Obituary: Lucian Krukowski, artist and professor emeritus, 93

Lucian Krukowski at work in 1977. (Photo: Washington University Archives)

Lucian Krukowski, a painter and professor emeritus of philosophy in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, died Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, at his home in St. Louis. He was working in his studio, and writing, until shortly before his death. He was 93.

Born in New York City in 1929, the only child of Polish immigrants, Krukowski did not speak English until age 7. As a teenager, he studied violin at the Juilliard School and in 1952 earned a bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College. He spent the next two years on active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps, serving as a rifle instructor and a comic-strip artist.

In 1955, Krukowski earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Yale University. He soon joined the faculty at the Pratt Institute in New York, where he completed a master’s degree in 1958. He presented his first solo exhibition, at New York’s Staempfli Gallery, in 1960.

Krukowski joined the WashU faculty in 1969 as dean of the School of Fine Art (now the College & Graduate School of Art at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts), serving in that capacity until 1976. In 1972, Krukowski also enrolled as a part-time doctoral candidate in the Department of Philosophy in Arts & Sciences, and he took a sabbatical year, in 1976-77, to finish the degree.

“No one took me too seriously, including myself, when I first timidly proposed … that I study for a PhD,” Krukowski told the WashU Record. “We all thought that after a few courses, I would have enough and quit.”

But Krukowski persevered and completed his dissertation, “The Attribution of ‘Art’ to Objects,” in 1977. Krukowski explored conditions necessary for applying the term “art” as well as conditions under which art objects can lose that status. He later wrote the books “Art and Concept: A Philosophical Study” and “Aesthetic Legacies,” among others.

Though Krukowski remained a professor of art, in 1977 he also joined the WashU philosophy faculty, as an adjunct and later as a full professor, and chaired that department from 1986-89. He was named professor emeritus in 1996.

Marilyn Krukowski, a professor emerita of biology in Arts & Sciences, and Krukowski’s wife of 58 years, died in 2013. He is survived by their daughter, Samantha; granddaughter, Zoë; and by his longtime companion, Ute Schweitzer Levi.

A celebration of Krukowski’s life will take place from 3-6 p.m. April 8 at Joe’s Cafe and Gallery, 6008 Kingsbury Ave., St. Louis, Mo., 63112. The family asks that those attending bring a bottle and a plate of finger food to share.

The family is working to establish an endowed scholarship in Krukowski’s name for first-generation, first-year art students at the Kansas City Art Institute, where Samantha is the Sosland Family Chair of Foundation Studies and a member of the faculty. Gifts to the Lucian Krukowski Memorial Scholarship Fund can be made here.

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