Starting in the seventies, Bartnikowski for three decades or so was a familiar, if somewhat strange, fixture in the area. Astride his bicycle, with easel, and paints ready, he was constantly on the look out for subject. Dressed in a French Foreign Legion style military cap with the brim flattened out, and a home–made curtain-like attachment to protect his neck from the sun, he painted what struck and sometimes infuriated his subjects when he told them that his canvases were not for sale.
His birth came on the heels of tragedy. Two weeks before his entry into the world, his father had died of a brain aneurysm and his mother, just a teenager, was left with three children. She went off to work in the Jute Mill on Oak Street, barely scraping together enough money to send him to Saint Stanislaw Kostka.
A beloved older brother proved to be mentally unstable and died in a psychiatric hospital. The painter blamed himself for the death and decided to work in a psychiatric hospital himself to help people like his brother. He grew silent and reclusive.
He bought a home on the island near the hospital and began to surround himself with the thousands of pieces of art he produced, but could never bear to part with. Finally, the firemen responded to an alarm at his house. When they finally doused the flames they found his charred body together with his life’s work, which was largely spared from the flames.
I have no idea what has happened to his work. It would be great for his paintings to be part of a local show because he painted stunning local scenes.