The Artistry of Mr.Cybisby Hazel Herman, Special Writer
The name Cybis means unique porcelain works to art lovers -- but there is another and lesser-known phase in the career of Boleslaw Cybis, the Polish-born artist being honored by the New Jersey State Museum on the 30th anniversary of the founding of his studio in this country.
"Cybis in Retrospect," which can be seen at the Museum through January 3, is first and foremost a summing up of the career of Boleslaw Cybis, who died in 1957. And since he was a man as varied in his talents as in his background, this is obviously no ordinary collection. Rather, it is a catalog of peripatetic artistry, in paintings, ranging from the allegorical mysticism of old 15th and 16th century works, 18th century baroque, brilliant flashes of trompe d'oeil, Botticelli-like faces, figures of primitive realism and some contemporary graphics. The early Cybis porcelains are characterized by that effortless artistry of style and wit which made rococo such a delightful performance, interspersed with some surrealist fantasies pre-dating Fellini.
Son of the chief architect of the Czarina's summer palace in Moscow, Boleslaw Cybis went from this glittering milieu to the University of Fine Arts in Moscow, then roamed the museums of his native country and Europe. In Africa he sketched and painted the native peoples; in Constantinople he worked with Pavel Tchelitchew and Constantine Alajalov, did theatrical settings and several art films. The Warsaw Academy made him Professor of Fine Arts (it was there that he met his wife Marja) and he saw his paintings, sculptures and frescoes exhibited in museums and galleries across Europe. In 1938 the International Exhibition in Paris awarded him the Grand Prix.
Long before he came to the U.S., his paintings had been exhibited here: in 1933 at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Chicago Art Museum and the Dayton Institute of Art; in 1934 and again in 1937 and 1938 at the Carnegie Institute of Arts International Exhibition of Paintings in Pittsburgh; in 1941 at the Detroit institute of Art.
A commission by the Polish Government to paint the frescoes for two walls of the Polish Pavilion at the 1939 Word's Fair brought him and his wife (also an artist) to New York. Later he spent time in the Southwest sketching and painting the American Indians, and some of this work appears in the exhibit.
Word War II having cut off his European roots, he first set up a studio at Astoria, Long Island, in the old Steinway Mansion overlooking Long Island Sound.
Then, since he was now concerned with the art of porcelain, he turned to Trenton as the site of a permanent studio, meanwhile making his home in Princeton on part of what was once the old Pyne Estate. There his handiwork may still be seen Ñ in the patterned walks inset with a metal shield bearing a lion's head, the rococo walls with their jardinieres of stone flowers, a pedestalled lioness and a sculptured Diana overlooking a miniature lake.
"Cybis in Retrospect" reflects the artist's image and career, the wide range of which bears testimony to a precise and disciplined technique and virtuoso talents.
Among the most moving of his paintings (one of two on loan from the Dayton Institute of Art) Is "The Bride." It depicts a tense, immature little girl, decked out in bridal finery, surrounded by a bevy of admiring attendants, her handkerchief. She stands there, frozen, a vessel for holiday celebration, and one's heart goes out to her, even while admiring the exquisite lace of her long sleeves, so real it is almost impossible to believe that these are painted details.
Other works from the Polish State Collection of Fine Arts, the Military Institute of Warsaw, the Polonaise Club, are reproduced in black and white, along with the World's Fair frescoes and Indians hunting buffalo.
The collection of Cybis porcelains runs the gamut from early experimental pieces, spatterware, folk and surrealist sculptures, and some wonderful stained glass porcelains, to such recent limited editions as the American Indian series and Katharine Hepburn as "Eleanor of Aquitaine," a truly bravura porcelain. (The original was privately commissioned by the president of the AVCO Embassy Picture Corporation, commemorating the role of the actress.)
Since many of the sculptures are from closed editions no longer available, collectors and other lovers of fine porcelain should not miss this exhibit.
From: "The Trentonian" Dec. 20, 1970