Zygmund Jankowski

Zyg-Zag and SplatterZygmund Jankowski was a dedicated and innovative painter, a colorful and generous personality, and a loved and respected teacher. His paintings have been exhibited nationally and internationally, and he has become one of the most important artists of his time on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, influential both as a painter and as the colleague and teacher of a generation of artists.

He was born into a Catholic family in South Bend, Indiana, where he raised a family and earned a living as a commercial illustrator. He began to summer on Cape Ann in 1964 and by the late 1970s had moved permanently to Gloucester, where he devoted the rest of his life to his own art.

During his career, Jankowski explored a variety of styles. In the mature work, he is best described as a colorist and expressionist who paints traditional subjects with exuberant irreverence for traditional rules of color, composition, and perspective.

He disparaged imitation and delighted in breaking the so-called rules of art — not in rebellion, but from a deep understanding that perceived their limitations. He cultivated an intuitive, uninhibited painting process which allowed him to transcend conventions without rejecting them. He worked in series, painting the same subject up to twenty times in a day. “I could do the same subject a thousand times,” he said. “Each time I try it, there’s something different in me that responds.”

He neither planned nor sketched his paintings, but romanced each one anew, often to music, dancing with it, lunging at it, stroking it. While painting, he said, “you stand as a referee between the scene, your emotions, and the [painting], juggling emotion and logic, intuition and analysis.” He said his brush was a musical instrument; or he called painting foreplay and a painting the child of an artist and his subject. “For Zyg,” says a friend, “art was life, and life was art.”

Having artistic talent, he said, entails an obligation to get to work, and the choice to be an artist was a serious responsibility to a journey of self-discovery, seeking the mystery within oneself as well as within the subject. “Stay up late and do some work,” he exhorted artists. “Grab at life! Work as if five hundred years wouldn’t be enough to do all you want to do.” With tireless commitment to his art, Jankowski expressed his playfulness and wit, his generosity of spirit, and his exuberance for life in the vivid and unexpected colors and compositions of his paintings.

In Jankowski’s thoughtfully spontaneous process, one can discern a happy marriage of Catholic mysticism and obligation with the principles of Zen calligraphy, in which a few unpremeditated brushstrokes embody years of devoted study and practice. “If I’ve lost some of my religion,” he said tellingly, “my art has become all that much more important.”

— Matthew Swift

Videos
Remembering Zyg
May 10, 2014 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Four speakers share memories and reflections on the life and art of Zygmund Jankowski.
Past Exhibitions at Trident Gallery
A Time for Blue
January 20, 2017 - March 26, 2017
A themed exhibition of art selected by Director Matthew Swift.
Zygmund Jankowski: Unscripted
September 10, 2016 - October 23, 2016
Exceptional examples of Zygmund Jankowski’s landscapes, seascapes, farmscapes, jazz, florals, still lifes, self-portraits, and biplanes.
In the Time We Have
March 12, 2016 - April 24, 2016
An exhibition of new and selected works of art reflecting themes of time, ephemerality, and maturity.
Beyond Real: Contemporary Landscapes
August 15, 2015 - September 13, 2015
A group exhibition offering more than fifty paintings, drawings, photographs, and mixed media works in the genre of landscape, chosen to represent a diversity of artistic approaches.
AD20/21 and Boston Print Fair 2015
March 26, 2015 - March 29, 2015
Spring Improvisations
March 20, 2015 - May 31, 2015
During Spring Improvisations, special offerings and recent work by gallery artists will be on display and may change frequently and improvisationally. Stop into the gallery regularly to see new work and tell the Director what you’d like to see next.
Harbortown 2014
July 3, 2014 - July 27, 2014
An exhibition celebrating Gloucester Harbor and the area’s legacy of more than 150 years of excellence in the visual arts, displaying works of art by eighteen Cape Ann artists, including four guest artists, and introducing Gloucester artist Ed Touchette, now represented by Trident Gallery.
Zygmund Jankowski: A Celebration of Life
April 25, 2014 - May 26, 2014
Trident Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of exceptional and historically important oil and watercolor paintings from the estate of Zygmund Jankowski 1925–2009).
Walls of Plenty
November 29, 2013 - January 5, 2014
A cornucopia of art to feed the soul.
Home: The Inaugural Exhibition
August 30, 2013 - October 14, 2013
Trident Gallery's inaugural exhibition shows the work of twelve artists representing the excellence and variety of contemporary fine art on Cape Ann. Gallery Director Dr. Matthew Swift has assembled 39 works of art that explore ideas of “home.”