Alojzy Nawrat – sculptor, painter, animator of the arts. He was born on 12th July 1937 in Kołchowice near Katowice, where he spent his childhood. His father, Albert Nawrat (1904 – 1958), a post office official, was one of the eleven sons of a well- known Silesian family who had taken part in the Silesian Uprisings. Apart from Albert all the brothers played a musical instrument such as: the mandolin, zither, lute, accordion or harmonium; his mother Agnieszka (nee Majowska 1911 – 1979) was orphaned at the age of fourteen and brought up by an uncle and aunt in Kończyce. She was later an activist in Polish patriotic organisations, the Society for Young Polish Women for example. Albert and Agnieszka married in 1935 and had one son, Alojzy. He spent his early years with numerous cousins from his father’s side of the family in the valley of the Kłodnica River, surrounded by the flora and fauna of the Pszczyna Forest. Alojzy showed an early interest in art and thanks to his cousin Marta, who bought him crayons and paints, produced his first drawings and watercolours. He also tried to learn to play the piano, but was not a disciplined student. What remained was a grasp of the guitar and harmonica and a fascination for music. After primary school, his father persuaded him to go to the Iron and Steel Technical School in Katowice (which had begun life as the Silesian Technical Research Centre and reverted to that name in 1958 ), a technical high school which provided a very high standard of education. Alojzy showed a great aptitude for mechanical subjects, a gift he never lost. However, the artistic interests awakened in childhood, led him to change schools in 1953 when he went to the Fine Arts High School in Katowice (then called Stalingród ). Unfortunately, he did not enjoy the emphasis the school put on metalwork art and after two years transferred to the Fine Arts High School in Bielsko Biała, where he was able to develop his passion for stone sculpture. He also engaged in painting. From this period in his life we can still see his oil paintings: Self Portrait, Portrait of Kasylda (his future wife) and copies of paintings: Boy Feeding Chicks by Jean Baptiste Charpentiere (1764) from the National Museum of Warsaw Art Collection ( copied after special permission was granted by the then director of the gallery) and one based on a reproduction of Ecco Homo by Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri). Of his first sculptures, all that remains is a plaster cast of his portrait of his father. Following matriculation, Alojzy passed the entrance examination to the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, where in 1958 he began his studies in the faculty of Sculpture. For two years he studied under Professor Ludwika Nitsche and then with Professor Franciszek Strynkiewicz. After obtaining an honours degree in 1964, he settled down in Falenica ( from 1951 within the administrative borders of Warsaw) with his wife Kasylda Łabus (born 3rd November in Kołchowice), a graduate of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the Warsaw University of Technology (1963), and his daughter Judyta (born 13th November 1962 in Warsaw). He had met his wife while still in high school, when they both attended a recital given by the eminent conductor and pianist Wladimir Aszkenazi at the House of Music in Katowice (she had earlier caught his eye at church in Kołchowice). They got married in the Church of St Anne in Warsaw. The music for the ceremony was chosen and the organ pieces were performed by Jerzy Maksymiuk, who later made his name as a conductor. The wedding pictures were taken by the photographer B.J. Dorys. A shared love of music played a meaningful part in this marriage. After Alojzy graduated he concentrated mainly on painting (lack of a workshop meant sculpture was not an option) and created the cycle of pictures ‘Underwater World’ which reflected his childhood fascination with nature. After building an extension to the house in Falenica he also created sculptures, working mainly in wood. Among others, the works ‘Joanna’, a nude ‘Asia’ and the first sculpture in the cycle of the four seasons ‘Winter’, date from this period. A little later he also executed the figure of ‘Autumn’ in marble. In the late seventies of the twentieth century he went on a scholarship to the Dante Centre in Ravenna in Italy. The end result was a series of medals portraying figures that had always held a fascination for him and fed his interest in people; they undoubtedly influenced his choices as an artist. These were portraits of Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Rafael, Ludwig van Beethoven and two medals connected with Dante. At a later period, apart from a portrait of John Paul II, he made several medals for, among others ,the Wigry National Park and the Museum of Archeology in Warsaw.
In his first one man show in 1974 in the Ter Muelen Gallery in Arnhem in the east of Holland, he exhibited as a painter with paintings from the ‘Underwater World’ cycle. These pictures, together with canvases painted in 1980 and 1981, among them ‘Solidarity’, ‘Heart of Gold’ were shown in 1981 in the renowned Gallery of Modern Art PP DESA ‘Zapiecek’ in Warsaw. The eighties of the twentieth century were a period of powerful personal experiences and reflections, which were expressed in, for instance , the painting ‘Christ Crucified’ or the piece of sculpture ‘Requiem’. This last work , along with ‘Autumn’ was shown in joint exhibitions organised by ZPAP, while ‘Autumn’ and the sculpture he presented for his diploma ‘Venus de Milo’, both executed in marble were shown at a further exhibition in the Ter Meulen Gallery in Holland. In 1990, at the Europio Gallery in Milan alongside his paintings he exhibited the carvings ‘Joanna’ and ‘Asia’. In the years 1994-1995 he participated in the annual open air workshops of sculpting in marble Integrart , which were held from 1990 in Bolesławowo near Stronie Śląskie They were organised by the Warsaw branch of the Union of Polish Artists together with the Ministry of Art and Culture, local authorities and institutions (one of the commissioners was Elżbieta Pietras).
The sculptures were carved in the beautiful Polish marble ‘White Marianne’, which is found at the foot of Snieżnik. They were shown at annual exhibitions. at the Kłodzko Centre of Culture, in Warsaw at the DAP Gallery and the Museum of the Earth PAN and in 1994 in Kassel (Freie Akademie Kassel was a partner in this edition of the open air workshop), at the Polish Institute in Prague and the Kulturhuset Valfisken in Simrishamn in Sweden. Alojzy exhibited the sculpted portraits of Herbert von Karajan (marble), Joanna (wood), Judyta (marble) and in Kassel (9-22 IX) the paintings from the Underwater World cycle. In 1995 Alojzy Nawrat settled in the Suwałki region in the village of Buda Ruska on the Czarna Hańcza River. He had first become acquainted with this area in the north east of the country in1958, when he spent the summer months by the lakes and rivers of the Augustow-Suwałki region. ’We were simply enchanted, my then girlfriend, now my wife, and I – the artist recalled many years later –‘ so from then on we spent all our holidays in the Suwałki region.’ When he settled here, he fulfilled his dream of ‘the simple life, in which stacking firewood or working with the horses brings joy’. In his rustic workshop he created the figures of ‘Spring ‘ and ‘Summer’ in marble. Later he sculpted mainly busts, painted still lifes and landscapes in pastels and oils, listened to music.
After he came to live in the Suwałki region he became involved in the organisation of the Integrart open air workshops, continuing in this way the gatherings of sculptors started in Lower Silesia. He persuaded the sculptress Eżzbieta Pietras of the value of this initiative, and she also came to live on the Czarna Hańcza along with the many – faceted artist Andrzej Strumiłło. who from the eighties of the twentieth century had strong ties with the Suwałki region. Working together they were successful in their task and the gatherings of sculptors were revived under the patronage of the Ministry of Art and Culture in the International Polish-Lithuanian Sculpture in Granite Symposium INTEGRART. The first workshop was held in Maćkowa Ruda in the grounds of the property belonging to Andrzej Strumiłło, who was designated artistic curator. In the years that followed these gatherings were renamed the International Open Air Workshop of Sculpture in Granite INTEGRART.
Artists not only from Poland and Lithuania, but also, sporadically, from Belarus, France, Nepal and Germany took part. These open air workshops, of which he was joint commissioner with Elżbieta Pietras, saw the creation of the sculptures ‘Sunset over the Czarna Hańcza’ (1997); Strumiłło (head) (1998); Untitled (1999). They were shown in exhibitions in Wilno (Galerija Lietuvos Aido), Warsaw (The Museum of the Earth PAN and the DAP Gallery), Suwałki (the Gallery ‘Chłodna 20’ of the Regional Centre of Art and Culture and the Regional Museum). Later workshops in the years 2000 – 2005 gave rise to the works : Ludwig van Beethoven (granite) 2001; The Beginning of the End (granite ,bronze) 2002 and Self-portrait (granite) 2003.On his property, he built, according to his own design, a wooden pavilion called ‘Nasza Buda (Our Hut) to serve as an art gallery. This opened in August 2005. ‘Welcome to the Louvre in Buda Ruska’ was how he and his wife greeted their guests at the art shows and concerts they organised there. This place – at the ends of the earth – attracted visitors, as did the host. A host who was far more than the owner of the land. He also worked the land and lived by the rhythms of the earth as well as by the world of artistic values. ‘The spirit feels good where it feels the will’ – he used to repeat this motto from the Latin. Apart from the permanent exhibition made up of the artist’s sculptures and paintings, classical music concerts were held there, with performances by renowned artists and the alumni of the 1st and 2nd Level State Music School in Suwałki (which at that time had no concert hall). Alojzy loved music. He collected records and unusual instruments. He owned an antique piano and two grand pianos from Chopin’s time; a copy of a Stradivarius violin, a lute, a bandoneon (decorated with mother of pearl).Alojzy took part in the Suwałki Salon of Fine Arts organised by the Regional Centre of Art and Culture (now the Centre of Culture) in 2001. In 2004 (June/ July) he participated in the first Suwałki Fine Arts Triennale . In July and August 2015, at the II Suwałki Salon of Fine Arts, his bust in bronze of Paderewski was exhibited in the Gallery ‘Chłodna 20’ in Suwałki. He made portraits of people close to him – his daughter, friends, an admired actress and musicians and painters: Herbert von Karajan, Ignacy Paderewski, Jan Olejniczak,Marek Moś, Grzegorz Moryciński. These works were executed in marble, Suwałki granite, wood or cast in bronze. He made the bronze cast of the head of Alfred Wierut-Kowalski, which together with the stone base on which it is set – the body (the work of Elżbieta Pietras) make up the bust of the artist which for many years has welcomed visitors to the room of Polish 19th century painting in the Regional Museum in Suwałki.
Alojzy left many drawings, although he did not practise drawing as an art form in itself, either as sketches for his sculpture portraits or as an artistic impression of his existential thinking. His was the copy of the statue of Gabriel Narutowicz, which stands in the square in Warsaw that bears the name of the first president of the Republic of Poland. He also created the monument unveiled on 29th June 1997 in Studzieniczna near Augustow, commemorating the tragic fate of many of the foresters of the Augustów Forest and particularly dedicated to those who died in the fight for independence. Together with Elżbieta Pietras he reconstructed the obelisk in Olecko commemorating the inhabitants of Olecko who died in the French campaign of the war of 1870.They are both the authors of the monument in the Plac Wolności (Freedom Square) in that town, dedicated to those who had served the town well since its foundation. Several projects for pedestals commissioned by the mayor of Olecko, including one for a statue of John Paul II, remained unrealised. Alojzy Nawrat died after a serious illness on 9th November 2016 in the hospital in Sejny. The funeral mass was held in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Wigry on 12th November and he was buried in the family plot in the cemetery in Kołchowice. He felt equally at home in Buda Ruska and in the town on the Czarna Hańcza. A Silesian by birth and in his character – something he always remembered and never failed to point out. He himself, his art work and initiatives enriched the ‘stony’ Suwałki region. Above all he enriched Polish art through his work. The sculptures he created were beautiful and timeless.
Lit.: II Suwalki Salon of Fine Arts 2015 [katalog], Suwalki 2015; The Louvre on the Hancza“Kurier Ziemski” 2005 no 42; Alojzy Nawrat: discovering the Suwalki Region, “Jacwiez” 2006 no 35; I. Poczobut, ‘Nasza Buda’ sends out a welcome and an invitation, Gazeta Wspolczesna 2005 no 175; Half in earnest, half in jest Alojzy Nawrat talks to Elzbieta Perkowska. ‘Wigry’ 2010 no 4; [A. Szyszko] (SZA), The Nawrats’ Gallery, ‘Tygodnik Suwalski’ 2005 no 34; The Suwalki Fine Arts Triennale 2004: paintings, drawings, graphics, sculpture [katalog], Suwalki 2014; Information obtained from Kasylda Nawrat (June , October 2018)
1970 – Woman (carrara marble) – Warsaw Festival of Fine Arts
1972 – Painting (landscapes and underwater world) – Arnhem, Netherlands
1973 – Requiem (wood) – Warsaw Festival of Fine Arts
1981 – Underwater world, Solidarity, Broken heart, portrait of Anouk Aimee – “Zapiecek” Gallery in Warsaw
1990 – Painting – Europio Gallery, Milan
1994 – Portrait sculptures and paintings – Frei Academie Kassel
1994-1995 – participation in exhibitions – Intergart in Lower Silesia, Museum of the Earth, Polish Academy of Sciences
1997-2002 – participation in post-outdoor exhibitions in the Suwałki Region – Maćkowa Ruda, ZPAP Gallery in Warsaw, Galeria in Vilnius
2001 – Portrait of A. Strumiłło – I Suwalski Art Salon
2004 – Sculpture “Beginning of the End” – Triennial of Art in Suwałki
2007 – Permanent exhibition of sculpture and painting – Galeria “Buda Ruska”
2008 – Exhibition of medales – Gallery “Buda Ruska”
2015 – Portrait of I. Paderewski – II Suwalski Art Salon
2017 – In Memoriam. Sculpture and painting – District Museum in Suwałki
2017 – In Memoriam. Sculptures of portraits of musicians – Suwalski Culture Center
1967 – Return of the Western and Northern Territories to the Motherland. Project for the competition in Wrocław
2003 – Monument of John Paul II. Project commissioned by the Mayor of Olecko
2005 – Relief – John Paul II. Project commissioned by the Mayor of Olecko
1997 – Foresters of the Augustów Forest, Victims of the Fight for Independence, Studzieniczna
2002 – Gabriel Narutowicz. Warsaw, Narutowicz’s Square.