Katarzyna Kobro

26.01.1898 – 26.02.1951

A sculptor and art theoretician, Katarzyna Kobro was one of the most outstanding artists associated with the interwar Avant-garde in Poland. She was born in Moscow to a family of German descent. In 1917, she enrolled at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (later known as The Second State Free Art Studio) and quickly became involved with the Constructivist left-wing milieu. It was then that she also met her future husband, Władysław Strzemiński. In 1920, the artist moved to Smolensk, where she collaborated with Strzemiński, designing posters for ROSTA, the Russian Telegraph Agency, and participating in the sessions of UNOVIS, the Champions of New Art. At that time she created sculptures akin to the works of Tatlin and Malevich, the latter referred to as a Suprematist. At the turn of 1921/1922, newly married, she and her husband Władysław Strzemiński made their way to Poland. Her works were presented there for the first time at the New Art Exhibition, organized in 1923 in Vilnius. She was a member of the leading avant-garde groups in Poland at that time, such as Blok, Praesens, and „a.r.”. As part of the latter, she worked with her husband to assemble the International Collection of Modern Art, which was donated to the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź. Kobro’s works were shown at the International Theatre Exposition (1926), the Modernist Salon in Warsaw (1928), the Autumn Salon in Paris (1928), as well as at the exhibition of Polish Art in Brussels (1928, and later in The Hague and Amsterdam, 1929). In 1929, as a member of the Praesens group, she participated in designing the interior of pavilions at the Polish National Exhibition in Poznań. She was associated with an international group of abstract artists called Abstraction-Création, and in 1936, she signed Charles Sirato’s Manifeste Dimensioniste, a Parisian manifesto of new art, the only Polish artist to do so. Together with her husband, she lived in a number of small cities in Poland: Szczekociny, Brzeziny, Koluszki, and Żakowice. In 1931, they settled in Łódź. She earned her living mainly from teaching in secondary and vocational schools, where she worked until almost the end of the 1930s. Then, after giving birth to her daughter Nika, she focused on raising her child. During the Second World War, she and her family stayed in Wilejka and Łódź. At that time she signed the so-called “Russian list,” which instigated a conflict with her husband that would eventually lead to their divorce in 1947. The 1940s were a difficult time for the artist; left with almost no means of livelihood, she had to fight for the custody of her child and face the repercussions of her decision to renounce Polish nationality during the war. She died in a hospice in 1951. What little survived of her oeuvre is housed mostly in the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź. The most important works of the artist include a series of sculptures entitled Spatial Compositions and the book Composition of Space: Calculations of Space-Time Rhythm (1931), co-written with her husband. Her sculptural output is considered one of the most important achievements of avant-garde visual arts. On a par with the work of Kazimir Malevich or Georges Vantongerloo, Kobro’s sculpture demonstrates an original reflection on the logic of composing space, which could also be mirrored in architecture.

Katarzyna Kobro, Design of functional kindergarten – a mockup, 1936 (pierwowzór), Katarzyna Przezwańska, Tomasz Czuban  2017 (rekonstrukcja)