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Feliks Topolski:

An Inventory of His Collection in the Art Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Topolski, Feliks, 1907-1989
Title: Feliks Topolski Art Collection
Dates: 1939-1968
Extent: 2 boxes, 6 flat file folders, 24 paintings (23 framed); (159 items)
Abstract: The collection consists of artworks by Feliks Topolski, a visual chronicler, portrait artist, illustrator, and author.
Language: English
Access:

Open for research. A minimum of twenty-four hours is required to pull art materials to the Reading Room.




Acquisition:

Purchases (R189, R210) 1960, (R313) 1961, (R1201) 1962, (R2738, R2767) 1965, (R4731) 1969

Processed by:

Helen Young, 2006

Repository:

The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center


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 at the Warsaw Academy of Art from 1927 to 1932, during which time he also served as a 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, and 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 to India at the invitation of Pandit Nehru, where he saw the end of the British Raj. He 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 Crucible (1971).

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 year 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, in London.


Carver, Larry. "Topolski at the Ransom Center,"  http://www.felikstopolski.com/HRC.htm (accessed 13 January 2006).

"Feliks Topolski." Contemporary Authors Online, http://galenet.galegroup.com (accessed 13 January 2006).


The Feliks Topolski Art Collection consists of works by Topolski. The collection is organized into three Series: I. Portraits, 1943-1962, II. Book Illustrations, 1939-1943, and III. Other Works, 1950-1968. Titles are transcribed from the items; cataloger's titles appear in brackets.

Series I. Portraits is subdivided into two subseries: A. 20th Century Literary Figures (HRC Commission), and B. Other Portraits. Both subseries are arranged alphabetically by portrait subject. Subseries A. contains twenty oil portraits from life of various authors, commissioned by the Ransom Center 1961-1962. Other Portraits comprises a large oil portrait of Bernard Shaw and three drawings.

Series II. Book Illustrations includes designs Topolski created for published editions of three of Bernard Shaw's plays: Geneva (1939), In Good King Charles's Golden Days (1939), and Pygmalion (1941). Many of these drawings have handwritten notes by both Topolski and Shaw. There are also drawings for Topolski’s Portrait of G. B. S. (1946). The items in Series II. are grouped with their corresponding published work, which are listed alphabetically by author/title.

The items in Series III. Other Works are five lithographic issues of Topolski's Chronicle, an illustration design for a theater program for a Shaw play, and a poster reproduction of a painting. These works are arranged chronologically.


The Ransom Center has an almost complete run of Topolski's Chronicle in its Library, as well as a number of books written and/or illustrated by Topolski.