Nikifor Krynicki, de son vrai nom Epifaniusz Drowniak, né le 21 mai 1895 à Krynica-Zdrój, mort le 10 octobre 1968 à Folusz et inhumé à Krynica-Zdrój où un musée lui est consacré, est un peintre polonais considéré comme représentatif des peintres naïfs. Il était d’origine ruthène par sa mère et appartenait à l’ethnie Lemko.
Nikifor was born in Krynica (Poland) in 1895, where he also died in1968. He was of Lemko origins. Lemko people are descendants of the old Ruthenians. His mother raised him on her own in conditions of extreme poverty and hardship, earning a living through various odd jobs and housework. He inherited a hearing and speech impediment from her which obstructed communication with other people, hence the legend that he was a deaf-mute. Orphaned during World War I and unable to communicate, Nikifor was treated like a misfit and ridiculed by the people of Krynica. He found himself isolated both physically and emotionally. He began to paint very early in life. When he could not make a living by selling his works, he begged. Deeply and naively religious, he formed his concept of God, Heaven and Hell from the paintings seen in Orthodox and Catholic churches. He tried to conceal the fact that he was illiterate by writing on his paintings wrongly spelled sentences, and to increase the importance of his paintings by drawing in certain expressions, frequently having no connection with the subject matter. He made pencil drawings of the buildings he saw, especially town houses, railway stations and churches, imitating them while transforming them in his own fantastic way. Some themes he kept coming back to, such as the “Painters’ Feast,” for he believed that in the other world painters would sit down at the table of the Lord because they were better than other people in the sense that they could not only copy the world but shape it to fit their own will and imaginations. Convinced that he would find in the other world the justice that eluded him in this one, he frequently portrayed himself as the Bishop-Wise Man or a Bishop-Judge, condemning to damnation those who had done him injustice. Nikifor painted at least ten thousand pictures on sheets of paper, on pages of notebooks, on cigarette cartons, and even on scraps of paper glued together. His paintings are now in many museums and private collections in Poland and abroad, and have been on display in many international exhibitions… like the famous Municipal Museum of Amsterdam. In 2004 a film (“My Nikifor”) was made about his life. The leading role of Nikifor is performed by an 84 year old Polish actress, Krystyna Feldman. She was awarded for her part during the Gdynia Film Festival.