Thursday, 11 October 2012

Witold Kay Korzeniewicz and Grosvenor School of Art

Witold Kay-Korzeniewicz
(1914 Poland – 1990 Betws y coed
British-Polish architect and London city planner
and talented amateur painter. 

(This posting has been updated 26 oktober ! )

This small painting I stumbled upon in an Internet forum (here*) has only two shortcomings: 1) it isn’t a linocut print and  2) it isn’t mine......... (see also the first comment below) 

It has written Grosvenor School of Art  all over it. Had it been created by pioneer Claude Flight (1881-1955) himself it would be in a museum. The School, not a subject of this posting, started and led by Flight in 1925 existed until 1939. 
Sea Rescue Launch, painting by Sybil Andrews (1943)

It saw some great artists: Sybil Andrews (Can.), Cyril Powers, Lill Tschudi (Swiss), and three Australian ladies, Dorrit Black, Ethel Spowers and Eveline Syme among the most famous. All inspired by dynamics and speed but most of all movement.
Speed, by Claude Flight,

According to the owner of the painting (there was no mentioning how it came into his possesion) it was labeled by the maker: "Witti Kovzeniewicz" corrected by faithful blog reader Archimandrill into Witold Kay-Korzeniewicz. All this some two to three years ago. And that was about it. Along my recent quest I learned about the history and preservation of British steam tugs and the heroes of Polish RAF fighter and bomber squadrons. And as always I was to meet some known and unknown artists along the way.
and Cyril Powers 
(am I alone in detecting modern Renault design here ?) 

I found Witold aged 28 (as a student probably) in Liverpool University Polish School of Architecture established in 1942-1945 (probably on Mossley road on the edge of Sefton Park) to train Polish students reconstructing Poland after the War.
Tug by contemporary artist British Christopher Brown (b.1953) 

and German (Hamburg) Alwin Cartstens (1906-1982)

Poland was overrun in 1939 but history took quite a different turn when the communists weren’t to leave in 1945. Witold stayed in England, he is listed from 1949 untill his retirement 1979 as an architect and city planner in London. His  grave is in Welsh Betws y Coed.

But what about the painting itself ? I had hopes the little steam tugboat could help in identifying. Googling pictures, at first I was convinced it had all characteristics of a typical British design (above) probably a so called TID Tug. A series of prefab most but not all of them steam powered tugboats build 1942-1945 to replace the severe wartime losses. 175 were build in all, and  probably based on a previous design. One every week. Most of them after the war was over were sold all over the world. Just a few, restored now, survive to this day. So reading I learned a lot. I saw a great many steam tugs in paintings (below Maurice de Vlaminck) drawings and photographs.

Could Witold have been a polish RAF man ? The RAF counted almost  20.000(!) Polish men (and women !), many of them veterans of the 1939 events. Surviving his tour of duty (many did not) he could have entered the Architecture School class as I found some ex-RAF men that have. But I failed finding Witold (quickly) in the RAF files. There are limits even to my searching abilities and powers. 
This example by Ann Hutchins (b.1943), SS Plato, 
a tug with some similarities, but for the bow, in design.
and closely resembles a 1954 build river Mersey steam tug.

Struggling on and having again a closer look at the painting I had to admit to myself the TID type tug design did not fit exactly the painting. What are architects known for besides creativity ?  Right: accuracy. Besides, during my pictures hunt having seen many hundreds of pictures of steam tugboats (yes I know, it's sometimes refered to as a touch of Asperger) and I was sure I had somewhere seen a picture that had the right characteristics of the painting but forget to save. It cost me nearly an hour using the computers history finding it. But I did.

And now comes the surprise, the painting is probably/possibly made after a model boat created in the 1940-50's. The SS Reno. And it’s in the City of Liverpool Museum. It is labeled to be a phantasy design, but I do not know why, nor am I convinced. It was made by a bicycle repairer and gifted model-boat builder a Mr. Fox from Smithsdown Road which is on the edge of Sefton Park Liverpool just half a mile from the Archtitecture School. The park has a central pond, where no doubt in the 1940-50’s model boat builders showed nd tried their creations. Maybe they've met, maybe Mr. Korzeniewicz bought his bike from Mr. Fox. Maybe there's a completely different explanation. Maybe the solution lies in the three porthole design. Who knows ? Who tells ?

Anno 2012 a Mrs. Elisabeth Kay-Korzeniewicz, who has donated Witold's professional archive to a London Museum, is (still ?) living in Middlesex. My hopes are some more facts will turn up now. And, fingers crossed, maybe some more paintings by Witold.

This 1935 linocut maybe was the next nicest surprise finding along my quest. It's titled "Tug" and I would never have found it without this posting. The very obscured maker (her prints are only to be found in a museum) I will reveal to readers in the next posting and show also some more wonderful prints by this lady printmaker.  

All pictures and text freely borrowed from the internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use.


  1. Your research on Korzeniewicz's tug has made mine pale into insignificance and I love the way you have written it. As for it's origins, the little tug was found at a bootsale in a field on a cold November day. It's prospects have improved as, although it is still unclothed, waiting for a suitable frame, it is looked at daily and much loved (Even though it isn't a linocut)

    1. Thank you, I just fell in love with the painting the instant I saw it. The research (but I wouldn't call it that) was a great pleasure and I'm glad it is in good and loving hands. Let's wait and see what happens the next couple of weeks. And remember me in your will (even if it isn't a linocut).

  2. Hi Gerrie,

    I see why you fell in love with that little painting. It's difficult to stop looking at it - you expect it to slide down the swell of wave.

  3. just found your blog because I googled "Manet's flowers". I'm a big fan of the woodcut/linocut it has been fun perusing your beautiful and informative post here. Excellent!

    1. Celeste, welcome and thank you. I thrive on feedback like this. Were you as bewildered as I was seeing those paintings by Manet ?

  4. WKK's wife is my mother's Godmother. I'm not familiar with that particular painting but can tell you that 'Vitty' made tug boat models and one particularly nice radio-controlled one that was about 18 inches long or so - my brother has it now and I remember him being particularly detailed about the gearing on the motors so as to give a scale speed on the water. He also made a r/c battleship from scratch that was about three feet long! He was a student of architecture in Warsaw before escaping to Britain aged about 19 and joined the RAF flying Lysanders during the war. After the war he completed his architecture degree at Liverpool University I believe.

    1. Thank you for taking the trouble and time adding this information about Mr.Korzeniewicz. It is very much appreciated.

    2. I will see his wife at the end of this week - if you want me to I will take pictures of his paintings hanging on her wall. Is there anything you would like me to ask her?

    3. That would be wonderful of course and a surprise, will look forward to that very much ! Amazing how, thanks to the internet, and two years later my initial curiosity, arm chair research and combining forces of readers/visitors of this Blog have lead to this contact. It would be great to have this story verified by Mrs. Korzeniewicz. Thank you so much.

    4. Please use my email: to send any pictures and/or details or stories.

  5. Gerrie, sadly got a letter today that his wife Elizabeth, has just passed away at the age of 100. I was lucky to talk to her on the phone when I started researching the painting, she was justifiably very proud of her husband.