Giant mural by celebrated artist honours Warsaw’s Jewish past

Polish artist Tytus Brzozowski has unveiled a giant mural celebrating pre-war Jewish life in Warsaw.

Already widely-known in Poland, and increasingly popular abroad, Brzozowski first forged his name after his surreal water colours depicting fantastical city scenes went viral. Since then, his trademark style has earned him an army of admirers.

The latest historically-inspired mural pays tribute to the city’s vanished Jewish quarter with the gravity of the subject influencing a slight change of style from the artist himself.

“The entire district,” Brzozowski told the First News, “together with its inhabitants, customs and everyday life, has irretrievably disappeared from the city’s plan and that irreversibly changed the character of Warsaw. Now, it’s also disappearing from our collective imagination. Obviously, the subject of extermination is very traumatic so I felt topics related to that had to be treated in a special way.”

Lacking his usual light-hearted elements, Brzozowski’s latest mural instead throws its focus on the structures that were lost when the Nazis methodically demolished the district following their brutal suppression of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

“I wanted to present a harmonious scene depicting the former area,” he says. “I showed important and characteristic buildings such as the Great Synagogue on Tłomackie street as well as the Simons Passage shopping centre. In addition, I included the kind of tenement houses that typified that district and were the essence of its life.”

Financed through the city’s participatory budget, the idea for a mural was first suggested by Bartłomiej Gołąbek and, in turn, it took three painters working under Brzozowski’s supervision three weeks to complete.

“The Jewish quarter was a bustling place, full of trade and services. In the old photos you can find lots of advertisements and signboards. I wanted to reflect that atmosphere, so in addition to including people in period costumes, I also added signboards on the project.

Brzozowski worked with Marek Tuszewicki of the Faculty of Jewish Studies at Jagiellonian University to ensure the Yiddish spellings and inscriptions were faithful, already this sensitive homage to the past has proved a firm hit with the public.

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