spoke about his education as follows: „Although I have never graduated in that, I still consider them to be my basic and fundamental education, and not the film school that I graduated from and the diploma of which I have in my collection. […] Up to this day, if I face any problem, I never look for an analogy in the history of film, but always in my former painting experiences. It’s apparently stuck in my subconsciousness”. After the war, the future director started studying painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. When attending this school, he made friends with Andrzej Wroblewski, who would become one of the most brilliant Polish painters of the post-war era. It was his friend’s talent that caused Wajda to… quit painting and move to the film school in Lodz. The master has mentioned that when he saw paintings by Wroblewski, it made him realize that he wasn’t quite that talented himself. Not wanting to simply imitate him, he decided he would express the beliefs he held through a different type of medium. Both friends wished to speak about heroes fighting in world war 2. Some time later, Andrzej Wajda decided to make a tribute to his friend’s talent by hosting four exhibitions of his works. First of them took place in Warsaw while Wroblewski was still alive and it exhibited a set of watercolor illustrations of French poetry. The second one, on the other hand, was a posthumous monograph that took place in the Palace of Art in Krakow. The third one was a presentation of the movie „Everything is for sale” (in the movie, we can see Andrzej Lapicki playing Wajda as he admires the exhibition), and the last exposition took place in the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology. During the preparations for this last exhibition, a documentary called „Wroblewski as seen by Wajda” was also filmed.
Before Wajda chose to quit an idea of professional painting in favor of a career in the world of film, he had painted several works, among which are „Suburban Krakow” (1943), „A plumber’s brain” (1947, the second version in 1950), „Mountain forest”, „Eastern city” and „Paradise bird” (1948). In 2011, an album was issued called „Andrzej Wajda – lifetime of his drawings”, which includes over 300 works of art by the cinematic master. Most of them were created privately, for purposes that could be described as recreational. The album contains portraits of many notable artists, such as Czapski, Mrozek, Kantor, Holoubek, Lem, Polanski, Robert Altman and Herbert von Karajan (and plenty of them were also adorned with funny captions), drawings of horses, cats and dogs, drawings of Wajda’s beloved Japan, sceneries of Zoliborz, India and the Holy Land, as well as watercolor paintings and situational plans for his movies, which are now the most importan for Wajda Art project, because they shows how Wajda’s process of creation look like. Painting is often the part of work of movie director and should be appreciate by all fans of director’s work.
Just as many other film creators, Andrzej Wajda had a habit of starting with drawing individual movie frames as well as scenes from theatrical plays. When asked why he did that, he would say: “For two reasons. First of all, because what I have drawn is my property. It remains in my memory. When drawing, I also become more aware of what touches my imagination. And when working with films and plays, I use drawing as it is faster as a method of communicating with associates”. On top of that, the master also made references in his movies to works of other painters. For example, a character from „Ashes and Diamonds”, Maciek Chelmicki, dies in a position similar to people from „Firing squad” by Andrzej Wroblewski. In „Wedding”, on the other hand, the master placed references to „Stanczyk” by Jan Matejko, „Self-portrait with wife” by Stanislaw Wyspianski and „Wife’s portrait against yellow background” by Jozef Mehoffer. There are, of course, much more inspirations like the above and they confirm that Andrzej Wajda was closely related to this area of art for the rest of his life.