The Painted Bird

Novel, 1965
Author: Jerzy Kosinski

The story is set in the first few weeks of World War II, when a six-year-old Jewish boy from a large Polish city is sent by his parents to the shelter of a distant village. The boy is entrusted to the care of a peasant woman, but within two months of his arrival she dies. The parents do not know this, and the child has no way of making contact with them. He wanders through the countryside of war-torn Poland, among people who are hostile towards him. For a while, he lives under the protection of Lekh, a solitary young man who makes his living as a bird trapper. Lekh loves a woman, Ludmila, with whom he has passionate sexual relations. Ludmila was raped as a young girl and is now crazed with sexual lust. The farmers call her "stupid Ludmila". She sometimes disappears for several days, and it is during one such period of separation that Lekh, out of sheer frustration, paints one of his birds in beautiful colors and releases it. The bird tries to join a flock of its own species, but the other birds attack and kill it because they do not recognize it as one of their own.

The story of the painted bird is a metaphor of how society casts out and destroys individuals who are “different”. This is exactly what the little Jewish boy experiences in the cruel, perverted and hostile rural community in which he is trying to survive.



The painted bird
Oil on canvas 120 x 100
1974



The hanged
Oil on canvas 50 x 60
1974



Elka and the he-goat
Oil on canvas 50 x 60
1974



Stupid Ludmilla
Oil on canvas 50 x 60
1974



The Kalmuks
Oil on canvas 50 x 60
1974


Encounter on a frozen river
Oil on canvas 60 x 70
1974

These paintings by Willem Hofhuizen reflect a very sensitive and sympathetic interpretation of Kosinski's novel. Note the cold silence that emanates from "Stupid Ludmila" and "Encounter on a Frozen River".