Many artists had been born in a specific country, let’s say country “A” and had even studied in that country, but then moved to another country (country “B”) and started to work in country B. Most of the artist’s artworks were created in the “adopted” country B. The question arises whether you refer to the artist as an artist of country A or country B.
Generally, art lovers refer to the artist as an artist from the country where most artworks have been created. But there are so many exceptions that this cannot be seen as a “rule.” Art scholars take many aspects, such as the style of the artist and the art movements the artist has associated with also, into account.
Depending on which aspects of Katarzyna Kobro’s art you are looking at, you may describe her as either a Russian or a Polish sculptor. However, she is known as the “Russian born Polish sculptor in art history.” But let’s look at the different reasons she can be described either as a Russian or a Polish artist.
Katarzyna Kobro’s mother was Russian, and her father was a Baltic German from what is known today as Latvia. However, when she was born on 26 January 1898 in Moscow, she was born as a Russian citizen. Thus, if you only look at where she was born, she can be described as a Russian artist.
She spent her early years in Riga, and then her family moved to Moscow in 1915. She started her art career in Russia, and she studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture from 1917 to 1920.
Katarzyna was also a member of the Moscow Union of Artists with other artists like Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Tatlin, and Alexander Rodchenko. So when you only look at her early years, you might refer to Katarzyna Kobro as a Russian artist.
Kobro is also sometimes called a Russian artist because she and her husband were active in artistic life in Russia. They ran a branch of UNOVIS and were most probably engaged in shaping the new guidelines for Russian art and culture.
They were seen as representatives of “extreme leftist trends,” and their studio was regarded as “a palette of constructivism.”
Katarzyna Kobro’s art is also sometimes seen as Russian because she has become a leading figure in Constructivism in art. The philosophy of Constructivism originated in 1913 in Russia among Russian artists and was an active movement while Kobro was a student in Moscow.
In 1920, Kobro was married to Polish artist Władysław Strzemiński. At the onset of 1922, she fled to Poland because of the change of political regimes in Russia. In 1924, she obtained Polish citizenship. So, because of her citizenship, she can be regarded as a Polish sculptor after 1924.
The more you learn about Katarzyna Kobro, the more you realize how constructivism influenced Katarzyna Kobro’s art while she was in Poland. She was a dedicated Constructivist in Poland and influenced other artists and even later art movements. Thus, although she was part of Constructivism in Russia before moving to Poland, she developed the style while in Poland.
This is where controversy sometimes starts. Some scholars call her a Russian sculptor because of her Constructivism style, while others believe that she developed her specific Constructivism style while in Poland.
The Polish Constructivist artists favored art as a practice for social purposes in Poland. They rejected individualism, subjectivism, and expressionism and instead took absolute objectivism of form as their point of departure.
Polish artists, including Katarzyna Kobro, were seeking new forms and means of expression and were first called Polish Expressionists and later Formists. The Formists were looking for art reform slogans in Poland.
The original name “Polish Expressionists” indicated that the artists identified a distinctiveness of Polish culture against European heritage. Instead, they wanted to relate to their Polish national traditions.
At this stage in her career, she can be described as a “Polish artist.” She was a leader amongst other Polish artists of the time.
Although Katarzyna Kobro’s experience in the USSR was significant, she developed Constructivism while in Poland. The artists were also expanding new ideas concerning using unusual materials, and the name “Constructivists” were used more and more.
The Constructivists in Poland formed an avant-garde art group that was very active in Warsaw from 1924 to 1926. Katarzyna Kobro became one of the primary role-players in the Constructivist movement in Poland.
Her main aim was to create abstract works of art based on universal and objective rules that she had discovered through experimentation and analysis. Her sculptures made in Poland were meant to be without focal points but a uniform and infinite space conceptualization.
She always tried to organize space so that it would not be divided into space enclosed within a form. Her philosophy was that her work should coexist with space. The ideal was that space should penetrate her sculptures.
Kobro, as a Polish citizen and artist, identified with the aspects set out in the Dimensionist Manifesto of 1936. By signing it, she demonstrated her hope that what she believed in would have future influence, especially in Poland.
Dimensionism is an art movement of the arts that has been continuously developed. Today, the essence and theory of this movement can be found in its conceptions of space-time. They are the same conceptions Kobro developed and used in Poland during the Constructivist Movement.
Contrary to the classical conception, the basic philosophy is that space and time are not separate categories. Instead, they are seen as related dimensions, and thus all the old limits and boundaries of the arts have disappeared.
Thus, it can be said that the Dimensionist tendency has developed the idea found in Katarzyna Kobro’s Polish art. Constructivism has led directly and sometimes indirectly to changes in art:
Although Katarzyna Kobro was born and initially trained in Russia, she should be known not as a Russian artist but as Katarzyna Kobro Polish sculptor. Her early years in Russia influenced her work, but in Poland, she created most of her sculptures and influenced other artists. Therefore, most art scholars and lovers refer to Katarzyna Kobro as a Polish artist.