Ogrody Abrahama Ostrzegi

  • Urszula Makowska (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


Abraham Ostrzega’s Gardens
The sculpture atelier of Abraham Ostrzega located in the attic of a Warsaw tenement has been compared by Isaac Bashevis Singer to the Garden of Eden before the Fall. The writer visited it in 1915 and was greatly impressed by the bohemian lifestyle of the Jewish artists.
Ostrzega’s last atelier was situated at 9a Mylna street. Since around 1930, the sculptor ran there a company called The Atelier of Decorative Art together with Władysław Weintraub. In 1941 the firm found itself within the boundaries of the Warsaw Ghetto. It served as an apartment for a large group of members of Jewish intelligentsia. In addition, it became the location of the Artistic Garden – a café and a meeting place of artists and writers, also operating as a concert venue. However, this garden soon became a hortus infernalis. On the August 25, 1942 Ostrzega, together with a dozen or so other artists, was escorted to a train bound to Treblinka.
Ostrzega’s third garden is the Jewish Cemetery on Okopowa street. It is the only place related to his biography that survived the war. The cemetery holds several dozen gravestones sculpted by Ostrzega, greatly varied in style. Of special interest are those involving the human form, in violation of religious prohibitions. However, Ostrzega for the most part did respect the prohibition against representations of faces and hands. In his designs, he incorporated many elements particular to Jewish tradition, joining them together with modern imagery and thus realizing the program of a new secular national culture introduced by the writer Yitskhok Leybush Peretz. The co-author of this program with respect to the fine arts, the sculptor and graphic artist Szymon Ber Kratka, was a very influential figure for Ostrzega, both in his artistic output and the model of life within the artistic community that he adopted. Together with his friends, Ostrzega was engaged in the promotion of a Jewish culture that connected national and universal elements, as well as in the creation of a new face of art. His artistic career and his life story present him as a representative of the Polish Jewish creative intelligentsia operating in the first four decades of the 20th century.