For many years, visitors to the spa town of Krynica could encounter a small, bent man painting on cardboard and in torn notebooks on the resort’s main promenade.
Considered mentally handicapped, he called himself Nikifor, though his real name was different. By the end of his life, his works had conquered art galleries in Europe, and the underrated painter was considered a leading representative of primitivism. When visiting Krynica on the way to the ski slopes, it is worth stopping by the modest museum dedicated to this remarkable man.
His official name was Epifaniusz Drowniak, and he came from a family of Lemkos – Greek Catholic or Orthodox inhabitants of the Beskids. Quiet, undersized and stuttering, he lived alone and in poverty, obsessively painting views of Krynica, spa villas, the region’s wooden Orthodox churches and mountain landscapes throughout his life. He had an incredible sense of color, which was first recognized by Kapist painters in the 1930s. After World War II, he was displaced with the entire Lemko community to the other end of the country, returning to Krynica on foot three times, twice being turned back on the road.
Nikifor created nearly 40,000 works during his life, most of which are kept by the District Museum in the town of Nowy Sącz. Toward the end of his life, thanks to the efforts of his friends from Kraków, he was recognized around the world – exhibitions of his works took place in Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, Hannover, Frankfurt am Main and Baden Baden. One of his works shows… a railroad station in Vienna.
The life of the painter is captured in the movie “My Nikifor” from 2004, in which the role of the artist was played in a phenomenal way by a woman – actress Krystyna Feldman.
Foto: Muzeum Okręgowe w Nowym Sączu