Tadeusz Kantor

From Academic Kids

Tadeusz Kantor (b April 6, 1915 in Wielopole Skrzyńskie - December 8, 1990 in Kraków, Poland) was an Polish painter, scene designer and theatre director.

Graduating from the Kraków Academy in 1939, Kantor founded the Independent Theatre during the Nazi occupation. He became a professor at Kraków’s Academy of Fine Arts and a director of experimental theatre in Kraków in the years 1942-1944. Following the war, he become known for his avant-garde work in stage design including designs for Saint Joan (1956) and Measure for Measure (1956).

Becoming disenfranchised by the avant-garde's increasing institutionalization, in 1955 he and a group of visual artists formed his own theatre, Cricot 2. In the 60s, he traveled widely with his theatre becoming known for staging "happenings". His interest was mainly with the absurdists and polish surreallist Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz. The Cuttlefish (1559) and The Water Hen (1969) were his best known productions during this time.

Dead Class (1970) was the most famous of his theatre pieces of the 1970s. Within the piece, Kantor himself took the role of a teacher who presided over seemly dad characters who are confronted by mannequins which represented their younger selves. He had began experimenting with the juxtaposition of mannequins and live actors in the 1950s.

His later works of the 80s were very personal reflections. As in Dead Class, he would sometimes represent himself onstage. In the 1990s, his works became well known in the United States due to presentations at Ellen Stewart's Cafe La Mama.

Productions and works

After the war he set up his own avant-garde theatre, Cricot 2, where, amongst others, the works of Witkacy were presented:

  • The Cuttlefish (1956)
  • The Hyrcanian World View
  • In the Small Mansion
  • The Madman and the Nun
  • The Water Hen (1968)
  • Where Are the Snows of Yesteryear (1982)
  • Let the Artist Die (1985)
  • I Shall Never Return (1988)
  • Today is My Birthday (1990)

His most important works are:

  • Death of a class (1975)
  • Wielopole, wielopole (1980)
  • You will never return here (1985)

His best known paintings are:

  • Man with Umbrella (1949)
  • the Industrial bags series (1964)
  • Emballage (1964 - 1975)
  • the Nothing any more series (1986 - 1990)
  • September Defeat (1990)


  1. Wilson, Edwin. Goldfarb, Alvin. Living Theatre: A History. Publisher: McGraw-Hill, 4th edition. August 5, 2003. ISBN 0072562579pl:Tadeusz Kantor

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