True Crime, Art, History
The Tragic Life and Death of Surrealist Painter Zdzisław Beksiński
A man fascinated with death met his untimely demise; a life deemed to be worth only $100
Born in Sanok Southern Poland in 1929 a young Zdzisław Beksiński studied architecture but soon found himself bored and disinterested. He felt he was destined for more and thus he turned to his true passion in life; art. Refusing to limit his artistic ingenuity, Zdzisław honed his craft in a multitude of ways; drawing, sculpture, photography, and most importantly, painting.
By the 1960s, Zdzisław grew quite blasé with photography. He believed photography to be a great disservice to his works of art by limiting his imagination and thus he devoted himself to drawing and painting. Zdzisław refused to paint in silence, classical or rock music was a required companion.
In 1964, Zdzisław’s works of art were displayed in an exhibit in Warsaw in which every last piece found a new home. Zdzisław knew he had found his calling.
As a modern-day surrealist, Zdzisław’s work contained peculiar and desolate imagery, torn anxious faces, deformed figures and decay, often viewed as gothic. Works of dystopian surrealism and eroticism were highly criticized at the time.
“I wish to paint in such a manner as if I were photographing dreams.” — Zdzisław Beksiński
The absurdity of the imagery concocted within Zdzisław’s mind was highly criticized. Nonetheless, Zdzisław achieved insurmountable success, becoming a highly sought after and internationally recognized artist by the 1980s.
Zdzisław refused to provide titles for his works of art to discourage interpretation. At one point, he burned several of his pieces deemed too personal by him to be released to the public.
“What matters is what appears in your soul, not what your eyes see and what you can name.” — Zdzisław Beksiński
The late 1990s were the beginning of the end for Zdzisław. Unbeknownst to him, he would soon enter his darkest years.
In 1998, Zdzisław’s wife Zofia passed from cancer. Her death affected not only Zdzisław but his son Tomasz to an extent in which it drove him to commit suicide a year later, on Christmas Eve of 1999, surely making the date one to remember.
Zdzisław became heartbroken and was forever plagued with the image of his dead son whose body he discovered. He could not accept his only sons’ death, and it is important to note, he never did fully recover from such a great loss.
Although Zdzisław’s work of arts exhibits a grim and dark appearance, the man himself was known as nothing but the opposite. He was often described as having a keen sense of humour and a pleasant demeanour, it was not until the loss of his son Tomasz that he truly became a depiction of his art; grim and full of tragedy.
Unfortunately, the finale of Zdzisław’s life would be just as horrific and heartwrenching when on February 21, 2005, he was stabbed to death in his Warsaw apartment.
Nineteen-year-old Robert Kupiec, the son of Zdzisław’s caretaker, was in dire financial need and as a result, asked Zdzisław to lend him a few hundred złoty ($100 USD.)
When Zdzisław refused and attempted to inform Robert’s father of the incident, Robert became furious, and along with his sixteen-year-old cousin, Łukasz Kupiec, the two stabbed Zdzisław seventeen times in the head and chest, until he succumbed to his injuries.
Zdzisław’s lifeless body was found the next day.
Robert and Łukasz were apprehended almost immediately following the vacuous murder, resulting in Robert’s full confession. Łukasz denied involvement, however, text messages between the two proved otherwise.
On November 9, 2006, Robert was found guilty receiving a sentence of twenty-five years in prison. Łukasz received five.
Seventy-five-year-old Zdzisław died in a manner so ghastly, so dark, it resembled that of his ominous art.
The life of an incredibly talented artist born years before his time was callously stolen, but his art lives on in between the walls of a gallery in Sanok where six-hundred of his works continues to be celebrated.
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