1895 - 1968

Divine service Street with church complex Village church with blue tower Square with city hall Nikifor at home Brown wooden house to hill Village square with lawn Houses connected by mountainlift


Nikifor was born in the vicinity of Krynicy (Poland) where he also died. He was a descendant of Lemko origins. Lemko people are descendents of the old Ruthenians. His mother was a washerwoman and he did not know his father. He began to paint very early in life; some pictures have been preserved dating from his thirteenth year. On the back of his pictures, Nikifor stamped a round seal bearing the name of Nikifor-Matejko; he had taken the name of the renowned Polish painter Matejko as the sign of his profession. When he could not make a living by selling his works, he begged. A speech defect obstructed communication with other people - hence the legend that he was a deaf-mute. Deeply and naively religious, he formed his conception of God, Heaven and Hell from the paintings seen in Orthodox and Catholic churches. Illiterate, he tried to conceal the fact and also to increase the importance of his paintings by drawing in certain expressions, frequently having no connection with the subject-matter and also wrongly spelled. He made pencil drawings of the buildings he saw, especially town houses, railway stations and churches. He imitated them while transforming them in his own fantastic way.

Some themes he kept coming back to, such as the "Painters’ Feast," for he believed that in the other world painters would sit down at the table of the Lord because they were better than other people in the sense that they could not only copy the world but shape it to fit their own will and imaginations. Convinced that he would find in the other world the justice that eluded him in this one, he frequently portrayed himself as the Bishop-Wise Man, a Bishop-Judge (condemning to damnation those who had done him injustice), as a musician and as a painter with a large easel.

Nikifor painted at least ten thousand pictures - on sheets of paper, on the pages of notebooks, on cigarette cartons, and even on scraps of paper glued together. His works are in many museums and private collections in Poland and abroad. His works have been on display in many international exhibitions (o.a. the famous Municipal Museum of Amsterdam).

Source: Oto Bihalji-Merin & Nebojsa-Bato Tomasevic: "World Encyclopedia of Naive Art". London 1984. pp. 453-454.
In 2004 a film ("My Nikifor") was made about his life. The leading role of Nikifor is performed by an 84 year's old Polish actress (!) Krystyna Feldman. She was awarded for her part during the Gdynia Film Festival.

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