Feliks Topolski, a visual chronicler, portrait artist, illustrator, and author, was
born in Warsaw, Poland, on August 14, 1907, the only child of actor Edward Topolski
and Stanislawa Drutowska. He was a student at the Mikolaj Rey School. He studied
the Warsaw Academy of Art from 1927 to 1932, during which time he also served
cadet at the Artillery Officers' School. While still a student, he contributed
drawings to the periodical Cyrulik Warszawski (The
Warsaw Barber), and received a commission to paint a mural for the hall of the
Polish Institute for the Promotion of Modern Art.
Topolski spent time studying on his own in France and Italy before traveling to
England in 1935 to record George V's Silver Jubilee for a Polish magazine. He
remained in London and connected with the group that included Graham Greene, Evelyn
Waugh, J. B. Priestley, Anthony Powell, and William Empson. He provided
illustrations for Night and Day, a short-lived London
periodical for which Greene was a coeditor. Topolski also worked for the News Chronicle and published his first book, The London Spectacle (1935), with drawings collected
from his work for the Chronicle. He met and
befriended Bernard Shaw, who had Topolski illustrate his Geneva, In Good King Charles's Golden
Days, and Pygmalion.
During World War II Topolski worked as a war artist and served as a Polish army
officer. He was wounded in the London Blitz, accompanied patrol duty in the Arctic,
fought with the Polish 2nd Corps in Italy, traveled to the Russian front, Burma,
China, accompanied the allied troops into France and Germany, witnessed the
liberation of the prisoners at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, and attended
the Nuremberg trials. Topolski's drawings from the war were published in three
books: Britain in Peace and War (1941), Russia in War (1942), and Three
Continents, 1944-45 (1946).
Topolski became a British subject in 1947. In the years after the war he traveled
India at the invitation of Pandit Nehru, where he saw the end of the British Raj.
witnessed the liberation conflicts in Malaya and Indo-China. As he continued to
create works that chronicled events, Topolski also established himself as a portrait
artist. He produced murals, notably the Cavalcade of
Commonwealth for the Festival of Britain, 1951; the Coronation of Elizabeth II, 1959, commissioned by the
Duke of Edinburgh for a corridor in Buckingham Palace; and the Memoir of the Century, begun in 1975 under the arches of
the Hungerford Railway Bridge. His illustrations appeared in numerous publications,
including Punch and Lilliput. He created portraits for the BBC television series Face to Face, and designed theatrical sets and costumes.
His works were exhibited internationally.
Among the works authored by Topolski are Portrait of G. B.
S. (1946), Confessions of a Congress Delegate
(1949), and Shem, Ham & Japheth, Inc: the American
Topolski established his studio in Waterloo in 1953; it was at this time that he
began publishing his Topolski's Chronicle, works of
text and illustration which he printed himself, producing twenty-four issues a
from 1953 to 1979.
Topolski married Marian Everall in 1944 (divorced 1975). They had a son, Daniel, and
a daughter, Theresa. He married Caryl J. Stanley in 1975. He died August 24, 1989,