Karol Kozlowski, a Polish immigrant who settled in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, in 1913 at the age of 28, worked as a factory worker and “fire cleaner” during the day; at night he tended to his collection of exotic birds and painted landscapes, both real and imagined. Whether he was depicting the urban grittiness of New York, which he knew first hand, or the symbolic pastoralism of India and Africa, which he could only imagine, the artist relied on simple, patterned forms and a muted pastel palette to realize his springtime vistas. Kozlowski would first map out his images with pencil and then overpaint with oil. His scenes, for the most part large in scale, are carefully executed, giving the landscapes a stylized quality.
Kozlowski’s painting of Africa, interestingly, looks remarkably like his rendition of India. In fact, this painting could just as easily be a memory painting of the artist’s ancestral home. The symbolic landscape seems less a documenting of a real site in Africa and more about an idealized version of somewhere else far away. The only remote likeness to Africa is perhaps the cultivated towns of South Africa’s coastal communities, but, otherwise, this is just a wonderfully sublime generic rendering of an exotic locale imagined by an urban artist.