Photos prof. Roman Reinfuss in Museum Ethnographic in Krakow

Photographs by Professor Roman Reinfuss at the Ethnographical Museum in Krakow

A series of 32 photos was taken at Lipnica Wielka on April 30, 1969 at the Smreczak family farm. Due to the fact that at the end of August Heródek fell ill and got to hospital in Nowy Targ where he died on September 1, they are probably ones of his last photos,

The photographs register a few situations. The first of them show Heródek playing the violin, and his music is being recorded on the tape recorder. Next to him there are Bożena Kłobuszowska, a psychologist and Zbigniew Poprawski, a theatre director and a folklore lover. On other photos Heródek presents his sculptures (we can see as many as 15), placed on the ground, on the logs and on the top of a fuel wood pile. We can see his typical figures of angels with wings, Madonnas, bishops with miters and the Resurrected Christ with the banner. Such spontaneous ‘exhibitions’ of sculptures brought from the shed outside or to the meadow, were Heródek’s favorite performances. He enjoyed them even better when he found listeners to his tales of the saints’ good life.

Next photos show Karol Wójciak looking at the reproductions of works of art. Next to him there appears a curious elderly woman and a boy from the Smreczak family. It is possible that the boy acted as an interpreter since Heródek, as we know from several accounts expressed himself in a mumbling way and was best understood by children. The situation of looking at the pictures was registered in ten photos which may point to the longest lasting meeting with Heródek. On two of them we can see Heródek who is looking at Rubens’s Bacchanalia with focused attention. Most certainly it is the moment described by Kłobuszowska studying the sculptor’s esthetical taste and creative motivations. ‘He most strongly reacted to Rubens (…) Every painting gave rise to a long comment, cries of admiration; he touched the contours of the painted bodies and objects with his fingers, saying ‘how beautiful it is’. In order to make sure that such strong reactions were not a coincidence, I showed him a few days later 40 colorful reproductions, among which there was only one painting by Rubens. Karol looked through the pictures without any reaction and only when he got to ‘Bacchanalia’, he became clearly livened up, his mimics and gestures changed. He remained focused on the reproduction for half an hour’ (see B. Kłobuszowska, Karol Wójciak Heródek. A Portrait of a Folk Artist.; Polish Folk Art; Polska Sztuka Ludowa , 1972, vol 4, p. 213).

Further photographs show Wójciak carrying a basolia and sitting down with them on the stairs in front of a house. We learn from the article by Janusz Mroczek, that Heródek used to play not only the violin but the basolia when he participated in all the local celebrations such as weddings, christenings and even funeral parties.

The last three photos show Heródek carving with a clasp knife. There is one detail worth our attention, namely when he was bending over the illustrations of works of art and when he was carving a figure, he took off his cap from his head as if he wanted to underline that such moments should be distinguished by a gesture of respect.

Grzegorz Graff

*Dated on the basis of: Janusz Mroczek, Heródek’s Music Making (Heródkowe Muzykowanie), ‘Polish Folk Art’ (Polska Sztuka Ludowa), 1972, vol. 4, footnote 4.

Short film of Roman Reinfuss

Roman Reinfuss’s Short Film

In the archive of Ethnographic Museum in Krakow there is a short film material connected with Karol Wójciak Heródek, registered by Prof. Roman Reinfuss at Lipnica Wielka in 1969 (available at YouTube MEK; digitalized by M. Długosz and A. Kazanecki, 2009).

A frame from R. Reinfuss’s film

The film lasting less than five minutes is a black and white silent movie and it comprises two sequences. The first one was shot on 30 April at the Smreczak family farm, where Wójciak lived. We can see Heródek, who, encouraged by the visitors from outside Lipnica, plays the violin and sings. His music is being recorded on the tape recorder. A minute later, Heródek is listening to the recording played to him with visible curiosity and a smile on his face. We can see that the lively music makes him wish to dance, he spontaneously jiggles about and scuttles. Then for a moment there appear Heródek’s sculptures, standing near a pile of fuel wood. Next Heródek looks through the illustrations with painting masterpieces and talks to a lady sitting next to him, probably Bożena Kłobuszowska, the author of the most extensive article of Heródek’s life and output published in ‘Polish Folk Art’ (Polska Sztuka Ludowa, 1972, issue 4, pp. 207-214).


A frame from R. Reinfuss’s film

The other sequence was shot on 3 September and shows the funeral. The coffin with the body of Karol Wójciak is carried from the church at Lipnica Wielka to the parish cemetery. The funeral celebrations are performed by the parish priest Bolesław Góral, and Heródek is accompanied in his last way by the Smreczak family and numerous neighbors. Among the gathered people we may discern another person with a camcorder, which means that apart from the short material by Roman Reinfuss, also another film was made, unfound so far.

Most probably it was the first funeral at Lipnica Wielka which attracted the attention not only of its inhabitants but also of many people from outside the village and which was documented in such a detailed way.

PS. The authors of HERODEK.PL portal are looking for the recordings of Karol Wójciak’s compositions and the above mentioned film from the funeral. We will be grateful for any tips regarding the place where such materials could be kept.

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Grzegorz Graff


Autograph Karol Wójciak “Heródek”

The autograph of Karol Wójciak ‘Heródek’a

It is difficult to decipher the content of the short text, written with a pencil on the pages of school notebook by Heródek’s hand, unskilled in handwriting. It is hard to say if it is a poem, a song or maybe a prayer. The religious oration referring to the matins, the early morning prayer, can be pointed out by the first and last words: velcome aurora (…) like to god (…) amen.

Karol Wójciak attended school for two years. It was enough to master the basics of reading, writing and counting only. Poverty in which he was born did not allow further education, he had to earn his living as a shepherd very early in his life.

When he grew up, he often used his ability to read and even improved it, reaching for occasionally obtained newspapers and religious handouts. He was remembered as a man ready to talk and sharing his reflections willingly. Many people recalling ‘Heródek’ mentioned the fact that he used to surprise, reciting long excerpts from the Bible by heart, interpreting them properly or the content of church sermons (see.  B. Kłobuszowska, Karol Wójciak Heródek. Portret ludowego artysty; A Portrait of Folk Artist, Polish Folk Art. „Polska Sztuka Ludowa”, 1972 issue 4, p. 210).

The autograph of Karol Wójciak ‘Heródek’ can be found in the Władysław Orkan Museum in Rabka-Zdrój.

 Grzegorz Graff