Friday, November 1, 2002 - Friday, May 3, 2002
Slawinski was thoroughly trained in Poland and Italy before the war in historic preservation and in all techniques of wall painting.
As a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw he also completed some 150 restorations of war-damaged paintings and murals.
Though examples of Slawinski's craftsmanship and art can be found throughout Poland and even the United States, the richest concentration of his work is in the Buffalo/Niagara region, where he settled for the rest of his life following a visit in 1961.
Though Slawinski worked in many media, his favorite was sgraffito, an ancient and painstaking subtractive technique for revealing shape and color through selective removal from layers of separately pigmented cement while the cement is still wet - a technique which Slawinski expanded from the traditional two layers to four, and which, after long and careful preparation, entailed in its final phase up to 48 hours of virtually non-stop work (which Slawinski usually did on his own) before the cement dried.
One of the most magnificent of Slawinski's sgraffito frescoes, the St. Calasanctius mural just outside of Buffalo, may be on view for the last time this summer, as it must be removed and - with luck - restored elsewhere in order to make room for another important heritage preservation project, the restoration of a summer house built in 1927 for a local industrialist by Frank Lloyd Wright.
The Wright building and its property, known as the Graycliff Estate, were bought in 1951 by the Piarist Order, founded in 1617 by Saint Joseph Calasanctius, who in 1597 had opened Europe's first school for poor children. The Piarist Fathers, well known in Poland and Hungary for their excellent schools, built next to the summer house a dormitory for Hungarian refugee children following the 1956 uprising.
To mark the 350th anniversary of the founding of their order, the Fathers commissioned Jozef Slawinski in 1967 to create the St.Calasanctius mural on the upper facade of the dormitory. This magnificent 12-by-18-foot sgraffito depicts the saint standing before a panorama of Rome and surrounded by his schoolchildren. In 1998 the Graycliff Estate was bought by the Graycliff Conservancy for the worthy purpose of restoring the Frank Lloyd Wright house and grounds to their original design. This will require demolition of the former dormitory.
The Polish Arts Club of Buffalo is currently spearheading an effort to save the Slawinski mural itself. For more information on the remarkable life and art of this Polish muralist, and on sites where his other many works in the region can be seen, visit http://bfn.org/~pacb/s.
For further information, including schedules of bus tours to the Slawinski frescoes in the area, contact the Polish Arts Club of Buffalo at (716) 837-8879 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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