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Will the Real Eugene Dyczkowski Please Stand Up?

Signed "Noga Malowane," painting by Eugene Dyczkowski. Courtesy of David F. Martin, Martin-Zambito Fine Art, Seattle. Courtesy of David F. Martin, Martin-Zambito Fine Art, Seattle.

By the end of the 1930s, Niagara Falls-based painter Eugene Dyczkowski (1899-1987) joined a long list of area artists vehemently opposed to modernist art. He was also bothered by the attention that this art was receiving from the then-named Albright Art Gallery in the museum’s annual Western New York Exhibition.

In the previous decades, the prevailing style of American art had been representational—depicting something that is easily recognized. The modernist art of the era was a shocking and radical departure, and one that many artists were reluctant to embrace.

During that period, Dyczkowski was assistant educational director at the Albright. He exhibited with the Buffalo Society of Artists. His paintings were also included in the 1929 General National Exhibition in Poland—an event visited by four and a half million people.

The Western New York Exhibition, held at the Albright, was an anticipated showcase for local artists. Each year a selection committee chose what it believed to be the best artworks from those area artists who submitted work for inclusion. It was one of the few opportunities for many of these artists to have their work shown in the venerable institution.

Dyczkowski felt that the committee continually favored those artists aping prevailing art-world trends, while casting a jaundiced eye on more traditional artists.

For the 1940 exhibition, Dyczkowski chose to explicate his belief with a pointed scheme: For his submission that year, he created a purposely crude painting and submitted it to the committee under the pseudonym Noga Malowane. At the same time he presented work under his own name, in the accomplished representational style for which he was recognized.

The committee rejected Dyczkowski’s established artwork; the Malowane painting was accepted, and exhibited at the Albright. Noga Malowane is Polish for “foot painted.” Dyczkowski reveled in his deception. He boasted about his victory in a published letter to the Buffalo Evening News.

Ironically, Dyczkowski was not immune to changes taking place in art after World War Two.

By the end of the 1950s, Dyczkowski renounced his earlier work, and became a disciple of abstract art. Rejecting “the need for a painting to look like a photograph” he said, “esthetic expression transcends the mere representation of objects.” He concentrated on “unlearning some of the trite tendencies he acquired in his academic training” and declared, that with abstractionism, he had found “complete freedom of expression.”

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