Feliks Topolski was born in Warsaw on 14th August 1907 and studied
at the Warsaw Academy of Art from 1927-1932.
In 1933, Topolski began the first of a series of journeys around Europe,
visiting Austria, Italy, Germany and France. In 1935, he was commissioned
to go to Britain to record King George V’s Silver Jubilee. He
settled in London, where he remained at the outbreak of war in 1939.
From 1940, he was an official war artist and joined the first Arctic
convoy to Russia in 1941.
During the Second World War, Topolski sailed from Britain to Egypt,
later visiting the Levant: Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. He
travelled onto India, Burma and China and was in Bergen-Belsen concentration
camp two weeks after its liberation in April 1945, and later attended,
and drew, the Nuremberg Trials.
Cavalcade of the Commonwealth was commissioned
for the 1951 Festival of Britain. In 1958 Prince Philip commissioned
a mural of Elizabeth II’s Coronation for Buckingham Palace.
From 1953-1979 the artist published Topolski’s
Chronicles, broadsheet drawings of his travels
- documenting history as it happened.
Topolski returned to India in 1949-50 at the invitation of the Prime
Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, recorded Pope Paul VI’s visit
to the Holy Land in 1964 and went back to China in 1966 at the start
of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. He travelled to America in 1968
and documented the Democratic Convention riots in Chicago, before
going to San Francisco to meet members of the Black Panther Party.
Feliks Topolski made face to face portraits of the leading personalities
of the 20th century from Gandhi to Shaw, from Churchill to Martin
Luther King (and stage and screen giants such as Edith Evans, Alec
Guiness and Laurence Olivier).
Topolski received an honorary doctorate from the Jagiellonian University
in Krakow, Poland in 1974. In 1975 Topolski began work on the painted
panorama he called Memoir of the Century, now renamed Topolski Century.
He died in London on 24th August 1989.
In 2012, Topolski Memoir Ltd aims to restore Topolski’s original
artist’s studio as a working art and print studio equipped with
an off-set litho printing press and archive of original paintings
and Chronicles, to become the heart of Topolski Memoir Ltd’s
Our vision for the future of the Topolski Studio comprises the following
An Active Legacy
As a chronicler of some of the most significant moments and characters
that shaped the twentieth century, Topolski was continually interacting
with the events of his day. Through his methods of print production
and the distribution of his eye witness Chronicles to subscribers
from around the world, Topolski was at the heart of a worldwide political,
cultural and social network. Topolski Studio believes in bringing
alive this unique artistic practice through a programme of active
learning opportunities for the local community. Rather than passively
consuming the artwork and being educated about its historical significance,
community members will learn from participating in the techniques
and methods that Topolski pioneered as a tool for social and cultural
A Contemporary Intervention
Topolski Studio will be a contemporary intervention both in terms
of how it will engage with and shape current drawing practices, contributing
to their present resurgence, and also in how those practices, inspired
by Topolski’s use of drawing as reportage, will involve people
in current events and contemporary life. We intend to offer residencies
to young people currently not in employment, education or training,
where they will work together to produce, distribute and exhibit their
own broadsheet Chronicles. They will use print as a strategy for social
and political engagement, be artistically innovative and bring new
perspectives to contemporary issues. This will widen pathways into
and increase the diversity of the arts and cultural sector.
A Community Resource
Topolski Studio will be a centre of community life, providing artistic
training and a space to experiment and enjoy art, particularly printmaking
and drawing. Our community and artistic goals are not separate; we
believe everyone can achieve excellence and, through engaging people
in new techniques, we aim to demystify artistic production and make
it open to all. Members of the community will participate in all aspects
of the Studio and, through peer to peer learning schemes, will themselves
become ‘experts’ and artists.