Józef Czapski An Apprenticeship of Looking

Eric Karpeles

This thoughtful and engaging monograph finally gives a remarkable artist who bore witness to the twentieth century his due.

“Mr. Karpeles, a California-based painter and art critic, has ignited international interest in Czapski’s artwork.” —Wall Street Journal

This stunning monograph, a long-overdue critical appraisal of Polish artist Jo´zef Czapski arrives at a moment when the artist’s legacy is gaining new recognition. Within these pages, author Eric Karpeles conveys how making art was so enmeshed with Czapski’s way of seeing and being in the world that it was second nature. Given that he lived into his ninety-seventh year, it’s no surprise that the artist has works dating from every decade of the twentieth century but the first. As witness to the tumultuous events of that century, he found in painting “a refuge and a salvation.”

Prolific as a painter, he was equally disciplined in recording the events of his life in pencil, ink, and watercolor in his journals. At a time when abstract art tended to dominate aesthetic discourse, he preferred to observe the world around him, to portray people going about their daily business. Some of his most compelling works depict theatergoers and art lovers doing what they do best—looking.


Eric Karpeles


Eric Karpeles is a painter as well as writer and translator. Author of Almost Nothing: The 20th-Century Art and Life of Józef Czapski, he is a fellow of the Czeslaw Milosz Institute at Claremont McKenna College.