The biography of Boleslaw Cybis is mysterious and little known. The famous painter was born on the 6th of June 1895 in Massandra (Crimea) in the family of Franz Cybis who was the Roman Catholic. In the documents of the non-classical secondary school in Saint-Petersburg, where Boleslaw studied later, there is a record of the fact that his father was a merchant. However, the English sources (“Poles in America by Edward Pinkowski”) affirm that the boy was the son of the architect and engineer, who participated in decorating Peterhof in the environs of Saint-Petersburg. Besides, these sources give another place of birth of the future painter – Vilnius.
In any case Boleslaw’s childhood passed exactly in this city. He was doing gymnastics and won a lot of prizes in sports.
In the non-classical secondary school of Saint-Petersburg Boleslaw was studying only one year – 1911/1912. In general, the boy received satisfactory marks, but only in painting he had a high mark. However, teachers were complaining about his behavior. Among the records in the discipline journal we can find that Boleslaw was absent during Easter vacations without the director’s knowledge and without an authorization of leave.
Along with all this, there are some recordings about his smoking in the street and false evidence about the permission for students to smoke tobacco.
The Kharkiv period of Boleslaw Cybis’ life was connected with the group of the local cubo-futurists “The Unity of seven”, which included Volodimir Bobrytskiy, Volodimir Diakov, Mikola Kalmykov, Boris Kosarev, Mykola Mishchenko and Georgii Tsapok.
On the 7th of May 1918 Cybis together with V. Bobrytskiy, G. Tsapok and others took part in the opening of the exhibition “Art union” in the building of Kharkov Art college (the present address is Nizhinsky Provulok 1, N. 50.007920, E. 36.202038).
The same year “The Unity of seven” created their own studio in the building of Boleslaw Cybis’ parents on Chernyshevska Street 39 (numbering of those times), and released an album with collection of their own works “Seven plus three”.
It included the reproductions of paintings, created by different painters in 1916-1918 years: V. Bobrytskiy (4 works), B.Kosarev (5 works), V. Diakov (2 works), M. Kalmykov (1 work), M. Mishchenko (1 work), G. Tsapok (2 works), B. Cybis (4 works), O. Gladkov (1 work), M. Manet-Kats (1 work), V. Yermylov (2 works).
In July 1918 there was a publication in “Kolos” journal (№ 11, page 15): “The collection of young painters – Bobrytskiy, Diakov, Kalmykov, Kosarev, Mishchenko, Tsapok, Cybis, who were working together for 4 years, has been released. Three more painters – Oleksandr Gladkov, Manet-Kats and Vasyl Yermylov” joined them recently.”
Among the reproductions in the album there were some distinguished works such as the primitives of Cybis (woodcarving ), the primitives of Tsapok – “Violinist” and “Café Rouge”, the portraits of Yevreyinov and Kosarev’s “Ladies in yellow”(cubism) and also the Mishchenko’s “Musical shop window” (futurism).
Until 1918 the members of “Seven plus three”, despite their young age, enjoyed authority in Kharkiv art community. Together with the other member of “Seven” – M. Kalmykov, Boleslaw Cybis illustrated the book of A.K. Gastev “The poetry of the working hit”.
Further in the life of the painter a new stage began. In 1920 three members of “Seven” – Bobrytskiy, Kalmykov and Cybis emigrated.
For the Ukrainian avant-garde this period was very tragical. Some of the painters were executed by shooting, some went abroad, and the rest were living under the threat of shooting down and persecutions. Most of the paintings were either destroyed or sold abroad.
Boleslaw Cybis goes to Turkey (as well as Mykola Kalmykov,who spent the rest of his life in this country). So B. Cybis lived for the next two years in Istanbul, where he entered the membership of the Russian painters (together with Kostiantyn Aladzhalov and Pavel Chelishchev). The Russians consider the letter one the founders of mystical surrealism, who had created this style 9 years earlier than it appeared in Salvador Dali’s works.
In Istanbul Boleslaw was painting portraits, doing theatre decorations and advertising (in particular the huge advertising screen devoted to Nestle chocolate), painting the walls in night clubs and cafes, making ornamental clay tubes.
In 1923 the painter moved to Poland, where he continued to study in Warsaw college of fine arts (1923-1926) and later in the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, where his teachers were Tadeush Prushkovskiy and Viacheslav Skochilias. In addition, Cybis worked in the plant of ceramics of Andgey Vainatskyi and Kazimir Chechovskiy.
The painter continues to participate in the activity of the creative organizations. He joined the group of painters “Brotherhood of Saint Luke”, created by the students of T. Prushkovskiy. In his spare time Boleslaw was occupied with painting, graphics and sculptures, created symbolic-surreal images, combining the figurative thinking with the ideas of avant-garde. In that period of time, his private life changed – in 1926 he married a student, a talented painter Marja Tym.
At the beginning of 30th Boleslaw went for trips along Italy and North Africa. Impressions which he received at that period found some reflection in motives and style of his work in 30th. In 1934-1937 together with Jan Zamoyskii he worked on a fresco “Boleslaw the Brave who establishes the border of Poland on Oder” in the hall of Military Geographical Institute in Warsaw. In 1936 Cybis participated in decorating the interiors of transatlantic liner “Batory”.
In 1939, Boleslaw and his wife went to New York in order to prepare a Poland pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. The beginning of the Second World War made his family remain in the USA. In New York they represented two frescoes: “Poles who were fighting for independence of America” and “Central industrial region and Gdynia”. Furthermore, Boleslaw also became the co-author of seven pictures, painted by the members of “Brotherhood of Saint Luke” on the occasion of the World’s Fair.
In 1943 the painter together with his family settled in Trenton, the state of New Jersey. This period in USA Boleslaw devoted to his work with ceramics. He founded his own factory “Cordey China Inc.” and the studio “Cybis Porcelain Art”. It became very famous as the oldest porcelain studio of America. These projects exist nowadays and become even more popular after their creator has passed away.
The life of Boleslaw Cybis was full of journeys, different acquaintances and projects. Without losing his thirst for arts, striving to discover, to create and to leave an imprint about him in the world art history, the painter was walking through the life openly and easily, overcoming all obstacles and keeping the memory of his homeland in the heart.
Sources of information:
1.[Електронний ресурс]. – Режим доступу: https://svitua.org/moda/item/4147-boleslav-yaroslav-tsybys
2. [Електронний ресурс]. – Режим доступу: http://www.artrz.ru/menu/1804681482/1805146386.html
3. [Електронний ресурс]. – Режим доступу: https://artchive.ru/artists/32107~Boleslav_Tsibis
4. [Електронний ресурс]. – Режим доступу: http://www.poles.org/db/C_names/Cybis_B/Cybis_B.html
5. [Електронний ресурс]. – Режим доступу: http://antiqueshoppefl.com/articles/july04/cordey.html
6. [Електронний ресурс]. – Режим доступу: https://cybisarchive.com/2017/06/21/boleslaw-cybis-paintings/
7. [Електронний ресурс]. – Режим доступу: http://muzhp.pl/pl/e/1430/zmarl-boleslaw-cybis
Prepared by Kateryna Kolisnyk.