Nikifor Drowniak

Nikifor Drowniak

“Nikifor” or “Nykyfor” is the name used by Epifan or Epifaniusz Drowniak, a primitivist artist who lived Krynica (today’s Poland). Nikifor was the illegitimate son of beggar and prostitute Jewdoka or Eudocia Drowniak, who died shortly after childbirth. The town`s Lemkos kept the child alive. At age 13 that Nikifor began using pencils to sketch the world around him and would give away his drawings to thank people who showed him any kindness. Eventually he began selling drawings to summer visitors to Krynica, a famous health resort, often setting himself around the Willa Patria spa building. People ironically called him “Nikifor-Matejko”. Little changed when art world discovered Nikifor in 1930’s except that he began to use gouache and wax crayons for his drawings and would stamp them “NIKIFOR-MALARZ” or “NIKIFOR ARTYSTA” (painter or artist in Polish). For all his life Nikifor traveled very little, mostly to Krakow and once to Bulgaria. Even when every Lemko in Krynica had been forcibly resettled to Western Poland by the Soviet operation Wisla in 1947, Nikifor had soon returned on foot to his hometown. The local townspeople successfully petitioned for this one innocuous Lemko to be allowed to remain. The chronic illness (probably tuberculosis) that had plagued Nikifor for years seems to have progressed. He was taken into the home of Elb and Andrzej Banach, who made many photographs of the artist and compiled a book about him. They were away on vacation when Nikifor died, on October 10, 1968, in a convalescence home in Folusz, Jasno, Poland.

Books about Nikifor:

  • Banach E., Banach A. Historia o Nikiforze. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1966.
  • Madeyski J. Nikifor Krynicki: 12 reprodukcji. Kraków: Wydawnictwo artystyczno-graficzne, 1970.
  • Wolanin Z. Nikifor. Olszanica: BOSZ, 2000.
  • Nikifor. Catalogue of works. Kyiv, 2013.

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