Mieczyslaw Koscielniak was an outstanding Polish painter, a graphic artist and a draughtsman. He is well-known to the connoisseurs of art. For those who are less acquainted with fine arts, itłs advisable to read his biography note.
Life of Mieczyslaw Koscielniak could have been shared among several people. His rich and varied creative activity has been fascinating not only for historians of art, artists, intellectuals, but also for priests, politicians and generals. He shared his lot with Saint Maksymilian Kolbe, the pope Jan Pawel II, General Eisenhower, writer Michal Rusinek, count Mycielski, Hollywood stars and humiliated prisoners of three concentration camps. Artistic biography of the man, who was looking for the truth about human existence, was created by thousands of meetings with people who presented their own outlooks. His artistic travel started in Kalisz, in a city which granted him a title of the honorary citizen. Mieczyslaw Koscielniak was born on 29th of January 1912 in a family of a railway man.
Incredible talent of Mieczyslaw Koscielniak was discovered as early as he was in the secondary school, his works were often exhibited. He made illustrations for works of great classical writers, he painted landowners. He was studying at Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow under direction of Jan Matejkołs disciple - professor Jozef Mehoffer. When it seemed that he was going along the path of artistic development, all his plans were ruined by the outbreak of the Second World War.
He was arrested in February 1941 and sent to the concentration camp in Oswiecim. In Oswiecim he was given a camp number 15261. He was encouraged to join an underground organization. He worked in various „headquarters”. He was saved twice from death by his friends, doctors who had hired him as an orderly. He was also saved by his talent appreciated by the Germans.
Having seen human suffering everyday, he decided to portrait that terrifying reality, even at the cost of endangering his own life. Having been conscious of the danger, he decided to smuggle his works away from concentration camp with help of his friends from the underground organisation in a load of dirty linen. In that time about 300 of shocking drawings were created (now they are exhibited in the Museum in Oswiecim). In the concentration camp, Koscielniak met Maksymilian Kolbe, their friendship was short but very sincere.
In 1971, on occasion of finishing Kolbełs beatification process, to which he was one of two witnesses, he gave a portfolio containing his work to the pope Pawel IV.
Liberation came on 6th of May 1945. The emaciated prisoner joined the army of General Patton. After end of war he was fighting with SS troops hidden in the Alps. When he was wounded and taken to a camp hospital, as a reconvalescent he was portraying General Patton and American officers (now those works can be seen in Fort Knox). General Patton proposed to Koscielniak to accept American citizenship, assuring wealth. But the artist returned to Poland which had been ruined and tormented by the war. He settled down in Warsaw where he initially worked as an expert of the Commission to Investigate Hitlerite Crimes. He was among the main founders of the Museum in Oswiecim. Until today, collection of 500 drawings made by Koscielniak, while he was the prisoner, are one of the most shocking evidence of Hitlerite crime. They are also one of most frequently exhibited works in the world.
He returned to his creative work and scientific interests, philosophy and Egyptology studies, got to know cuneiform and Hebrew writings; he was continually interested in history of religion. Apart from painting, travelling to Egypt and other regions of world was his lifetime passion. He travelled most often round basin of the Mediterranean Sea. He started co-operation with various publishing houses and periodicals. He worked as an illustrator, a draughtsman and a journalist in „swiat Mlodych” and „Kalejdoskop Techniki” until the end of his life. He also illustrated about 150 of works of the classical writers, the Holly Bible for children, historic works and course books in history. He created the illustrations for such masterpieces as „Iliad”, „Odyssey” ,„Greek Myths”, „Faustus”, „Konrad Wallenrod” and and „Pharaoh” for which he was given THE MEDAL OF MINISTRY OF EDUCATION, THE GOLDEN CROSS OF MERIT for his creative activity, THE MEDAL OF MERIT FOR POLISH EDUCATION and THE GOLDEN PLATE for recording his recollection of Maksymilian Kolbełs martyrdom.
In 1979 he moved to Ustka, then to Slupsk. Many marvellous works of art were being created in that time. Koscielniak had many individual exhibitions organised, for example a building of the United Nations in New York, Tokyo, Frankfurt (under the title „Witkacy i Koscielniak”). Many organisations from West Germany such as „The Sign of Hope” or „Maximilian Kolbe Werke” aiming at reconciliation were vividly interested in the artist. Mieczyslaw Koscielniak became the honorary member of THE PEN CLUB. In 1980 he was invited to join Association of European Culture which has been an association of intellectualsł elite. In letter to his sister Jolanta - he summed up his membership in there:
„I could not have ever believed that I would form an association with the queen of Belgium, the presidents of Italy or Czechoslovakia... Vittorio de Sica or Picassoàor Polewoj. Altogether there are only 1300 of us in the whole worldà...”.
Koscielniak never forgot about Ustka or Slupsk where he presented his works. He had 11 exhibitions presented in Slupsk, and 3 in Ustka. He was given THE REWARD OF THE GOVERNOR OF SlUPSK PROVINCE twice for his creative activity and particular achievements for development and promotion of culture in voivodship.
In 1989 he moved to Slupsk with his family where, despite of serious illness, he kept on working. He also kept on staying in touch with the young generation of artists; he became a mentor in their looking for the answer to the question „Who are we and what is the sense of our life?”
Koscielniak died on 5th of March 1993 and according to his will, he was buried in a graveyard in Ustka. People of Ustka named one of the streets after him.
Mieczyslaw Koscielniak was a citizen of the world. His works can be found in various regions, in Warsaw, in London in the Royal Museum of War, in the building of the United Nations in New York, in the museums of Jerusalem, Vatican, Tokyo, Montreal and Berlin. His creative activity was highly appreciated by Japanese who printed the most beautiful albums presenting his works, screened his biography and introduced him to history course books.