Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz – photo by Peter Medlen, 1962
Upon his arrival in Australia in 1949, Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz’s art was not too
experimental: the paintings he managed to execute in Bavaria after the war were
solid exercises in landscape, still-life and portraiture, in which he searched to
find his “voice”. They were produced in a well-crafted, rather academic style, but
showed flair with brushwork and a finely tuned sensibility and flair for expression
and abstraction. His early paintings here, however, indicate an amazing and
torrential outpouring of pent-up creative energy. Wlad’s first solo exhibition was
at Curzon Gallery, Adelaide, in early June 1951; the work caused a sensation
among the circles of artists and exhibition-goers. During his first solo shows at
the RSASA patrons were seen queuing up the stairs and outside of the Institute
Building waiting for the gallery to open.
The enormous and wide-reaching impact Wlad had on the art world in
Adelaide extended beyond visual arts. The research undertaken on the Adelaide
theatre scene in the exhibition A Brush with the Stage (1992) fully
revealed his experience in theatre, both in Hohenfels in Germany and in
Adelaide. We discovered, for instance, that he had retained his concept sketch for
a set for the opera La Traviata, which he had prepared in post-war Germany, and exhibited it in his first major exhibition in Australia in 1951. It was a surprise to find that his sepia-coloured, daguerreotype-like sets for Francis Flannagan’s production of Alexander Ostrovsky’s A Man Must Live, in November 1950, were his first achievements to catch the eyes of critics in Australia. Soon after he was commissioned to design sets for Iris Hart’s production of Federico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba (1951) and again for Flannagan’s interpretation of Ivan Turgenev’s A Month in the Country (1952). While recovering from his accident in 1957, he collaborated with Thomas Steel on the set designs for John Edmund’s productions of Fallen Angels and Bus Stop, and collaborated with Jacqueline Hick, with whom he often painted in the studio of Francis Roy Thompson, on Anna Karenina in 1959.
From 1959 until 1962 he ran his own theatre group, the Art Studio Players, resprising his activities in DP camps after the war, directing several productions and acting in some of them, including Maxim Gorky’s The Lower Depths (1960). He later acted in television dramas for Crawford Productions in Melbourne. His final stage production was Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck for the Adelaide University Theatre Guid, in 1967.
In painting, Wlad’s exploration of modernist styles and his personal synthesis of them, in his first several years in Adelaide, were truly remarkable, especially in the context of Australian art of the period. This was duly noted by a number of people attuned to contemporary art, most notably Max Harris and Ivor Francis, who wrote glowing reports on this “New Australian” artist and the impact he was having on the local art scene.
Within a year Lisette Kohlhagen and Dorrit Black, before her death in 1951, were also heaping praise while the conservative reviewers were horrified. The debate about radical modernism in Adelaide was reignited well before the French Painting Today touring exhibition in 1953, an event often highlighted as a turning point in Australian art, as it heralded the rise of abstract painting.
Wlad had won the Cornell Prize at the Contemporary Art Society on its inaugural occasion in 1951 and again in 1955; in the intermediate years he won several medals and prizes, and later the Advertiser Prize (shared with Erica McGilchrist). He was one of seven artists featured in the film Painting 1950-1955 South Australia, selected by his peers at the CAS of SA. He was included in Survey 1 at National Gallery of Victoria in 1958; the Helena Rubinstein at Art Gallery of NSW in 1958; Contemporary Australian Art at Auckland Art Gallery 1960 (which later toured to two other public galleries in New Zealand – Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui and Christchurch Art Gallery); Recent Australian Painting, at Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1961; and Australian Artists at Raymond Burr Galleries in Beverly Hills, USA (1961).
He had major survey exhibitions in Royal SA Society of Arts 1961; Lidums Gallery 1975; Greenhill Galleries, Adelaide 1989; Hilton International Hotel, Adelaide, 1991; Royal SA Society of Arts 1993; BMG Art 1995; and Royal SA Society of Arts, 2005.
In recent years he was featured in Paint[h]ing at the Australian Experimental Art Foundation in Adelaide (2010), curated by Domenico de Clario; Cubism and Australian Art, at Heide Museum of Modern Art (2009), curated by Lesley Harding and Sue Cramer; and Modern Being, Art Gallery of South Australia (2016-17), curated by Tracey Lock and Ellie Freak.
Below are links to major exhibitions the artist was involved with over the last decade and to his works on paper donated to the State Library of South Australia after his death.