Alina Szapocznikow: Her life in sculptures

This polish artist has turned out to be one of the woman artists more revolutionary and essential of her time. She is one perfect example in the History of Contemporany Art where the personal life of the artist has an effect on her works. She was born in 1926 in Kalisz and with an early death in 1973, Alina Szapocznikow suffered the most direct consequences of the war when she was really young (she resided in some ghettos and camps), undoubtedly this marked her career. 

"Exhumed", bronze, 1955.

“Exhumed”, bronze, 1955.

Immediately after World War II, she started her sculpture studies in Prague and in 1949 she moved to the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1951 she returned again to Poland where she took part in some competitions to create public monuments. The reasons of the return are not clear but probably it was because of diagnosed tuberculosis. Even in her initial stage we can observe that the storyline of practically all her work is being constructed around the body topic. Sculptures like “First love” (1954), are an ode to feminity and to the youth of body. Soon, she gave up this sense and she looked for her inspiration in the suffering of the war. “Monument to a Burnt City” (1954) and “Exhumed” (1955) are the first examples that will mark a new direction towards abstraction of forms whose dramatism and stress will be benchmarks.

"Multiple portrait", granite, bronze and plaster cast, 1965.

“Multiple portrait”, granite, bronze and plaster cast, 1965.

In 1963 she went back again to France and she was in contact with the Nouveau Réalisme movement (Arman, César, Niki de Saint-Phalle, the critic Pierre Restany, etc.), although remaining true to his special style. It would be during this phase when she started the combination of different body molds made of polyester and polyurethane. Thereby Alina began the development of the fragmentation body concept through the multiplication of the molds. “Multiple Portrait” (1965) is a very good example to show how she did an assemblage with four bronze and polyurethane casts of her face and chest, placed together in a pedestal of black granite.

 Around 1968 Alina was diagnosed with breast cancer, and from then until his death, all her works were transformed in a compendium of everything learned. “Motherhood” or “Alina’s Funeral” entail the apposition of all the materials that interested her in one piece: gauzes, tattered clothes, latex, plastics, polyester, photographs or newspapers.

 Alina Szapocznikow is considered as one of the most original contemporary artists, not only because she dared with the technic renovation, but also because she left something of herself in each of her sculptures. Mixing an ironic shade in spite of the dramatism, Alina gained the easiness of narrating her story through her sculptures, one whole life in 3D images.

Source | Polish Cultural Institute

More information | Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw

Images | Collection of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw

In QAH | Alina Szapocznikow: Su vida en esculturas

Author Spotlight


Bachelor Degree in History of Art by University of Valencia (2009- 2013)

Team member of “Culture & Society” in the digital portal “We Learn Today” and also I write for “Cultura y Sociedad” in “Que Aprendemos Hoy” (spanish version).

Internship in BWA Awangarda Gallery of Wroclaw (Poland).

Personal Blog: http://artspresence.blogspot.com.es/ Read Full

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