SHOREWOOD – Wanted: Good home for 300 portraits and abstract acrylic paintings.
Their artist, Anatol “Tony” Rychalski, 91, of Shorewood, describes himself as an amateur painter, but he is certainly no amateur artist.
According to the WTTW website, Rychalski was the engineer who oversaw the design and construction of the 50-foot-tall, 162-ton Picasso sculpture outside the Daley Center in Chicago. Rychalski said it also was his job to explain the sculpture and its relation to the city.
“It defines the city as ‘spirit in flight,’ ” Rychalski said. “You look at the wings and the profile of an overwhelmingly powerful lady ... the value of it is enormous.”
Listening to Rychalski explain the concept behind his work, one realizes he creates with purpose and emotional depth, the same way he approaches all art.
“When I look at a painting, I attempt to discern it in a most profoundly detailed manner because just a glance is just a glance,” Rychalski said. “I like to analyze everything in a painting and reach a personal understanding of what each painting represents.”
Rychalski simply wants the opportunity to exhibit his work and/or donate art to nonprofit organizations to assist in their fundraising efforts.
For instance, Rychalski said he donated 20 pieces to the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet for one of its fundraisers, but he has plenty more to share.
“I have about 200 paintings in the garage, all stacked up,” Rychalski said, “and I have about 60 paintings scattered throughout the apartment.”
He’s painted reproductions of John Paul II, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. He prays to live long enough to paint the three popes who came before them, especially Pope John XXIII “because he was in my time.”
“So I’m begging for longevity,” Rychalski said. “During my lifetime, four popes have come and went.”
Rychalski said people have complimented his portraits of the popes, that they are good likenesses. With no formal training in painting, Rychalski takes his own approach to the work.
“When I look at the photographs, I begin with the eyes,” Rychalski said. “Because if I cannot capture the eyes, the rest is practically useless.”
For all these lofty comments, a most unlofty emotion motivated Rychalski to begin painting: rage. For this World War II survivor from Poland, the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks filled him with tremendous anger.
“The awful behavior on the part of humanity made me furious,” Rychalski said. “If I were a young man, I would have gone to defend the city.”
Rychalski was so angry, he said people finally said to him, “Why don’t you do something about it?” So Rychalski transferred his fury to canvas. Many of his portraits express the poignancy of human suffering.
“This lady and her child,” Rychalski said as he points to one of his portraits, “is, to me, the epitome of what is so crucial for us to understand and to pray for some relief. Because humanity is getting evil, frankly. And what do we do for it?”
During World War II, Rychalski said he also knew suffering, but he prefers not to discuss those days. Although Rychalski recently finished his memoir at the advice of a monsignor he greatly respects, Rychalski found the task difficult and not because he “never had one lesson in English grammar.”
“I did not like to talk about it and I still don’t want to talk about it because that’s life,” Rychalski said of his experiences in Poland during World War II. “And life, to some degree, is suffering.”
Rychalski said he came to the United States in 1949 and was immediately drafted to serve in the Korean War. Afterward, he “scrambled to find some money” to earn a degree in structural and architectural engineering.
Eventually, he met his wife, Janine Rychalski, who lived in the Chicago area, accepted a job with U.S. Steel and moved to Pennsylvania. During those years with U.S. Steel, Rychalski said he created historically significant sculpture from elements he collected from steel mills and foundries that had deteriorated or were designated for destruction.
“I’m very much a part of – what you might say – a group of people who care deeply for things that present themselves in artistic fashion,” Rychalski said.
Rychalski and Janine Rychalski moved to the Joliet area five years ago to be close to family. The reduction in living space has meant a reduction in opportunities to paint. When the weather is mild, Rychalski paints in his garage. The townhome is too small for a studio, he said.
His admiration for Picasso inspired him to paint abstracts. Rychalski said society branded Picasso as outrageous, not necessarily a bad label as “anything outrageous in this world fascinates us.”
But Rychalski’s reason for painting abstracts is that it provides the opportunity to view objects in the way one ought to view them, as deliberately distorted, especially when examined from multiple perspectives.
“When I look at a little flower from one part and then look at it from another direction, it is totally different,” Rychalski said.
For more information on Anatol Rychalski and his art, call 815-729-4210.