Feliks Topolski was a British artist of Polish origin. Born in Warsaw in 1907, Topolski studied at the Warsaw Academy of Art between the years of 1927 – 1932. Alongside his early artistic education, Topolski undertook training at the Artillery Officers’ School for some time before serving as a second lieutenant in the Artillery Reserve. His political awareness, informed by both his personal travels and his experiences with the Army, would become a significant feature in his later artistic work.
In 1935, after having contributed cartoons and illustrations to several Polish publications, Topolski was commissioned to travel to England to document the Silver Jubilee of King George V. The artist quickly settled down to life in London, becoming acquainted with a diverse group of writers and artists whose cultural commentary drew parallels with Topolski’s own ideals. He began contributing illustrations to several London magazines and newspapers, forging a name for himself as one of the most popular impressionists of the time working in the medium. Topolski remained in London following the outbreak of the Second World War, serving as an official War artist for the British government. Whilst initially documenting the Battle of Britain and the Blitz from the streets of London, the artist soon received a commission to travel first to Russia and then to Egypt, India, Burma and China to record scenes of the War. His involvement with the Second World War was such that Topolski documented the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp before serving as an official artist at the Nuremberg Trials. His career as an artistic journalist continued for many years after the War, documenting significant political and cultural events during the 1950s for several publications, including the artist’s own broadsheet ‘Topolski’s Chronicle’. It was here, in the studio that produced the Chronicle, that Topolski began his iconic Memoir of the Century series of murals, a panoramic documentation of the celebrated and forgotten memories of his adopted home, which he would continue to work upon until his death.
The artist died in London in 1989, shortly after his election to the Royal Academy. His work can be seen today in the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Imperial War Museum and the Tate collections in London, among several others both in Britain and abroad.