Georges van Haardt
Georges van Haardt (Kazimierz Jerzy Brodnicki) was a French artist of Polish descent. Born in Poznan in a family of noble landowners. He received his law degree at the University of Poznan, since 1933 he worked in his specialty (according to some reports, in the city prosecutor’s office). In 1937, he married the artist, Egga van Haardt, whose biography is full of mysteries. Perhaps her real name was different, and the pseudonym Egga van Haardt (as well as the legend of her Dutch origin) is part of a hoax that has not yet been fully disclosed.
In 1939, Jerzy Brodnicki left Poland with his wife and mother. In the passport with which he went abroad, his name was recorded as Georges van Haardt. In 1940 the family settled in Rome, where bishop Karol Mechislav Radonsky, the cousin of Jerzy Brodnicki’s mother, lived, and soon after the bishop she moved to Jerusalem. In 1944, Egga van Haardt died of tuberculosis in Jerusalem. From 1948 to 1950, Georges van Haardt lived in Beirut. In 1950, he married Ceslav Pogorzhelskaya with a second marriage and moved to Paris with her.
Until the mid-1940s, George van Haardt did not claim to be an artist. However, shortly after the death of Egga van Haardt, he declared himself the real author of all her works.
In 1948, George Van Haardt’s exhibitions were held in Jerusalem and Beirut (the latter was timed to coincide with the III General Conference of UNESCO) – the first where he exhibited under his own name. In 1951, he showed his work in Paris, in the gallery of Nina Dosse, and then in many other galleries. In France, he quickly gained fame as a talented informational artist, became close to Tristan Tzara, Alberto Giacometti, critics Julien Alvaro, Michael Sefort, who included him in his Dictionary of Abstract Painting (1957), and Roger van Gindertal, author of the critical essay Van Haardt, published in 1966 in connection with the artist’s new exhibition in Beirut. In 1960, exhibited in Japan, in 1961 – in the United States. In the years 1967-69 Georges van Haardt’s exhibitions were held in four Polish cities – Warsaw, Krakow, Poznan and Bialystok.
The Beirut period of the artist includes several pictorial series. In particular, the Ullis series, where he applied signs on top of picturesque spots in which the outlines of Arabic letters were guessed. In these paintings see the influence of Paul Klee. In the early 1960s, Van Haardt created a series of works of the “White Period” influenced by the eastern tradition of silk ink painting. He also made collages of leaves, fragments of plants and feathers. Van Haardt illustrated the poetic collections of Yves de Baiser, Georges Shehadeh, Nanos Valaoritis, a book by Henri Peire de Mandiarg.
According to the official biography of Georges van Haardt, everything that was exhibited and published from 1937 to 1944 by the name of Egga van Haardt is actually his work. Modern Polish researchers have doubts about this. Egga van Haardtcc illustrated the story “Comet” by the famous writer Bruno Schulz (and he was sure that she was the illustrator), exhibited in galleries and museums in Warsaw, Krakow, Katowice, Munich, Paris, Rome, Jerusalem and Asmara, gave interviews to Middle Eastern newspapers . If she only played the role of an artist, it is strange that with such attention to her for eight years, the hoax was not disclosed.
On the other hand, Egga van Haardt was not known as an artist until 1937, when she married Jerzy Brodnicki; and after her death, he easily achieved professional success and recognition from leading French critics, which is hardly possible for a debutant who did not pick up a palette until the age of forty. Information to finally solve this riddle is not enough now.
Georges van Haardt’s works are kept at The Centre Pompidou, The City of Paris Museum of modern art, the University of California Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Notre Dame Museum in New York. A significant part of his work now belongs to the Polish Library of the Polish Historical and Literary Society in Paris (Bibliothèque Polonaise de Paris).