When asked why he draws, Andrzej Wajda replies:
For two reasons. First of all, because what I have drawn is mine to own: it stays in my memory. When drawing, I also gain a better realization of what it is that moves my imagination. And in my work in film or theatre I use drawings because it’s a quicker way to make people I work with understand what I mean.
Andrzej Wajda never parts with a sketchbook, and has continued to make small drawings all his life, using a pen, crayons, or soft-tip markers. They are part of his creative method, and also a way of recording reality, replacing the photographic camera in this function. For years, the artist has been filling successive notebooks with his drawings, annotating them with personal commentaries. Andrzej Wajda’s drawings also function in the form of separate sheets removed from the notebook (often quad paper with characteristic perforations). Diverse thematically and created over a great number of years, Wajda’s drawings are easily recognizable. They are characterized by succinct treatment of the subject and sketchy form, composition resembling cinematic framing, and nervous lines, decisive for the unique expressiveness of these works.
The Manggha Museum also holds the artist’s early works from the 1940s and 1950s, artistic explorations and notes, the young painter’s ideas and studies, evidence of his fascination with the modern art developing in the West whose echoes reached Poland at the time. Notable in this collection, so diverse in terms of subject, form and technique, are small watercolours – abstract images of subtle colour schemes and poetic mood, revealing an extraordinarily rich imagination in the young artist and future director.
A special position among Andrzej Wajda’s drawing studies is occupied by sketches relating to theatre and film. They are not, however, typical storyboards, which have a purely practical function with most directors working on films. Nor are they stage or costume designs for a specific theatre production. To Wajda the director, drawing is a tool that helps him concretize the idea of a stage production or a film, a way of making a note of the artist’s vision, and its gradual development. This group also comprises drawings for theatre productions that were never actually staged.
There is a large set of portraits of people close to Wajda (actors, directors, writers, well known figures). There are also anonymous faces noticed by the artist in passing, which grabbed his attention. The portraits drawn by Andrzej Wajda are characterized by sketchiness; the characterization is not always focused on facial features: quite often, it will rather be the typical gesture or pose of the portrayed person. The reductionist effect is intensified by the draughtsman’s technique: the ‘pure’ pen drawing, sometimes complemented with a crayon or marker.
Another major group comprises travel sketches, including an interesting set of drawings made in Japan. They are hasty notes taken from nature, attempts at capturing the ephemeral image of reality. The artist fixes everything that seems interesting to him: landscapes, architecture, people, scenes from a Japanese theatre. In these drawings, Wajda knowingly uses composition borrowed from the Japanese ukiyo-e print, for example a truncated fragment of a tree in the foreground.
The exhibition Andrzej Wajda. Sketchbook, dedicated to the Artist on his 90th birthday, focuses on the more intimate part of his work. Most of the exhibited works have never been on public display before.
The works in the exhibition come from the collections of the Manggha Museum, Andrzej Wajda’s Archive at the Manggha Museum, the Museum of Art in Łódź, and the Museum of the National Stary Theatre in Kraków.