Eugene Matthew Dyczkowski (American, 1899-1987) was a noted painter, illustrator, muralist, designer, cartoonist, lecturer and teacher. Eugene’s father at the age of 16, emigrated from an area in Poland that was then Russian occupied. Eugene was born in Philadelphia, PA and was the second child of a soon to be very large family of eleven children.
At the age of five, Eugene began to express his artistic talent and it was immediately noticed by his father. Eugene’s father continued to encourage and support his son’s artistic endeavors, which helped the young boy express his natural drawing abilities. As Eugene reached his teens, he became very interested in caricatures and cartooning, and decided to take a local course from a well known caricaturist by the name of Eugene Zimmer.
By 1923, at the age of 24 he decided to enter the Albright School of Fine Arts as a part-time student. He studied there under George Wilcox, who nurtured Eugene’s raw talent. In four short months, Eugene received a full scholarship to further his studies, full-time. He was also awarded a scholarship to study in France but was unable to accept, due to his family responsibilities and lack of finances.
By 1924, he had his first exhibition at the Buffalo Society of Artists. Dyczkowski worked in many different mediums, and his work ranged from realism to abstract expressionism.
He traveled extensively and painted in numerous places like Upstate New York, the Catskill Mountains, the coast of Maine, Gloucester and New England among others. People began to take notice after several Buffalo Society of Artists (BSA) exhibitions at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo.
Eugene exhibited in the World’s Fair in Warsaw, Poland in 1929 and by 1933, landed the position of assistant Educational Director of the Albright Art Gallery. At this time he also began to do a series of art lectures on the radio.
During the 1930’s, as the Great Depression dragged on, Dyczkowski to continue to support himself, worked under the Roosevelt art program, the Works Progress Administration (WPA). It was designed to help professional artists and illustrators maintain financial security during those harsh times. The program offered artists work, doing different art projects and mural series for many schools and government offices. Dyczkowski painted several murals; one is “Defending Forts”, a 90 foot long mural at the ‘Officers Mess Club’ at Fort Niagara which depicts the evolution of warfare from the 16th century to the early 20th century (completed 1939); and two other murals are at the Burgard Vocational High School, in Buffalo, NY. The ones at the High School represent different work trades and occupations in the fields of Science, Aeronautics, Automotive Engineering, and Printing and are in the entrance foyer.
In 1936 Dyczkowski became the President of the Buffalo Society of Artists and served until 1939. In 1940 he deliberately entered an incompetent & crude work of art signed “Noga Malowane” which translates from Polish “Foot-Painted”. He did this to prove the incompetence of the Jury in charge of overseeing the selection of works for the Western New York exhibits. The Jury in its movement to represent more modern works of art, had before accepted very questionable pieces into their shows with no regard for ability, technique or actual quality. Proving his point, the Jury accepted the “Noga Malowane” painting, while rejecting his professional body of work. He followed up the incident with a boastful letter to the Buffalo Evening News, also signing it ‘Noga Malowane’.
Dyczkowski was a co-founder of the Polish Arts Club of Buffalo and served as its first President, from 1945 to 1946. He helped raise the awareness of the importance of Polish ancestry and their heritage nationwide to promote Polish culture. Before he knew it, numerous Polish Art Clubs began to spring up across the country. By 1939, the different clubs met together at a conference in Chicago, which later led to the formation of a National Council. The following year, the American Council of Polish Cultural Clubs (ACPCC) saw their formal inauguration and they elected Dyczkowski to be its first President. His values and ideas continue to thrive in Polish Art Clubs across the nation.
By the 1950’s, Dyczkowski turned his style of painting and attitude to that of abstract expressionism and design while advocating modern art. He felt that a radical shift in his perception of representational painting was needed, and felt that his previous work and training had been wasted and was of little merit. Dyczkowski once said that, "Elimination of realistic subject matter allows complete freedom of expression in pure design". One newspaper printed the headline, "Artist Wipes Out 30 Years of Work, and Starts Over Again".
He spent the next thirty years exploring this form of abstract art, while focusing on design concepts of good color, line and composition. He eventually excelled in this form of art and his works were highly regarded and accepted. He also continued to lecture and teach both locally and nationally. In 1982 he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Buffalo Chapter of the Polish Arts Club.
Dyczkowski died in 1987 at the age of 88, but his legacy lives on. He raised the awareness and importance of Polish culture and the arts in America. His message still lives on in the pride that Polish-Americans feel towards their heritage and its continued enhancement of that awareness nationally and around the world.
(Sources: With Permission from David Martin of Martin-Zambito Fine Art, Seattle, WA., and partially rewritten from his article in Polish Heritage Magazine, Spring, 1992, page three. Who was Who in American Art, 1999; Newspaper article, Buffalo News Gusto, “New Deal Art: Out of the gloom of the Depression came remarkable strides in the arts.”, by Anthony Bannon, Pgs. 3 & 16, Friday, Nov. 4, 1983; https://info-poland.buffalo.edu, Info Poland, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, "Eugene Dyczkowski: the Officers Club Murals at Fort Niagara State Park: The Officers Mess".)