Painter, mountaineer, spelunker.
Born on November, 29, 1943. He attended the High School of Fine Arts in Zamość and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw from which he graduated with honours. In the years 1968-1970 he was an assistant in a workshop of coloured wood engraving run by professor Wacław Waśkowski. In 1970 Ryszard moved to Gdańsk where in the years 1970-1974 he worked at the State Higher School of Fine Arts as an assistant of the following professors: Włodzimierz Padlewski, Lech Kadłubowski and Jerzy Zablocki. Apart from painting, climbing became the artist’s passion- I had to choose: either a career at the university, or the mountains. I chose the latter, says Ryszard Kowalewski.
He began his long-term adventure with the mountains in the High Tatras and since 1965 has done various notable ascents -in the Tatras, Alps, in the mountains of Norway. His partners included, among others, Wojciech Kurtyka, Wojciech Wróż, Tadeusz Piotrowski, Wojciech Jedlinski, Jan Kiełkowski and many other outstanding climbers.
“In 1972 Ryszard Kowalewski, Andrzej Dvorak, Wojciech Jedlinski and Tadeusz Piotrowski made the first winter ascents of the Fiva-ruta, with a new variant, on the North-East wall of the Store Trolltind and the Trollryggen Pillar – Europe’s largest icy big-wall route, which was considered the best achievement of the winter season.
Two years later, Ryszard, Wojciech Kurtyka, Tadeusz Piotrowski and Marek Kęsicki made the first winter ascent of one of the hardest rock routes -a 1000-metre Cliff Trollveggen direttissima, with the difficulties of VI +, A4. It was at that time, as Tadeusz Piotrowski wrote in “Taternik”, the greatest achievement of Polish winter alpinism. ” (Tygodnik Podhalański, Apoloniusz Rajwa, 2009 r.)
He has led expeditions to high mountains. He has summitted, among others, two virgin seven-thousanders in the Karakoram range. He also faced eight-thousanders in the Himalayas of Nepal where he also climbed a virgin six-thousander in winter. Ryszard has made first ascents of five-thouanders in Pamir-Altai and the Andes. He has also explored virgin caves in Colombia.
In the years 1993-1999 he served as a treasurer and then vice-president of The Union of Polish Artists and Designers (ZPAP), since April 2010 has been vice-president again. The passion for mountains is dominantly reflected in his work, he paints mountains and portraits of mountain people.
On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of his artistic work, he received the award of the Mayor of Gdańsk in the field of culture. For his social work in The Union of Polish Artists and Designers (ZPAP) he got the Golden Honourable Badge of ZPAP.
For his mountaineering achievements he has received: two gold medals “for outstanding sports achievements” as well as silver and bronze ones. In 2013 he became an honorary member of the Polish Mountaineering Association.