Jozef Korolkiewicz was born in Godziszewy near Plock. His childhood and formative years spent in the family manor were marked by an atmosphere of noble patriotic ideas and charished memories of the past. At that time Poland did not exist on the map of Europe and his grandfather had been exiled to Siberia for joining the January Uprising in 1863.
The years spent in the countryside and the close contact with nature had an impact on Korolkiewicz’s entire output. He recollected that he had always been fascinated with horses - he drew pictures of them as a child and had been a keen rider ever since.
His parents discovered the boys talent very early. At 15 Korolkiewicz, encouraged by the famous horse painter Wojciech Kossak, enrolled in the Warsaw School of Fine Arts where Kossak was a professor.
In 1920 young Jozef volunteered for the Poland’s war against the Soviet Russia. He then continued artistic studies under Ignacy Pienkowski in Krakow’s Fine Arts Academy and under Tadeusz Pruszkowski in Warsaw.
He debuted as a painter in 1927 in Warsaw’s most prestigious gallery
Between the two World Wars portraits dominated in Korolkiewicz’s work even though the artist also painted hunting and sport scenes, including scenes from horse races and hunts with horses. Unfortunately most of the artist’s works from that period were destroyed during World War II.
Jozef Korolkiewicz was a versatile man: he also was an opera singer and a sportsman; he simultanously studied painting and vocal art. Korolkiewicz has numerous radio productions to his credit, and for three years, starting in 1934, he was a soloist in the Warsaw Opera where he appeared in baritone parts. After the war, he made many recordings (mostly Polish songs by Chopin and Moniuszko), and until 1949 he continued his successful career as an opera singer.
Korolkiewicz’s short but brilliant sports career, begun in 1924, was terminated by illness during training for the Olympic Games in Amsterdam 1928. Still he managed to be a permanent member of the international athletic team (400 meter hurdles), a Polish record holder several times and a known personality in the world of sports. His physical prowess enabled him to participate in tennis tournaments practically to the end of his life.
Between the two World Wars, Jozef Korolkiewicz made numerous artistic journeys, mostly to France and Italy. The stay in Paris 1929-1930 helped him to complete his painter’s education. In the years 1936-1938 the artist lived in Rome dividing his time between painting and vocal studies with Astolfo Pescia.
Korolkiewicz returned to Poland shortly before the outbreak of World War II, he joined the army and took part in the defense of Warsaw. It was also in this city that he spent the entire Nazi occupation; he earned his living by selling water colours and by singing in cafés - like many other artists. (Productions on regular stages were viewed as collaboration with the Nazis.)
After the war, Korolkiewicz helped to revive the Warsaw Opera and the Union of Polish Artists of which he became an active member of the board. When he felt his singing days were over, in order to survive and maintain his family, he turned to commercial art (producing book illustrations, posters, postage stamps etc) at which he was highly successful. It was not until 1960 that he resumed painting: a trip to the Hungarian plains proved to be a new artistic stimulus in this case. Those wild steppes, unspoiled by civilization, and full of beautiful horses fascinated the painter and compelled him to take to the brush again. They also helped him to discover his own genre to which he dedicated himself wholly. From then on horses became the main theme in Korolkiewicz’s artistic work presented in many individual- and group exhibitions in Poland and abroad.
This particular theme, boasting long and splendid tradition in art
history (a “must” in certain type of the heroic portrait), had a special
place in the Polish art of the 19th century.
This can be seen in the works of Piotr Michalowski, Maksymilian Gierymski, Juliusz Kossak, Wojciech Kossak, Jozef Chelmonski, Jozef Brandt who are some of the greatest Polish masters of the period. Jozef Korolkiewicz drew precisely on this tradition. His own art is a blend of the romantic vision of nature with touches of Delacroix or Gericault (both had many splendid studies of horses to their credit) and the postimpressionistic palette enriched with the tone of expression.
Colour plays an all-important role in Korolkiewicz’s works although the artist is also sensitive to light and atmosphere. In his case, colour does not separate objects and forms but creates an artistic space which is autonomous from nature - a feature which distinguishes him from other Polish colourists. His forms are vivid, three dimensional, submerged in light, and the space retains its perspective. Composition, often asymmetric and capricious as in Oriental art, also plays a remarkable role.
Since 1973 Korolkiewicz was able to visit his family in Sweden. He did it frequently and many of his works were created and exhibited there.
Korolkiewicz’s work was flourishing at a time when many other artists
had already past their prime and when Korolkiewicz himself had reached
a very advanced age. The most surprising then is the joy of life and the
vitality emanating from his canvases. Korolkiewicz’s horses, usually captured
in movement, portray some kind of élan vital, as sense of
perpetual change, a magnetic flow of energy that constitutes the very essence
of the universe. The same horse can be viewed as a romantic symbol of individual
freedom, a symbol of feeling and of man’s link to Nature and Nature’s splendour.
The robust and poetic images of “romantic” horses filling the landscape
prompt the dreams of an Arcadia with its harmonious world of natural beauty
which today can only be found in art. Or to be more precise, in the art
of certain painters like Jozef Korolkiewicz.