The Witkiewiczs’ villa in Zakopane and its importance for Polish culture
The information published about the history of the “Witkiewicz villa,” initially known as “Na Antołówce,” has been very superficial and often incorrect. Usually Stanisław Witkiewicz, the inventor of the Zakopane style, is credited with the building design, while his sister, Maria Witkiewicz or his nephew, Jan Witkiewicz Koszczyc, are given as the villa founders. The villa was indeed built by Jan Witkiewicz, but he was Stanisław’s elder brother and father of the architect Jan Witkiewcz Koszczyc, who designed the house, probably under his uncle Stanisław’s supervision.
The first design of Jan Witkiewicz’s villa was made in Munich, where Jan Witkiewicz Koszczyc studied at the Faculty of Architecture of the Königlich Bayerische Technische Hochschule. Stanisław Witkiewicz took charge of the organisation of the construction works, using the trusted Wojciech Roj. The construction of the villa lasted from September 1903 till March 1905, when Jan Witkiewicz the father moved in with his sister Maria (aunt Mery) and daughter Maria (Dziudzia). A stylish servant’s cottage and a well were built at the same time. In 1911 the villa was presented during the Podhale Exhibition in Lviv (drawings and photographs).
Jan Witkiewicz died in 1920 and the house went to Jan Witkiewicz Koszczyc and his sister Maria Witkiewicz (Dziudzia). In December 1931, after the death of his mother, Maria Witkiewicz, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy) moved into the villa. Both Marias Witkiewicz disapproved of Witkacy’s behaviour and he, likewise, did not tolerate their eccentricities. This caused constant smaller or bigger conflicts. The artist’s guests would stay in the villa from time to time. For example, in October 1937, Hans Cornelius, the famous German philosopher, stayed there for three days. Witkacy stayed in the house nearly till the outbreak of WWII. This is where his last two self-portraits were made. On the night of 22–23 August 1939 he painted his last self-portrait, today considered to be a kind of testament. On 18 September he committed suicide in the village of Jeziory in Ukraine.
Even before the outbreak of the war, both Marias Witkiewicz left for Warsaw, leaving the villa at the disposal of Mrs Jarosławska and Aleksandra Zagórska, Lieutenant Colonel of Polish Armed Forces, soldier of Polish Legions. Maria (Mery) Witkiewicz died in Warsaw in 1940. Soon after the war, on 13 October 1946, the villa and its surroundings were registered as historical buildings. In 1948 Jan Witkiewicz Koszczyc and his sister Maria (Dziudzia) Witkiewicz rented the villa to the Warsaw Branch of the Association of Art Historians, which established a House for Artists there. In 1956 the tenancy was taken over by the General Construction Research and Design Centre from Warsaw and the Trade Union of the Construction Industry Workers.
In 1958 roofing tiles were replaced with a shingle roof. Jan Witkiewicz Koszczyc died in the same year in Warsaw, followed by Maria (Dziudzia) Witkiewicz four years later, in 1962. In 1965 the heirs — Jan’s son Rafał Witkiewicz and daughter Henryka Szandomirska née Witkiewicz — sold the villa to the Board of the Trade Union of the Construction and Building Materials Industry Workers. In 1970 the new owners carried out repair works and modernised the building, and constructed another villa in the vicinity – the form of the “Witkiewicz Villa II” clashed with that of the historical first villa.
In 1985 a small exhibition devoted to Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz was organised in one of the rooms with the help of the Tatra Museum. In 1989 the villa became the property of the Board of the Federation of Independent Self-Governing Trade Unions of the Construction Industry Workers, which set up a training and holiday centre in it. Three years later, in 1992, the property was bought by the Energopol joint-stock company, which one year later built four weekend cottages, designed by Andrzej Orłowski and Maciej Krawczyński, in the western part of the plot. Their architecture was perfectly matched with the original villa in the Zakopane style.
In 2000 the villa was bought by Anna and Jerzy Starek from Warsaw. One year later thorough repair, conservation and modernisation works were carried out in accordance with designs by the same pair of architects — Andrzej Orłowski and Maciej Krawczyński. In 2011 the “Witkiewicz Villa II” was pulled down. There are plans to construct a new building in its place, a building that would be better matched with its historical surroundings.