Leon Chwistek

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Witkacy : Portrait of Leon Chwistek, 1913

Leon Chwistek (born June 13, 1884 in Krakow ; † August 20, 1944 in the village of Barwicha (Russian Барвиха) near Moscow ) was a Polish mathematician , painter , art theorist , philosopher and poet .


Chwistek, one of the greatest all-rounders of the 20th century, worked full-time as a high school teacher in Cracow for twenty years from 1906 to 1926 , interrupted only by his service in the Polish legions during the First World War . He had studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, but at the same time attended lectures on mathematics and philosophy at the Jagiellonian University and received his doctorate there. He also attended lectures in Göttingen with David Hilbert and in Paris with Henri Poincaré . From 1922 he was a lecturer in mathematics at the Jagiellonian University and from 1930 to 1941 professor for mathematical logic at the Jan Kazimierz University in Lemberg , where he prevailed against Alfred Tarski in the application . The advocacy of Bertrand Russell , whose type theory Chwistek had dealt intensively with, Stefan Banach and Hugo Steinhaus (whose brother-in-law was Chwistek) also played a role . Shortly before the German invasion of the city in June 1941, he fled east with the Soviet troops and settled in Tbilisi for the next two years , where he taught mathematical analysis . In 1943 he went to Moscow , where he worked with the Communist Union of Polish Patriots Wanda Wasilewskas . In 1944 he died near Moscow.


Chwistek undoubtedly exercised the greatest influence with his philosophical theory of the diversity of realities. In his opinion, there are four basic types of reality:

  1. the reality in general understanding
  2. the physical reality
  3. the phenomenological reality
  4. the visionary (intuitive) reality.

He assigned these four types to four styles in painting:

  1. the primitivism
  2. the realism
  3. the Impressionism
  4. the futurism .

Chwistek defended "common sense" against any form of metaphysics . With his model, which his best friend Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz resolutely rejected, he is in a way one of the forefathers of postmodernism .

In painting, Chwistek is considered the founder of formism , a Polish avant-garde movement that was related to futurism and cubism .


  • Wielość rzeczywistości w sztuce (Multiplicity of Reality in Art), 1918.
  • The Theory of Constructive Types. 1923
  • Zagadnienia kultury duchowej w Polsce (Problems of Intellectual Culture in Poland), 1933.
  • The limits of science: outline of logic and of the methodology of the exact sciences. New York 1948 (Polish: Granice nauki. 1935).


  • Karol Estreicher: Leon Chwistek. Biografia artysty 1884-1944. Kraków 1971.

Web links


  1. Feferman, Feferman Alfred Tarski- life and logic , S. 66f. According to Russell, he is said to have been one of the six people who fully understood his and Alfred North Whitehead's Principia Mathematica in the early years (along with two other Poles).