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The Grupa Sztuki in Łodz and Poznanski's death in Lourdes

The examples given from the work of Gleizes's pupils include a painting by Poznanski. 

This illustration from Kubismus is, I'm sorry to say, the only example I have seen of Poznanski's own work. It is called Composition with two elements and is dated 1925, so it is certainly possible, I think highly probable, that it was included in the exhibition. In relation to the other pictures we have seen of Gleizes and his school, it seems to me to be rather odd. It is not obvious that the construction is derived from an initial arrangement of rectangles, and there is a much freer use of curves than one would expect at this stage in the development of Gleizes's method. In a strange way it almost seems to prefigure later developments. 

At this point, Poznanski seems to disappear from view, at least from my view, until his death in 1935. There is a letter from May 1933 expressing his anguish about the consequences of the Nazi takeover in Germany for his family and friends. There is also some correspondence in the Gleizes archive in Paris which I haven't been able to see and which includes material from 1928 and 1932, so that may be a good starting point for further research (NOTE. I have since seen this correspondence. It appears that his main concern was with a property he had bought - the Domaine Saint Martin, near Vence in the Alpes Maritimes. In 1927, Gleizes had bought a house in the Rhone valley - 'Moly Sabata' - which he designed for use as a 'couvent laïc' - a monastery for lay people, or artists' colony. In one of his letters Poznanski says he is 'very happy that you have gone ahead of me with your "couvent laïc"', which may suggest that he had similar ambitions for the Domaine St Martin (which is now the site of a very expensive hotel-restaurant).]  

Gleizes visited Poland in April 1932 when he gave a talk on Art and Production in Warsaw and on Art and Science to the 'Grupa Sztuki Nowoczesne, in Łodz. I have published a translation of these talks in English.

Some of you here will know much more about the Grupa Sztuki than I do. As I understand it, it was a group formed round the Byelorussian painter Wladislaw Strzeminski, who had been at the centre of the developments in art in the early days of the Soviet Union, but who had fled to Poland in 1921/2. He moved to Brzeziny, near Łodz, in 1926 and, in 1929, he took the initiative which resulted in the collection of modern, mainly non-representational, art which is now housed in the Łodz Muzeum Sztuki. This is a photograph of the collection as it was in 1931. According to its website the Muzeum Sztuki holds an impressive collection of work by painters who were included in the 1925 exhibition organised by Victor Poznanski - Jean Arp, Willi Baumeister, Sonia Delaunay, Theo Van Doesburg, Max Ernst, Vilmos Huszar, Fernand Léger, Louis Marcoussis, Amédée Ozenfant, Enrico Prampolini, George Vantongerloo.

The absence of Albert Gleizes is surprising but according to the account in Andrei Nakov's Abstrait-Concret Gleizes was included in the original collection.

Given the connection of the Poznanski family with Łodz, it seems very likely that Victor was involved in the process by which the collection was assembled. This talk is already, perhaps, too long, so I shall not engage in speculation as to what his role might have been, or discuss the other connections Strzeminsky might have had with the Parisian avant-garde. I only suggest that the question of Victor's involvement should be explored as possibly another, very important, part of the story of the Poznanski family and its connection with Łodz.

We come now to 1935, the year of Victor's death. It is a remarkable story and I am very grateful to my friend, Jean-François Delaunay who told me about it. In July 1935, 'Victor Jonaga [sic] Poznanski' became a full member of the Confrérie des hospitaliers de Nôtre Dame de Lourdes, an association founded in 1885 whose duties were to look after the sick on the arrival and departure of the trains in Lourdes, to assure good order at the various celebrations, to help with bathing the sick, and to supervise the general services of the hostels. In September of the same year he died, in Lourdes, of blood poisoning.

If Mme Gleizes is right and he was twenty years old in 1912 then he died in his early forties. She points out that prior to the 1925 exhibition he and his family had lost a fortune owing to 'the collapse of szloty' (I assume she means the collapse of the mark, which preceded the introduction of the szloty in 1924). He had then poured another fortune into the exhibition - she says Gleizes had tried to prevent him from engaging in such a 'ruinous' undertaking. And then in 1935 we find him helping the sick in Lourdes. 

Here are some extracts from an account of his death taken from the Revue de Lourdes, November 1935. Again I'm very grateful to Jean François Delaunay for sending it to me:

'Last September (1935) we saw the departure, struck by an illness that resisted all the efforts made in vain by science, of the most lovable, and the most loved, of all our brotherhood, an élite intelligence, a deeply apostolic soul, a "saint" according to his friends ...

'Victor Poznanski, whose family had left Poland after the war and was based at Vence, near Nice, was one of those for whom Lourdes is synonymous with devotion, among whom to pray in the grotto inspires the irresistible need to devote themselves to the service of the sick, those most beloved friends of the Virgin.

'For several years he had devoted himself to that important task as a volunteer with an ardent and generous zeal, then as an auxiliary, whose services, accomplished with the constant care to work in humility, won him the highest esteem and affection of his superiors.

'On the 10th September, several days before his death, when there was nothing to suggest such a rapid end, he had received the silver medal which is the recognition of exemplary work in hospitality. A deserved reward. With no ostentation, wanting above all to work in the shadows out of sight of the world, he had chosen to labour in a field protected from any temptations of vanity: the baths ...

'On Sunday 22nd September, in the evening, an overpowering feeling of sickness soon followed by a violent fever forced him to his bed. The doctor called to him did not think there was any great cause for concern. However, during the day and night of the Monday, there was no improvement in his state ...

'On Wednesday there was the sudden, brutal attack of a crisis of generalised blood-poisoning. The doctor, deciding that it was a case of exceptional seriousness, moved him to the Bernadette clinic, hoping to overcome the illness with a determined surgical intervention. But it was too late! The devastating attack of the infection allowed no hope, and death appeared from that point on to be inevitable and rapid ...

'On the 26th September, around 8 o'clock, no longer having any breath, he asked once again for Holy Communion. This last visit of Christ seemed to be a prelude to the other, so ardently awaited, the arrival of his mother who, after a journey of 15 hours without interruption, had the sad consolation of being able to embrace her son still living. She was just in time; at 9 o'clock, without pain, without any disturbance, as one might go to sleep, the model hospitaler, the good servant struck down in the middle of his work, died peacefully.'