Nikifor (1895 – 1968)

Nikifor was born in Poland to a domestic servant and an unknown father. His mother died during his childhood, meaning he was left to rely on the goodwill of his community for survival; poor, illiterate and with a severe speech impediment. Nikifor began to provide for himself by begging, before a stay in hospital introduced him to watercolours. By 13, Nikifor was painting on discarded paper and cigarette packets which he would then stamp the back of and sell to people passing by. He then travelled from village to village trying to sell his art, using the name Nikifor Matejko; the surname of a famous Polish artist – possibly highlighting how strongly he considered himself to be a professional artist. He used a variety of materials to create his work, including watercolour, gouache and crayon; works which portrayed the countryside or intricately detailed buildings.

You might notice there are inscriptions that lie along the bottom of many of Nikifor’s works; these often do not make any sense or do not mean anything in particular. It has been noted that he may have added these to his pieces to give the illusion of his literacy.

Nikifor’s work did receive some interest during his lifetime, and was even exhibited across Europe as well as in America. However, it wasn’t until much later in his life that people began to take a serious interest in his work; at a point when creating was becoming a burden to him.

Nikifor considered himself superior to others because he was an artist; despite the little acclaim and acknowledgement he receieved really right up until the end of his artistic career. He is however very well known in Poland, with a museum dedicated to his work in his hometown of Krynica.

Below are some of Nikifor’s cityscapes and intricately painted buildings:

 

Sources:

  • Outsider Art Sourcebook, published by RawVision

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