Jan Szczepkowski was born on 8 March 1878 in Stanisławów in Galicia as a son of Alojzy Szczepkowski (1839-1916), who was a railway clerk, and Józefa from Kuczyńscy family(1840-1891). He was brought up in a family that cherished patriotic values. In his memory notes he often emphasizes the fact that his mother, at the age of 13, was involved in helping insurgents fighting in the January Uprising in Lwów.

  In 1891, he started to learn the art of ornamental sculpting in Imperial-Royal Vocational School of Wood Craft. According to Katarzyna Chruździńska-Uhera, an artist researching Szczepkowski’s life, that period of time had the biggest impact on shaping his style presented in the 20s. Truth to be told, he was not particularly fond of these years although he did admit that it was the moment of his first encounter with Podhale and folk art. At school, he learned practical woodworking techniques which proved to be useful later on.

Jan Szczepkowski w czasach krakowskich, ok. 1900-1914

Jan Szczepkowski w mundurze polskim

  At last, he finished his education in Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow where he studied sculpture under the supervision of Alfred Daun and Konstanty Laszczka.

  In the meantime he was working odd jobs such as making ornaments in stucco workshops or painting portraits. Characteristic styles for this particular period are realism combined with Lesser Poland symbolism and influence of Rodin.

  In 1900 Szczepkowski was offered a post of an art director in the office of Eng. Arch. Florian Wyganowski. It gave him an opportunity to work on the Jubilee Exhibition for the 700th anniversary of Riga. His stay there was interrupted by military draft notice from Austrian army ordering him to show up in Cracow. It was so-called one-year volunteer service which ended with an exam and a transfer to the reserve. In subsequent years Szczepkowski took up a job in Girl’s School of Fine Arts and Applied Arts. In 1902, he became an art director of the majolica department of “Józef Niedźwiedzicki i Spółka '' faience factory in Dębniki near Cracow.

  He got the annual grant of Czartoryscy in 1907 and went to Paris. The scholarship was extended for two years thanks to Auguste Rodin’s support. Rodin had an enormous influence on Jan Szczepkowski and although our artist wasn’t his apprentice, he knew Rodin and admired his artwork. He also cherished Emil A. Bourdell but their relationship was more of a friendship rather than master-apprentice situation.

Maria i Jan na ławce na świeżo wytyczonej ulicy w Milanówku

Jan Szczepkowski razem z żoną Marią

  Later on, he returned to Cracow and his social life. Back then he met a promising actress Maria Morozowicz: a daughter of a well-known actor Rufin Morozowicz. Their friendship quickly flourished into something more. The lovebirds got married on 18th May 1913 in Bernardine church in Cracow. They chose Xawery Dunikowski (sculptor) and Albin Chęciński (lawyer) for wedding witnesses. The couple spent their honeymoon in Italy. In 1914, he traveled to Bulgaria as a judge in a contest for a monument of Bulgarian national hero Hadzhi Dimitar. In the same year he got another military call from Austro-Hungarian Army, leaving his pregnant wife in Cracow. A little later, as he got severely wounded (probably on 3 May 1915 in the battle of Kraśnik), he got assigned to Kriegsgräber-Abteilung: a branch taking care or building military cemeteries. In 1916 the artist’s father passed away. When the war was reaching its end he escorted his daughter Hanna and his wife to in-laws house in Milanówek. At the end of 1918 Szczepkowski was discharged from the army. In July 1920 he joined the Polish Army as a volunteer. He did not spend much time there though as in December the same year the volunteer officers got demobilized.

  The biggest progress he made art-wise and career-wise happened in the 20’ and 30’. In 1925, which is claimed to be the most crucial year when it comes to his creative activity, he made a hit on the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Modern Industry in Paris. It happened mostly thanks to General Polish Representative of the Exhibition Jerzy Warchałowski. As he was selecting artists seeking and developing national Polish style who represented the aesthetics closest to his heart, 172 awards were given to Polish creators. Among the greatest successes of the exhibition was the purchase of Szczepkowski's Chapel of Nativity by the French Government. Our artist was awarded with the Grand Prix and Legion of Honour. It was the start of the busiest period in his career. During that time he made decorative bas-relief frieze for the conference room’s rotunda in the Seym of the Republic of Poland (1927-1928) or frieze for Ateneum Theatre (1929) that was destroyed in 1939.

Jan Szczepkowski w milanowskim ogrodzie

Jan Szczepkowski przy stole kreślarskim (1936r.) NAC

Jan Szczepkowski odtwarza model pomnika Adama Mickiewicza w Warszawie w pracowni Przedsiębiorstwa Sztuk Pięknych

  Szczepkowski spent the second world war in Milanówek where he moved with his family in 1936 after his dismissal from the post of the Warsaw’s Urban School of Decorative Arts principal. At the time his daughter and son-in-law were working for intelligence of the Home Army and fought in the Warsaw Uprising. After the fall of the uprising many people found shelter in “Waleria” villa (later it was even occupied by the enemy for a while). Fortunately, the whole family survived this difficult period. Despite the war, Szczepkowski was still working intensively. In the 40’ he was preparing plans for the reconstruction of demolished Warsaw. He was sculpting portraits of his loved ones. He was participating in activities leading to restoring the cultural life in Poland.

  On 1 February 1945 Warsaw’s Department of Trade Union of Polish Artists was appointed in Milanówek and Szczepkowski became a member of its Qualifying Committee. The organization was working effectively and arranged an exhibition of local artists including our sculptor. In 1947, he became the first leader of the Institute Council supervising the activity of the Central Institute of Culture. At the opening conference celebrating the beginning of his work there, he gave a speech in which he shared his vision. He essentially said he had wanted to disseminate art and culture along with giving them a new proper meaning. Furthermore, he wished that every single person living in the real democratic Republic of Poland would be able to experience their beauty along with the meaning they were bound with. In 1957, as a member of the Association of Polish Artists and Designers General Management, he took part in an outdoor meeting of the Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites. In July 1958 he and other 22 artists and social activists formed Temporary Organizational Council for Society of Friends of Fine Arts in Warsaw.

Nekrologi artysty w Życiu Warszawy Nr 45 (6326) piątek, 21 lutego, 1964 r.

Grób Jana Szczepkowskiego na cmentarzu powązkowskim w Warszawie

  Jan Szczepkowski died on 17 February 1964 at the age of 85. He was buried on 21 February in Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw specifically in “Avenue of the Distinguished” (1st raw, 28th place). The tombstone on his grave was created by Zofia and Karol Tchorek.

Information Sources:

Bartoszek Monika, Jan Szczepkowski, Centrum Rzeźby Polskiej w Orońsku, Orońsko, 2014

Chrudzimska – Uhera Katarzyna, JAN SZCZEPKOWSKI, ŻYCIE I TWÓRCZOŚĆ, Urząd Miejski w Milanówku, 2008 r.

Chrudzimska-Uhera Katarzyna, Małżeństwo z rozsądku? : czyli o artystycznych dylematach i kompromisach w czasach władzy ludowej, w oparciu o działalność społeczną, wypowiedzi i projekty rzeźbiarskie Jana Szczepkowskiego z lat 1945-1964, Saeculum Christianum : pismo historyczne

Chrudzimska-Uhera Katarzyna, O rzeźbiarzu (nieco) zapomnianym, Niepodległość i Pamięć 17/1 (31), 257-271, 2010

Chrudzimska-Uhera Katarzyna, Prof. Jan Szczepkowski i jego dzieło (1878-1964), Milanówek Miejsce Magiczne pod red. Andrzeja Pettyna, Towarzystwo Miłośników Milanówka, 2005

Szczepkowski Jan, Wypukłe i wklęsłe. Wspomnienia, Wstęp, opracowanie i komentarz Katarzyna Chrudzimska - Uhera, Urząd Miasta Milanówka, Milanówek, 2010


  • 1878, 8 Marchbirthday in Stanisławów
  • 18.09.1891- 13.07.1895education in Imperial-Royal Vocational School of Wood Craft
  • 1891mother’s death
  • 1895-1900education in Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow
  • 1901starting work as an art director in the office of Eng. Arch. Florian Wyganowski in Riga
  • 1901/1902mandatory military service in imperial-royal Austrian army
  • 1901starting work in Girl’s School of Fine Arts and Applied Arts in Cracow
  • 1902-1905becoming an art director of majolica department of “Józef Niedźwiedzicki i Spółka” faience factory in Dębniki near Cracow
  • 1907-1908receiving the annual grant of Czartoryscy and travelling to Paris
  • 1913, 18 Maymarriage of Szczepkowski and Maria Mrozowicz
  • 1914, Julytraveling to Bulgaria as a judge for the Hadzhi Dimitar monument contest
  • 1914-1918World War I, military service in imperial-royal Austrian army, being assigned to Kriegsgräber-Abteilung – a branch taking care or building military cemeteries, service in Station Command of Prisoners’ Camp in Wadowice
  • 1916father’s death
  • 1920voluntary service in Polish Army
  • Circa 1921-1936work as a pedagogue, from 1923 as a principal in Urban School of Decorative Arts and Painting in Warsaw
  • 1925receiving Grand Prix of International Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Industry in Paris
  • 1939-1945stay in Milanówek
  • from 1945Szczepkowski contributes to work of Trade Union of Polish Artists and leads the Council of Central Institute of Culture
  • 1964, 17 Februarydeath of Jan Szczepkowski
Autoportret, 1960

Creation of the Calendar was based on memories of Jan Szczepkowski included in the book “Wypukłe i wklęsłe” (eng. “Convex and concave”) elaborated by Katarzyna Chrudzimska–Uhera.

Creation of the Calendar was based on memories of Jan Szczepkowski included in the book “Wypukłe i wklęsłe” (eng. “Convex and concave”) elaborated by Katarzyna Chrudzimska–Uhera.


Jan Szczepkowski (z prawej) z architektem Kazimierzem Skórewiczem (w fotelu) na podwórzu gmachu Sejmu

Jan Szczepkowski w gronie kolegów (1914 r.)

Jan Szczepkowski wraz z żoną Marią i teściową Walerią Morozowicz zaraz po powrocie z podróży poślubnej do Włoch

Szopka Zielonego Balonika (ok. 1908 r.) Polona

Anioł z trąbką NAC

Anioł ze skrzypcami NAC

Projekt pomnika Wojciecha Bogusławskiego NAC

Odlew postaci Wojciecha Bogusławskiego (1936 r.) NAC

Maska pośmiertna Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego 1935 r. NAC

Projekt konkursowy autorstwa artysty rzeźbiarza Jana Szczepkowskiego na pomnik marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego na placu Na Rozdrożu w Warszawie

Projekt konkursowy autorstwa artysty rzeźbiarza Jana Szczepkowskiego, który otrzymał I nagrodę, 1926r. NAC

Aniołek lub pastuszek adoracyjny

Afisz zapraszający na zabawę taneczna organizowaną przez Zielony Balonik

Projekt jednego z licznych cmentarzy wojennych wykonany w okresie pracy w Kriegsgräber-Abteilung

Karykatura pisarza Benedykta Hertza. Z tyłu dopisek Benedykt Hertz w urżniętym widzie

Poeta Zdzisław Kleszczyński i malarz Konstanty Mackiewicz na satyrycznym rysunki Jana Szczepkowskiego, 1926 r.