The life and work of Igor Mitoraj is a story that is a ready-made film script. If such a film were made, it would probably, apart from its charismatic main character and an original story full of groundbreaking events of the second half of the 20th century, captivate us with the beauty of the locations depicted in it. It is impossible to tell the story of the life of this outstanding sculptor without peering into his Parisian ateliers, strolling through the Kraków market square or basking in the sun in the Italian town of Pietrasanta.
“My Place on Earth”
Igor Mitoraj was a renowned Polish sculptor. His work was inspired by ancient art and mythology, particularly that of Greece and Rome. His sculptures feature in collections in Paris, Rome, Milan, Lausanne, London, Krakow and Warsaw.
He was born on 26 March 1944 in the German town of Oederan. The sculptor's mother was there as a forced labourer. There was an international prisoner of war camp nearby, where she met a French legionnaire named Georges, the artist's father. After the war, mother and son returned to Poland. They settled in the village of Grojec.
After graduating from the Secondary Art School in Bielsko-Biała, in 1963, he entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, where he studied painting under Tadeusz Kantor. Mitoraj initially found himself more in painting. He was fascinated by the work of the French artist Yves Klein, and even repeated his experiment in the studio with reflecting bodies, previously soaked in blue paint, directly onto the canvas. In 1968, after graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, he went to Paris to study at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts.
Agnieszka Stabro, author of the biography of the artist 'Igor Mitoraj. A Pole with an Italian Heart', wrote about the artist's Parisian life in this way: “Several reasons can be mentioned for the decision to leave the country. It has been said a lot that it was Kantor – who could already see that Mitoraj was an artist of great stature – who suggested that he leave, explaining that Poland had little to offer the young artist. Certainly, it was also significant that Mitoraj's father lived in France, so the need to get to know his biological parent may have awakened in Igor. Nor can we fail to remember the political situation at the time. It was 1968, so the political realities and everything that was happening in Poland were not without influence on Igor's decision to leave his homeland.”
Mitoraj began his career as a painter and printmaker, exhibiting his work in 1976 during his first solo show at la Hune gallery in Paris. It was there that the artist's worldwide career began.
Paris was also the place where sculpture began to enter more and more strongly into Mitoraj's consciousness and thus practice. When he was offered the opportunity to prepare an exhibition for the ArtCurial gallery, he left for a year to work in Pietrasanta, Italy – a European centre for artistic bronze foundries and stonemasons working in marble. It was there that the artist's first bronzes were created, as well as his first monumental sculptures in white marble from a nearby quarry in Carrara.
This phase of the artist's life can be summed up as a perfect compositional buckle. Igor Mitoraj initially travelled to Pietrasanta regularly in connection with his artistic work. Situated in the foothills of the Apuan Alps, the village was a legendary place where Michelangelo himself stayed and sculpted with local marble from nearby Carrara. In 1985, Mitoraj made the decision to settle permanently in Italy. He meticulously renovated his studio, which in time became his true home, which he had sought for so long.
“However, of all the cities, I feel best in Pietrasanta. And I really feel at home here, in my studio.” — said the artist in interviews.
Igor Mitoraj's sculptures and drawings have been exhibited in 120 solo exhibitions around the world, including Paris, Rome, Milan, Lausanne, London, Kraków, the USA, and Japan.
He died in Cornillon-Confoux in French Provence, at the Château de Confoux castle estate. He was buried in his beloved Pietrasanta.