Exhibition Józef Czapski | Painter and writer

Closed to the public, except for schools visits until Sunday 28 February 

The exhibition can’t be extended for the second time. We will propose a virtual tour on this page in early March.


The life of the painter, writer, critic, and enlightened thinker Józef Czapski (Prague, 1896 – Maisons-Laffitte, 1993) practically coincides with the whole of the 20th century. Moreover, he knew its tragedies and upheavals directly and intimately. Born in Poland, Czapski grew up in the waning days of the Russian Empire. The World Wars forced him as a soldier and officer to confront the horrors and reversals of the conflicts, from imprisonment in 1939 in the Soviet POW camp of Starobielsk to combat against the Nazis in Anders’ Army, the Polish Armed Forces in the East, starting in 1941. Just after the war, Czapski settled near Paris in Maisons-Laffitte, never to see his homeland again. He became an active contributor to Kultura, the famous review of the Polish dissidence published in France, and was unflagging throughout his life in denouncing totalitarian systems and the lies they litter history with, like the massacre of Katyń, of which he was one of the rare survivors.

While his early artistic output was destroyed during the war, Czapski set to work once again in his one room studio and would actively write and paint for another five decades. Proof of his determination and devotion to various forms of expression can be seen in some three hundred volumes of his diary, which he kept between 1941 and 1992, pages and pages that mix notes with visual research, drawings, and watercolors. These notebooks contain the seeds of all his literary texts (Memories of Starobielsk and The Inhuman Land), of his essays on art (L’Œil and Tumulte et spectres), and of all his paintings. It was painting that gave his life its full meaning and Czapski wrote, “I always breathe with my breath, I always see, I always breathe with my eyes.” From this breath springs a pictorial language based on the dab of color and focused on nature, distilled and purified of all that is inessential.

Through a selection of diaries, books, and drawings, as well as a group of significant paintings that run from self-portraits and still lifes to landscapes and scenes of “the everyday theater” and museums, the Jan Michalski Foundation’s exhibition brings to the fore Józef Czapski’s creative process in his writing and painting. An exceptional destiny in a deeply humanist soul.

Delving further into this survey of Czapski’s painting, Richard Aeschlimann’s Maison des arts Plexus in Chexbres is featuring some fifty of his pieces in parallel with the foundation’s show. Aeschlimann was Czapski’s friend and the former’s gallery began representing the Polish artist in 1976. The Maison des arts Plexus show reminds us that Switzerland was also a refuge for Czapski, where he developed and maintained connections with a range of artists and writers, and with his publishers at L’Âge d’Homme and Noir sur Blanc.

Guest curator
Mikołaj Nowak-Rogoziński

In partenership with the exhibition

Joseph Czapski, l’existence dans la peinture,
from 3 October 2020 to 17 January 2021 
at Maison des arts Plexus
Place du Nord 1, 1071 Chexbres
Curators: Richard Aeschlimann and Nicolas Raboud

Visit by appointment | Phone number: 021 946 28 30 and also on the common tours dates in the programme: 24 October, 15 November, 12 December and 17 January



General show opening 
Friday 2 October at 6.30 pm
Free admission | On reservation billetterie@fondation-janmichalski.ch – SOLD OUT

Temporarily closed 

CHF 5.- (full price) | CHF 3.- (students, groups, retirees, unemployed, persons with disabilities) | Free to visitors under 18 and residents of Montricher
Free admission the first Sunday of each month.

All areas of the Jan Michalski Foundation that are open to the public are completely accessible to people with disabilities and reduced mobility.


Events programme


Guided tours of the show in English, by the curator Mikołaj Nowak-Rogoziński
Saturday 3 October at 4.30 pm
Sunday 4 October at 4.30 pm
Free with admission ticket | On reservation visite@fondation-janmichalski.ch

Around Czapski’s biography 
Almost Nothing: The 20th-Century Art and Life of Józef Czapski () is a compelling biography of the Polish painter and writer in which Eric Karpeles, also a painter, reveals Czapski’s full complexity, pulling together all the threads of this remarkable life. A lecture with Eric Karpeles will be organized as soon as the conditions permit.


Lumières sur le peintre-écrivain Józef Czapski 
Samedi 3 octobre
17h30 | Table ronde avec Richard Aeschlimann, Jil Silberstein et Adam Zagajewski
Offert | Sur réservation à tableronde@fondation-janmichalski.ch
19h | Projection commentée du film Józef Czapski : témoin du siècle avec Andrzej Wolski
Offert | Sur réservation à cinema@fondation-janmichalski.ch

Nouvelles visites commentées (avec plan de protection sous COVID-19)
Vendredi 4 décembre, à 10h et à 12h
Jeudi 10 décembre à 10h et à 12h
Mercredi 16 décembre à 10h et à 12h
Jeudi 7 janvier à 10h et à 12h –CANCELED
Vendredi 15 janvier à 10h et à 12h – CANCELED
Mercredi 20 janvier à 10h et à 12h – CANCELED
Mardi 26 janvier à 10h et à 12h – CANCELED
Offert avec le billet d’entrée à l’exposition | Sur réservation à visite@fondation-janmichalski.ch, en précisant l’horaire souhaité (10h ou 12h).

Visites commentées en français, communes avec la Maison des arts Plexus à Chexbres
Samedi 24 octobre à 11h à Montricher / à 14h15 à Chexbres – SOLD OUT
Dimanche 15 novembre à 11h à Montricher / à 14h15 à Chexbres – SOLD OUT
Samedi 12 décembre à 11h à Montricher / à 14h15 à Chexbres – CANCELED
Dimanche 17 janvier à 11h à Montricher / à 14h15 à Chexbres – CANCELED
Offert avec le billet d’entrée à l’exposition | Sur réservation à balade@fondation-janmichalski.ch, en précisant si vous souhaitez bénéficier de la navette.

Moments famille 
« L’œil de l’artiste : atelier du croquis à la toile »
Mercredi 28 octobre de 14h à 16h30 – SOLD OUT
Mercredi 4 novembre de 14h à 16h30 – SOLD OUT
Mercredi 9 décembre de 14h à 16h30 – CANCELED
Enfants dès 7 ans, accompagnés d’un adulte
Offert | Sur réservation à mediation@fondation-janmichalski.ch

Concert « Autour des lieder de Schubert »
par Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian

Online on Friday 12 February
CHF 20.- (plein tarif) ; CHF 15.- (retraités, chômeurs, AI) ; CHF 10.- (étudiants) | Sur réservation à concert@fondation-janmichalski.ch