Henryk Berlewi

1894 1967
(Pologne) 1894 /   (France) 1967

Supported by his mother, Henryk Berlewi found an artistic vocation very young. At the age of 12, he's in the Beaux-Arts school of Warsaw. In 1909, he enters in the Beaux-Arts of Anvers which he leaves in 1911 for the one in Paris.

In 1913, he goes back to Warsaw and works with the polish futurists. In Berlin, beetween 1922 and 1923, Berlewi joins the Novembergruppe (founded by Max Pechstein in November 1918), he takes part into the International congress on Progressive Art and meets El Lissitzky. Back to Warsaw in 1923, he creates with Wladyslaw Strzeminski (1893-1952) a constructivism group called "Blok".

In March 1924, Berlewi edits his abstract Art manifesto, the "mecanofacture", rythms of geometrical shapes and pure colour giving the illusion of movement and vibration, prefaced by the writer Alexander Wat. In 1924, insisting on the links beetween Art and Machinery, Berlewi organises the first exhibition "Mecanofacture", at the Austro-Daimler Auto show. Though discussed by the officials, the experience will be maintained, 24 hours later, by the "blok" supporters. During Summer 1924, he's invited by Herwarth Walden, founder of the Der Sturm magazine and gallery of the same name, to exhibit his experiences on Mecanofacture. The German version of his manifesto is edited at the same time in this magazine.

In 1926, Berlewi stops his researches; he comes back to figurative art and works as a setting designer.

In 1927, he settles in Paris for good. Beetween 1928 and 1938 he travels through Belgium and does a few portraits of the political and literary world. At that time, learning that he is seriously ill, Berlewi stops any kind of artistic activity.

In 1942, he leaves Paris, finds refuge in Nice and enters the French Resistance (1943-1944). He finds his love for painting again in 1947. Wanting to "reintroduce the object", he makes still lifes inspired by the French masters of the XVIIth century.

In 1957, the exhibition on the pioneers of abstract art in Poland at the Denise René gallery incites him to resume his researches on Mecanofacture. The latter is known today as one of the sources of Optic Art.

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