The Troyan Project

The Troyan Project


The Troyan Project began in the summer of 2009 when our gallery was contacted by the widow of late artist Matthew Troyan to examine the collection of art he created throughout his lifetime. This review of his work became an all-consuming venture as we began to learn not only about his art, but also his life and what led him to create these beautiful pieces. 

The evolution of this story and the project came from a wonderfully rich reservoir of facts, photographs, letters, and the personal memoirs as written by the artist throughout his lifetime. It is the chronicling of an amazing life journey and a testament to the power of the human spirit to survive in the face of extraordinary circumstances aimed at the destruction of humanity. Welcome to the life and times of master artist Matthew Troyan.


The story of the life of Matthew Troyan is an extraordinary one that can’t be told simply by discussing his work as a free-thinking artist in New York City, part of a group known as “The Irascibles.” Troyan’s story of how he became a well-known and successful artist is an incredible triumph of the human spirit over adversity and overcoming immeasurable odds to reach amazing heights. Troyan endured unspeakable horrors during the Holocaust that no one should ever have to go through. Troyan is in fact the only abstract expressionist to have survived the Holocaust. His experiences at Auschwitz, Mauthausen, and Ebensee influenced his artwork and filled his creative reservoir to make brash, powerful art with an innate understanding of color. 

Troyan was raised in a traditional Catholic family in Kielce, Poland. Unfortunately, he experienced tragedy at an early age when his father and oldest sister both died when Troyan was only three years old. Despite that tragedy, Troyan was a successful student and entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsawat age 24 in 1937. The Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, and Troyan joined the first division of the Polish cavalry. Troyan eventually returned to Warsaw and graduated with the distinction of master artist in 1941. However, he was arrested by the Nazi SS and was sent to Auschwitz in 1942. In Troyan’s memoirs, he wrote that the commandant at Auschwitz only spared his life so that he could paint portraits of Nazi officers. This camp job kept him alive when he was transferred to Mauthausen and Ebensee. Although the job afforded him some minor privileges, hard labor was his expected role with cruel and inhuman living conditions.

Troyan found himself facing death when he was caught stealing five loaves of bread for his friends from the camp bakery. As punishment, he was forced to personally witness each of his five friends executed from gunshots to the head at close range. Troyan himself was then sentenced to be executed on May 9, 1945. Then something incredible happened: on May 5 Allied forces liberated Mauthausen, and Troyan escaped his execution by four days. 

Given a second chance at life, Troyan moved to Düsseldorf and became a student at The Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. He graduated in 1950 and immigrated to New York. He assimilated with the artists in Greenwich Village and gathered with them at the historic Cedar Bar. He befriended famous and influential artists such as Pollock, De Kooning, and Kline. Together, the group of free-thinking artists helped seize the title of capital of the art world away from Paris. Troyan was known as a master colorist. 

In the early 1950s, Troyan had a falling out with Pollock and decided to escape New York and move out to the serene, country setting of Connecticut, where he lived out the remainder of his life while continuing to paint. He had two solo exhibitions at the New Britain Museum of American Art in 1954 and 1965. He produced almost 4,000 works on paper and canvases. 

Troyan’s work as an expressionist is a reflection from first-hand observation of the truth of the cruelty of man. He was a real-time observer of the interaction of good and evil. He was also a testament to the will of the human spirit. He shared his very real feelings in the only way he could – with a paint brush and a piece of paper to present and bear witness to his worldly observations. 
The Matthew Troyan Foundation for the Visual Arts is a non-profit organized to provide scholarships to students who best represent the same outlook on life as the artist Matthew Troyan, who, in the midst of the worst atrocities of the 20th century, was able to rise above all of the horrors and challenges facing him to create beauty in his art. The foundation creates annual scholarships for art students that represent that mastery of Troyan as an artist, but also share the internal motivation and the spiritual approach to art that Troyan reflected. Our recipients are often students who have overcome significant obstacles in their lives. 

The purposes of this foundation are as follows:

1. To create 4 annual scholarships for art students preferably in graduate programs, but in some rare instances for undergraduate students, in the United States that represent not only the mastery of Troyan as an artist but also share the internal motivation and the spiritual approach to art that Matthew had; most especially looking for those students that overcame significant obstacles in their lives to continue on the path to produce a meaningful piece of art for the public through education.

2. To educate the public as to the life and times of Troyan and what led him to produce the art he did. This will be accomplished by establishing a lecture series to be held at public libraries, universities, corporations, and to create written materials to be distributed by the foundation. In conjunction with this, internships, for art history students in accredited graduate programs will be created to provide the manpower necessary to create a strong educational program.

3. To organize and conduct a worldwide tour that would bring Troyan’s works of art to major world museums and universities. A group from Copenhagen, the award winning UEG Adm., winner of the museums heritage award has indicated, through their CEO, Teit Ritzau, that they would be honored to head up the travelling worldwide exhibit of Troyan and have outlined a 1 to 5 year program to make Troyan world-renowned as a master artist.

4. To produce a docudrama of Troyan’s life for public viewing to further bring about an understanding of the person and the artist, Matthew Troyan. To make this possible it will necessitate the hiring of an accomplished screenplay writer to transform the monograph written about Troyan to an acceptable script for the movie industry. From that point it will become necessary to fund both the casting and the shooting of the film and then to establish a working distribution group to get the film to public viewing.

5. To conduct fundraising events that will raise money that is necessary to carry out the mission and goals stated above for the foundation.

Contact Circa Something Gallery to find out more about the Matthew Troyan Foundation for the Visual Arts and the life of this wonderful man. His artwork can be found here at Circa Something Gallery. 
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