Some attribute to it only the modest role of an intermediary, while it often has been more popular than the event that it advertises. And although it is often confined within the marble walls of a museum, the poster was, is and always will be close to the street.
Who was the first to use the term “Polish School of Posters”? Many sources point out to Jan Lenica. Born in 1928 in Poznań, this illustrator, stage designer and creator of animated films achieved success both domestically and abroad. He is the author of the iconic poster “Wozzeck” (1964), an illustration created for the play by Alan Berg, staged at the Grand Theater in Warszawa.
Lenica clearly underlined the informative function of a poster, whose first and foremost role was to complement a cultural event. Although there can be distinguished a group of people forming Polish School of Posters, including, in addition to Jan Lenica, Henryk Tomaszewski, Roman Cieślewicz, Franciszek Starowieyski, Waldemar Świerzy or Jan Młodożeniec, each of the mentioned artists had their own, distinctive style.
In the 1960s, the poster art in Poland dynamically developed despite the political system of that time (or maybe because of it?). Omnipresent censorship forced the audience to learn how to perfectly read the metaphors hidden in a poster. And so colourful posters with original typography lightened up Polish grey streets. At the same time, cooperation with representatives of cultural institutions was conducive to creative work.
The art of that time headed towards the avant-garde, which allowed poster artists to have total artistic freedom. More importantly, this also brought financial profits, as the price for a single poster, guaranteed by the state patronage, amounted to about PLN 1,800, which was slightly less than the average monthly salary (about PLN 2,238 in 1970).
Graphic face of the cinema
Polish film posters created in the specific atmosphere of the 1960s gained recognition and wide acclaim in the West. How did works on a project start? Jakub Erol, a respected graphic designer and poster artist recalled, “In the morning, you went to [film] screenings, while on Wednesday arts commission, which included e.g. Świerzy and Młodożeniec, took place.” Artists who already made up their mind, declared their readiness to create a poster of a chosen film.
The prominent director Krzysztof Zanussi put it this way: “A poster artist is the last commentator of the piece before the critic appears.” Posters created for foreign films were also created. An original poster made by Waldemar Świerzy for the Oscar winning film “Midnight Cowboy” is today worth approx. USD 2 000.
In a café
Graduates of graphic design faculties also design album covers, draw comics and illustrate colourful magazines. Jagoda Stączek, who has graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts (ASP) in Kraków, not only creates collages for “Newsweek Psychologia” magazine and posters inspired by nature, but also sometimes turns into a technician. Michał Loba, who cooperates with, among others, Tłok café in Gdańsk, starts his work on a poster with a sketch on a sheet of paper, which he then photographs and uploads on the computer to finish up the project in a graphics programme.
More and more often posters move from the streets to cafés, pubs and clubs – an example of which are Ola Jasionowska’s posters created for Bar Café in Warszawa.
* The citations come from the documentary “Druga strona plakatu”(Telewizja Polska S.A., 2010).