Stanislaw Witkiewicz (1851-1915) was born in Lithuania, then ruled by the Russian Empire. At the age of 12, he took part in the 1863 January uprising, acting as courier to partisan groups. When this uprising failed, he and his family fled to Tomsk where the young Stanislaw took drawing lessons. He later studied art in St Petersburg, then Munich, returning to Poland for some time where he painted, illustrated, and became interested in artistic theory and criticism.
In 1886, he made his first trip to Zakopane in southernmost Poland, falling in love with its mountains and folk art. However, he contracted tuberculosis later in life, and in an effort to heal his lungs, he moved to Lovran, Croatia, by the Adriatic Sea. He returned for a further three years to his beloved Zakopane, but in 1908 he settled in Lovran remaining there until his death on 5 September 1915.
This painting’s title refers to a Halny wind, a type of warm, violent windstorm that occurs, mainly in October and November, February and March in southern Poland and the mountains of Slovakia. It causes great damage, leading to avalanches and some say, influencing people’s mental states. In May 1968, a destructive halny known as the ‘Wind of the Century’ swooped down on southern Poland, where swathes of forest were ravaged by gales that were reported to have reached 288 km/h, or 179 mph.