Sisters: Alicja & Bożena Wahl


Fundacja Arton

Foksal 11/4, 00-372 Warsaw




Wilcza 29A/12, 00-544 Warsaw


The biography of Alicja and Bożena Wahl in the Dictionary of Polish Painters is the only case of an entry which concerns two people at the same time. Born on 12 October 1932, the twin sisters were extremely prolific for nearly six decades, creating thousands of paintings, drawings, graphic works and television set designs.

They together passed the entrance exam to the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (1952) and they both graduated at the same time (1958), even though there had been no artistic traditions in their family. The sisters’ idea to apply to the Academy of Fine Arts was not approved by their mother, but by that time she had very little influence over the life of her daughters – according to one of the many family stories, the girls left their home on the day of their 18th birthday, or actually in the night. As soon as the clock struck midnight, they abandoned the family home on Noakowskiego Street and moved to Alicja’s future husband, writer Roman Bratny. It was in Bratny’s flat in Konstancin, which was often visited by interesting guests: artists, writers, intellectuals, filmmakers, that the idea of studying at the Academy of Fine Arts emerged.

Among the sisters’ surviving early works there are not only paintings and drawings, but also some ceramics: plates and vases with simplified cubist shapes (in private collections and the collection of the Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw), as well as sculptural forms. The film documentation of their first joint exhibition at the Krzywe Koło gallery in 1961 shows sculptures shaped like female figure, with big breasts and full hips.

The same footage shows a large plate with two moving parts and an androgenic figure painted on each of them. While presenting this work, the sisters made a seemingly trivial gesture: they each held one part of the vessel, in turns putting it together and separating. In retrospect, the action looks like a symbol of the complicated relationship between them, resulting from the constant need to be together and the conflicts caused by it. This relationship is reflected in a passionate and emotional manner in their practice. Without a doubt, Alicja mainly drew and painted herself and her sister Bożena, while Bożena – herself and her sister Alicja.

The artists did not distance themselves from their femininity, which seems ambiguous in their works, with many versions and forms, and as such becomes the most interesting area of ​​their experiments. Most of their works are about the same: being a woman (young, older, and finally old; creative, tired, angry, happy, with a constant need to take and give love; in love and in the depths of despair, and in all the states in between), as well as being a twin sister.

Bożena and Alicja Wahl are undoubtedly among the most talented and original drawers in Polish post-war art. Using the simplest means, a pencil, ink, or a ballpoint pen, and they created thousands of self-portraits making up a strange universe, simultaneously overcrowded and populated just by the two of them. The drawings show female figures as disturbing twin creatures, or even fungi and plants, insects, thalli, lichens, anemones, brain-like corals, monstrous creatures. In various forms, but always linked by a bond, sometimes creative, but over time increasingly destructive. The two sisters – devoted to each other and doomed to each other.

However, as time went by, some noticeable differences began to emerge in their paintings, drawings and graphics. Alicja focused primarily on portraits and figures of women in slightly brighter colours, while Bożena’s works became dominated by blackness. Her women became demons, apparitions, arising fear and sympathy at the same time.

Today, in the wake of a thorough revision of the field of art in terms of restoring or even developing awareness of artists whose work did not resonate strongly enough (or not at all), the work of Bożena and Alicja Wahl is waiting to be re-interpreted, or perhaps discovered for the first time.

The exhibiotion at lokal_30 is co-financed by the Capital City of Warsaw


Foksal 11 St. app. 4 (2nd gate, 1st. floor), Mon. & Thurs. - Sat. 12-6 PM.
  Marika Kuźmicz tel. +48 502 055 130