Bronislaw M. Bak (1922 - 1981)

Potential + Search + Quality = Art

When Bronislaw M. Bak passed away a few years ago, Polonia and the American art world lost a talented and highly productive artist. His personal creative world and work ethic can be summarized with following word formula: Potential + Search + Quality = Art.

What more can be said about a man whose accomplishments cut through all forms of artistic expression be they in architecture, painting, graphics, design, film, and art education? Reflective of his Slavic soul, his life experiences, and training, Bruno Bak was one of the leading representatives of Polish aesthetic contribution to the American art scene.

Born in Leszno, Poland, where he received his early education, he was taken to Germany as a prisoner of war in 1939 and between 1943-45 was in the concentration camp, Schirmeck-Strutthoff. After the war, he studied art at Freie Akademie Mannheim where he was a master-pupil of Paul Berger Bergner.

Upon his arrival in the USA in 1952, he worked as a designer of stained glass windows in Chicago and in 1958 began teaching at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota. His academic experience included teaching at Dominican College in Racine, Wisconsin, Studio 22 in Chicago, and at Georgia Southern College in Statesboro, Georgia.

It is at Collegeville that his design for a stained glass window at St. John's Abbey was executed: one of the largest of this kind in the USA. Other designs for windows, among many, include his work at Temple Emmanuel in Chicago, and the Episcopalian Cathedral in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His woodcuts were published in book form, portfolio, and on film strips. Six film strips entitled "Old English Literature" featured work of Bruno Bak and were published by the Encyclopedia Britannica Films Inc. One film produced by Mr. Bak was "The Pardoner's Tale" featuring his woodcuts and presented on KTCA-TV in St. Paul, Minnesota.

He is represented in collections: among others, the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Gutenberg Museum, Meins, Germany; BASF Mannheim Du Culture, Grenoble; France; Carnegie Institute; Art Institute of Chicago; and many private collections in lands as far as Australia and Korea. One man and group shows include exhibits in the USA, Germany, Argentina, Poland, and Korea.

As an excellent teacher and a talented artist with a definite philosophy on art, he has inspired students to pursue their artistic expression with a greater understanding of craftsmanship and aesthetic goals. Much like the late Pablo Picasso, Bruno Bak believed that experimentation is the essence of art. He summarized this in his own words:

"It is my conviction that we cannot lead our action by intuition alone. Creativity means shaping, means molding, and it requires all the potential - intuitive and rational. Especially in times of massive misunderstandings, of enormous and contradictory information, one has to employ all the faculties.

"It is the formulation of a proper question which may lead to an answer; and aesthetics lie somewhere between the formulation and the answer. I believe that one has to engage in a constant search; for only this search will give one a chance to find quality - which is synonymous with fullness and beauty. Paintings, sculptures, graphics, all are accidental - good painting, good sculpture, and good graphic is art."

Source: Post Eagle, June 25, 1986