Academic journal article The Sculpture Journal

Andrew Ciechanowiecki (1924-2015)

Academic journal article The Sculpture Journal

Andrew Ciechanowiecki (1924-2015)

Article excerpt

With the death of Count Andrew Ciechanowiecki, one of the most significant figures in the world of sculpture during the second half of the twentieth century has been lost to us, someone whose influence on both collecting and scholarship was profound. His legacy lives on to this day, in the many paintings and sculptures which through his agency entered museums in Britain, the United States and Continental Europe, through his work as a scholar-dealer at Mallett and at the Heim Gallery, and through his encouragement of and friendship towards curators and scholars, not least as a vice-president of the PMSA for many years.

Andrew Ciechanowiecki was born in 1924, to a noble family which had been settled in Byelorussia since the sixteenth century, but which had been expelled by the Bolsheviks in 1918, with their great house near Minsk being subsequently destroyed. His life was to be deeply affected by the many disasters visited on his native Poland throughout much of the twentieth century. His aristocratic origins were reflected in a patrician, always slightly formal, but invariably exquisitely courteous manner, emblematic of Mitteleuropa at its best. His early years were comfortable enough, as he was brought up by his British grandmother, whose house in Warsaw became known among friends as 'the permanent British Embassy'. However, he and his family lost everything remaining to them when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. His schooling, including his first studies in the history of art, had to be completed in the most unpropitious circumstances, in the underground schools established by the Polish resistance. He subsequently himself took part in the failed Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Brought up to speak four languages fluently, Ciechanowiecki at first hoped to make a career as a diplomat, but it quickly became evident, as the Communist party took power in Poland after the end of the war, that his background would be a fatal impediment. He took degrees in economics and in history of art at Cracow, but in 1950 was arrested for 'Anglo-American-Vatican contacts' and spent the next six years in prison.

On release in 1956, he returned to his academic studies, winning in 1958 a Ford Foundation and British Council scholarship which allowed him to travel to the United States and to Britain. He then moved to Tübingen University in West Germany, where he completed his PhD on the Polish nobleman and composer Michal Kazimierz Oginski. Published in 1961,1 this work exemplified the breadth of Ciechanowiecki's interests and his fascination with Polish and European culture of the eighteenth century. Deciding to remain abroad, he could have found himself at home almost anywhere in Western Europe. He was, for example, passionate about French culture and literature, proud of the fact that he was descended from the sister of Balzac's wife Madame Hanska, and later in life a pillar of the Société des Amis de la Maison de Balzac and a trustee of the Bibliothèque Polonaise in Paris. But it was perhaps natural that Ciechanowiecki, who had grown up in such a strongly anglophile environment, should have chosen London as his new home. He would also have been well aware that London was at this time fast displacing Paris as the new world centre of the art market, with more exciting opportunities for somebody who wished to make a career as a dealer.

Ciechanowiecki was almost forty years old when he arrived in Britain in 1961, famously with just £2 in his pocket, but also with some good connections and a steely determination to succeed in the land of his adoption. His success as a dealer owed much to his drive and energy, which were to become a byword, but these were backed up by his excellent professional knowledge of academic art history, rare if not unique among dealers at this time. In addition, he was able to turn his natural aptitude for diplomacy to advantage when dealing with the many and various demands of his clientele. As his friend Diana Scarisbrick put it, 'He had the finesse of a Metternich! …

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