Walter Krawiec 1889 - 1982

At what point in the dawn of one’s lifetime do experiences determine and shape man’s destiny?  Walter Krawiec’s parents emigrated from western Poland when he was two years old and settled in a house next door to a horse stable on the northwest side of Chicago.  At a tender age, there was born an admiration for that noble beast.  The neighborhood of Milwaukee, Chicago, and Ogden Avenues contained other attractions which excited the fancy of a young lad, such as the home for fire truck # 19, the Chicago & Northwestern Ry engine house and the impressive parish church, St. John Cantius, where young Walter attended school.  The fascination for these wonders would later provide the focal point for his art. 

             It is easy to see from the prolific output of this artist as to what stimulated his creativity.  But just how this art career was conceived remains a mystery.  In the absence of an art history in the family, an inherited gift appears to be dormant, and so the spawning of this talent must be attributed simply as a gift of God.

             As to his avocation, the love of livestock led naturally to the breeding of fancy pigeons and poultry.  Walter’s Oriental Rollers, Polish Lynx, and Silver Spangled Hamburgs invariably won awards in national shows.

            Then there was a preoccupation for the world of big League baseball.  When the artistic spirit was not motivated, exciting afternoons were spent cheering the early versions of the Sox and Cubs.

            Walter’s incessant sketching established his reputation among friends and neighbors which recommended him as a candidate for a job opening as editorial cartoonist for the Dziennik Chicagoski (the Polish Daily News).  The Reverend Francis Gordon, C.R., the publisher of the newspaper, approved of the young applicant and a career which would last for more than sixty years was launched in 1913.  Krawiec became a deft draftsman, thanks to the daily execution of cartoons and weekly humorous anecdotes depicted in “Z Naszego Okieneszka” (From our Window) and “Wiceki:  Burek”.  Artistic instincts often went into the cartoons so that they not only delivered their editorial message but also qualified as fine art illustrations.

            Native talent can be enhanced by formal training, and for this purpose, Krawiec attended the American Academy and the Chicago Art Institute where he studied under Walter M. Clute, Antonin Sterba, and Ralph Clarkson, the eminent portrait painter. At the Art Institute School, Walter met Harriet Korzeniewski, a fellow student, resulting in a marriage wherein the matchmaking efforts of “Cupid” Sister M. Stanisia, their classmate, played no small part.  Husband and wife continued to develop their styles independently, yet aiding and abetting each other throughout their lives with encouragement and constructive criticism.

            Students of art since the 16th century have been influenced by great animal painters such as Hals and Valasques and certainly Krawiec was no exception.  However, as an animal painter, he was much inspired by Wojciech Kossak, Alfred J. Munnings and Heinrich von Zugel.  Like these men, Krawiec was not limited to ably depicting the animal alone, but painting with equal virtuosity the complete environment as well.  The portrayal of the landscape, the urban scene, the human figure and, indeed, the world at large were approached with the same loving facility.

            In seeking the horse, he was drawn into those areas wherein that animal played a role.  Sometimes this introduced a broader field of subject matter.  In the art world, Krawiec is, perhaps, best known as a circus painter.  Many before and since have found stimulation in painting the circus scene, but his approach to the circus was unique.  C.J. Bulliert, art critic of the Chicago Daily News, wrote on November 2, 1935, “Walter Krawiec, again, for instance, paints the circus of today as nobody in the world had done since the ‘big tops’ supplanted the little circuses that played in Paris for Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec. Krawiec has the instincts of a Brueghel when it comes to composing a picture out of multitudinous, conflicting elements, blending them into a superb unity.”

            Famed critic Royal Cortissoz of New York Herald-Tribune commenting on the New York Spring Academy Show of 1934:  “Contemporary life mirrored in some of them (paintings) as in the pictures by Gifford Beal, Mahonri Young, and Walter Krawiec.  The last mentioned painter deserves a tribute by himself for the spirit and skill with which he has painted his circus scene, ‘The Four Sorrels’.  The circus motive is apparently stimulating.”

            In summation of numerous critiques of Walter Krawiec’s art, Eleanor Jewwett of the Chicago Tribune stated “No one can paint the circus as well as Mr. Krawiec – crowds – animals – tents – the smell, the thrill of the circus lie in these scenes, a stunning group”. 

            The quintessence of his art is his great versatility.  Turning in any direction, the world of Walter Krawiec provided something worthy to record, and this energetic pursuit filled a long productive lifetime.  Not a day was lost, not even to allow for the healing of a broken right arm.  The left hand took over as if it had been trained from the very beginning.

            The work is largely presented in the medium of oil, watercolor, pen and ink, and pencil.  There is a smattering of pastels, etchings and lithographs, representing modest adventures with these techniques.

            Love of God, country and ethnic inheritance pervaded Krawiec’s life.  Nowhere was this manifested to a greater degree than in his cartoons.  The pictorial descriptions of the persecution of his native Poland during World War II were gathered and published in two volumes.  Such canvasses as “Corpus Christi Procession”, and “The Grotto at St. Adalbert’s Cemetery”, and the illustrations for “The First Cardinal of the West” by Martin, a biography of Cardinal Mundelein, all reflect the deep spiritual essence of Walter Krawiec.
Harriet Krawiec 1894 - 1968

Harriet Krawiec was born in Chicago to Joseph and Anna Korzienewski
on October 14, 1894. Her father was a successful baking flour merchant, and
her mother was active in many social and charitable organizations. Harriet
attended the Academy of Our Lady High School (known as Longwood) on
Chicago’s far south side, where recognition of her artistic talent warranted
her retention, after graduation, as an art instructor assisting her mentor
Sr. Mary Stanisia. In turn, Harriet and the nun continued their artistic careers
at the Chicago Art Institute. There, Harriet studied under renowned painters
Karl Buehr and Charles Hawthorne. Ultimately, she was introduced by
Sr. Stanisia to fellow student in the neighboring class Walter Krawiec, and
a romance and marriage soon followed.
Walter and Harriet became one of the most renowned husband and wife
artistic teams in Chicago. Each were distinguished in their individual subject
matters and techniques. Still life’s and occasional landscapes dominated
Harriet’s attention. She was greatly admired by critics and her peers.
A chronology of Harriet’s activities follow.

1927 - Chicago and Vicinity Exhibition - Art Institute of Chicago
1929 - Silver Medal - Worlds Fair - Poznan, Poland
- 33rd Chicago Show - AIC
1931 - Evanston Art Center
1932 - 37th Chicago Show - AIC
- two person show - Allerton Hotel
1934 - Honorable Mention and First Popular Prize
- Municipal Art League - New York
- Polish Arts Clubs
1935 - one person show - AIC
1936 - Valentine Prize- Chicago Galleries
1937 - PNA Award Most Mentor

Walter F.J. Krawiec

Born to parents engaged profoundly in the arts, one could assume that an offspring would naturally follow suit. In Fact, mother Harriet was very supportive of young Walter’s artistic endeavors, but father Walter, while encouraging the arts, believed his son would find a more comfortable life in another profession. Walter obtained a degree in commerce from Notre Dame before serving in the Marine Corps and a law degree from Northwestern after World War II.
Still the magnetism toward the arts lingered on. While serving as an assistant US attorney in the Northern District of Illinois, Walter spent his nights in a life drawing class at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts under the tutelage of Louis Grell and Tunis Ponson, both friends of Walter’s parents. Mr Grell was nationally renowned as a mural painter.
Ultimately, Walter was to duplicate the major experience of his parents in the art class by meeting the women of his life, Vivian, and marry her.
Interested in Railroad steam locomotives was amoung the many objects of Walter Sr’s admiration. All of which were inherited by his son. The locomotive was featured in many of Walter’s paintings. These earlier paintings were exhibited in the Illinois State Fair shows in Springfield and Municipal Art Leagues shows in Chicago. A number of these paintings also appeared in Trains magazine, books and other publications. In 1965, a work entitled “On the Kanawa Subdivision,” depicting a Chesapeake and Ohio RR coal train won the W.H. Miner Co. purchase prize. W.H. Miner Inc. manufactured railroad equipment and reproduced this painting on it’s 1967 Calendar.
After a number of years as a Cook County Attorney, and a lengthy hiatus, Walter has returned to the studio, again painting the locomotives of bygone years as subject matter. Enrollment in the Palette and Chisel Academy’s sculpture and painting classes have been a great stimulator in resuming arts activity. The goal for the sculpting was to create a bronze monument which marks the family grave site.

Permanent Collections

Circus World Museum, Baraboo Wisconsin
St.Adalbert and Maryhill Cemeteries, Niles, Illinois
President Lyndon Johnson Library, Austin, Texas
Polish Museum of America, Chicago, Illinois
City of Cary, Cary, Indiana
Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach, Florida


1934 - A Century of Progress at the Art
Institute of Chicago
1935 - New York Academy of Design
- Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh,
1937 - Art Museum of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio
- Art Museum of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio
- Art Museum of Rochester,
Rochester, NY
1949 - Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY
- Art Museum of Minneapolis,
Minneapolis, MN
1934 to 1950 - Art Museum of Flint,
Flint, Michigan
- Art Museum of Worchester,
Worchester, MA
- Art Museum of Davenport,
Davenport, Iowa
1939 to 1940 - Corcoran Galleries of Art,
Washington, DC
1942 - University of Notre Dame,
Notre Dame, IN
1955 to 1961 - Illinois State Fair - 1st Prise,
Springfield, Illinois
1948 - South Bend Art Association,
South Bend, IN
1947 to 1950 - Kosciuszko Foundation,
1953 - Chicago Public Library, Chicago, IL
1933 to 1956 - Chicago Galleries
Association, Chicago, Illinois
1928 to 1966 - Polish Arts Club,
Chicago, IL


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