World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Roman Opałka

Roman Opałka
Opałka in 1995
Born (1931-08-27)August 27, 1931
Hocquincourt, Somme, France
Died August 6, 2011(2011-08-06) (aged 79)
Nationality French, Polish
Known for Painting Contemporary Art
Awards  • 2009 Commander in the Order of Arts and Letters, Paris
 • 2009 Gold Medal of the Cultural Merit « Gloria Artis », Warsaw
 • 1996 Special Prize of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland
 • 1993 Kaiserring, Goslar, Poland
 • 1991 National Prize of Painting, Paris

Roman Opałka (August 27, 1931 – August 6, 2011) was a French-born Polish painter.

Opałka was born on August 27, 1931, in Abbeville-Saint-Lucien, France, to Polish parents. The family returned to Poland in 1946 and Opałka studied lithography at a graphics school before enrolling in the School of Art and Design in Lodz. He later earned a degree from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. He moved back to France in 1977.[1] Opałka lived in Teille, near Le Mans, and Venice.[2] He died at age 79 after falling ill while on holiday in Italy. He was admitted to a hospital near Rome and died there a few days later, on August 6, 2011, three weeks before his 80th birthday.[1]


  • Work 1
  • Exhibitions 2
  • Collections 3
  • Recognition 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


In 1965, in his studio in Warsaw, Opałka began painting numbers from one to infinity. Starting in the top left-hand corner of the canvas and finishing in the bottom right-hand corner, the tiny numbers were painted in horizontal rows. Each new canvas, which the artist called a 'detail', took up counting where the last left off. Each 'detail' is the same size (196 x 135 cm), the dimension of his studio door in Warsaw. All details have the same title, "1965 / 1 – ∞"; the project had no definable end, and the artist pledged his life to its ongoing execution: 'All my work is a single thing, the description from number one to infinity. A single thing, a single life', 'the problem is that we are, and are about not to be'. He had contemplated and tried many different ways to visualize time before settling on this life's work.[3]

Over the years there were changes to the process. In Opałka's first details he painted white numbers onto a black background. In 1968 he changed to a grey background 'because it's not a symbolic colour, nor an emotional one', and in 1972 he decided he would gradually lighten this grey background by adding 1 per cent more white to the ground with each passing detail. He expected to be painting virtually in white on white by the time he reached 7777777 (He did not use commas or number breaks in the works): 'My objective is to get up to the white on white and still be alive.' As of July 2004, he had reached 5.5 million.[2] Adopting this rigorously serialized approach, Opałka aligned himself with other artists of the time who explored making art through systems and mathematics, like Daniel Buren, On Kawara, and Hanne Darboven.[4] He was represented in Paris and New York by Yvon Lambert [5] and in Venice by Galleria Michela Rizzo.

Roman Opałka by Lothar Wolleh

In 1968 Opałka introduced to the process a tape recorder, speaking each number into the microphone as he painted it, and also began taking passport-style photographs of himself standing before the canvas after each day's work.

In 2007 Opałka participated at the symposium "Personal Structures Time-Space-Existence" a project initiated by the artist Rene Rietmeyer.

The final number he painted was 5,607,249.[6]


Opałka participated in many of the art world’s most important international exhibitions, including Documenta in Kassel, Germany, in 1977; the Sao Paolo Bienal in 1987; and the Venice Biennale, in 1995, 2003, 2011 and 2013.[4] He was represented in Paris and New York by Yvon Lambert,[5] in Venice by Galleria Michela Rizzo and, for many years, at John Weber in New York.

In 2003, Les Rencontres d'Arles exhibited his work through "L’œuvre photographique"'s exhibition (the curator was Alain Julien-Laferrière).


Opałka's works can be found in the permanent collections of the Centre Pompidou in Paris and New York’s Museum of Modern Art among others.


Opałka won the celebrated Grand Prize of the 7th International Biennial of Arts and Graphics of Cracow in 1969, the C. K. Norwid Art Critics Award in 1970, Franceʼs National Painting Prize in 1991 and Germanyʼs Kaiser Prize in 1993. He was named Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and of Letters) in France.


  1. ^ a b Bomanowska, Marzena (August 6, 2011). "Zmarł polski malarz Roman Opałka".  
  2. ^ a b William Grimes ( 9, 2011), [Roman Opalka, an Artist of Numbers, Is Dead at 79] New York Times.
  3. ^ "Roman Opałka".  
  4. ^ a b Andrew Russeth (August 9, 2011), Roman Opalka, Artist Who Painted Millions of Numbers, Dies at 79 New York Observer.
  5. ^ a b Yvon Lambert
  6. ^ Roman Opałka Official Website As of September 19, 2011, the homepage of the official website states: "On August 6th 2011, Roman Opalka completed his work". Under those words is an image of the handwritten number "5607249". The name of the image file is "lastNumber.jpg".

External links

  • – Roman Opalka official website
  • Roman Opałka works in Polish Art Gallery Katarzyna Napiórkowska
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from School eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.