The sculptor, Katarzyna Kobro (1898–1951), spent her early years in Riga, Latvia. Her family moved to Moscow in 1915, and from 1917 to 1920, she studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. She also was a member of the Moscow Union of Artists. In 1920 she was married to a Polish artist Władysław Strzemiński. After that, she fled to Poland in 1922 to obtain Polish citizenship.
The more you learn about Katarzyna Kobro, the more you realize how Constructivism has influenced Katarzyna Kobro art and how she, as a dedicated Constructivist, again influenced other artists and even later art movements.
In this article, we’ll look at the Constructivist movement. And also find out what Kobro’s role has been in developing the Constructivist philosophy.
At the beginning of 1913, the philosophy of Constructivism originated in Russia. In short, Constructivism was a rejection of the idea of autonomous art. Instead, the artists following this philosophy wanted to “construct” art.
The Constructivist artists favored art as a practice for social purposes. They rejected individualism, subjectivism, and expressionism and instead took absolute objectivism of form as their point of departure.
Constructivism and artists like Katarzyna Kobro had a significant effect on the art movements of the 1900s. Its influence can be detected in trends such as the later Bauhaus and De Stijl movements.
Polish artists seeking new forms and means of expression were first called Polish Expressionists and later Formists. The Formists were looking for art reform slogans in Poland.
The original name “Polish Expressionists” indicated that the artists identified a distinctiveness of Polish culture against European heritage. Instead, they wanted to relate to their Polish national traditions.
Katarzyna Kobro’s experience in the USSR was significant for developing this new Polish movement as the artists were also developing new ideas concerning the use of unusual materials. The term “Constructivists” was used more and more.
The Constructivists in Poland formed an avant-garde art group that was very active in Warsaw from 1924 to 1926. Katarzyna Kobro became one of the primary role-players in the Constructivist movement in Poland.
Her main aim was to create abstract works of Katarzyna Kobro art based on universal and objective rules that she had discovered through experimentation and analysis.
Her sculptures were meant to be without focal points but a uniform and infinite space conceptualization. She always tried to organize space not to be divided into the area enclosed within a form.
Her philosophy was that her work should coexist with space. The ideal was that space should penetrate her sculptures.
Kobro co-founded the Praesens group (1926) with several architects sharing her philosophies regarding space and form. However, she left the group in 1929 over differences regarding content.
She then founded a group with the painters Strzemiński, and Henryk Stażewski, and poets Jan Brzękowski and Julian Przyboś. They saw themselves as “revolutionary artists” and artists whose works were “real avant-garde.”
Kobro was also an important role player in establishing the Museum of Modern Art in Łódź. Together with her husband, they joined the Abstraction-Création group in 1932. In 1937 Kobro signed the 1936 Dimensionist Manifesto to show her agreement with the vision of the manifesto.
Kobro identified the aspects set out in the Dimensionist Manifesto of 1936. By signing it, she demonstrated her hope that what she believed in would also have future influence. Dimensions is a general artistic movement that has been continuously developed. Today, the essence and theory of this movement can be found in its conceptions of space-time. They are the same conceptions Kobro developed and used during the Constructivist Movement.
Contrary to the classical conception, the basic philosophy is that space and time are not separate categories. Instead, they are seen as related dimensions. Thus all the traditional limits and boundaries of the arts have disappeared.
Thus, it can be said that the Dimensionist tendency has developed the idea found in Katarzyna Kobro’s art. Constructivism has encouraged artists to change the conventions of their disciplines. For example, literary works are written on the page rather than stanzas; paintings are created on canvases rather than pieces of paper; sculptures often exist in a three-dimensional space.
Spatial Composition – Katarzyna Kobro
Unfortunately, most of Kobro’s artworks were destroyed by the Nazis, but she still left a mark on the future of abstract sculpture. Fortunately, there are photos of most of the ruined works.
Kobro made her first sculpture, “Tos 75 – Struktura” (“Tos 75 – Structure”), in 1920; it is an abstract geometric form made from a combination of wood, metal, cork, and glass. Kobro broke away from artistic traditions where a sculpture was considered a discrete object.
Kobro created works that coexisted within the surrounding space, allowing the area to penetrate her forms. At one stage, she wrote that “the relationship between the space contained within the sculpture and the space situated outside the sculpture” is most important in a sculpture.
One excellent example of her sculptures is her “Spatial Composition 1” of 1925. It is one of eight Spatial Compositions and is made of painted steel. This artwork demonstrates her belief that sculpture is only a tool for “the shaping of space.” The sculpture is almost an architectural work. It indicates her desire to bring sculpture in harmony with urban space and experience.
Katarzyna Kobro, Polish sculptor was one of the leaders of the Constructivist movement in the early 1900s. She influenced many artists and more modern art movements and will always be remembered as a sculptor who had the vision and the drive to break away from classical views regarding sculptures.