Posters from the collection of the Poster Museum at Wilanów

Polish Poster Tradition. 1898-1968 (1969) by Bożena SeredyńskaThe National Museum in Warsaw

The presented series of posters gives an overview of the history and evolution of applied graphic design in Poland and Central Europe until the Second World War. It illustrates the important processes emerging from applied graphic design amongst painters and artists – still attached to 19th century visual thinking. This kaleidoscope of images lets us understand the phenomenon of creation of a new domain of applied arts, as well as of a different visual language, the development of which was strongly influenced by advertising and marketing strategies of the era.

The oldest works highlight the best graphic design and painting traditions at the turn of the 19th and 20th century. The later examples already implemented modern formal solutions. Kaleidoscope represents the biggest accumulation of Polish posters among national and international collections. Some of the items only exist in the collection of the Poster Museum, therefore the whole set if of undoubted scientific, cultural and artistic significance. It constitutes a priceless spectrum of visual culture from that period.

Maurycy Fajans' Steam-Navigation Company (1892) by UnknownThe National Museum in Warsaw

This poster advertises the Maurycy Fajans' Steam-Navigation Company, by an unknown artist. It is considered to be one of the oldest preserved artistic Polish posters. It was printed in 1892 using the chromolithography technique in the lithography print house belonging to the famous Warsaw photographer, lithographer and draftsman, Maksymilian Fajans (1825–1890), the brother of the company's owner, Maurycy (1927–1897)

The anonymous artist presented a scene of a steam-ship being greeted by a man in the waters along the shipping route, raising his hand in a gesture of salute. The ship, called Andrej, is depicted with Warsaw's Old Town panorama in the background. A characteristic part of the composition is a blank field, most likely left for information on the timetable for the steamer.

Maurycy Fajans' Steam-Navigation Company provided steamship transport between Warsaw, Płock and Włocławek. Ships designed and constructed in a shipyard in Solec were used, and were administered by Maurycy's son, Edward. The turn of the 19th and 20th century was a period of splendour of steam-ship transport on the Vistula river. The press reported at the time that, in 1903, almost 5500 ships crossed Warsaw in both directions.

Lecture by Stanisław Przybyszewski combined with Maurice Maeterlinck's drama "Interior" (1898) by Stanisław WyspiańskiThe National Museum in Warsaw

This is one of the three posters designed by Stanisław Wyspiański (1869–1907), poet, dramaturge, painter and set designer, whose professional activity also included the graphic design of books. The work was produced using colour lithography techniques in the lithographic printing house of A. Pruszyński, in Cracow. The studio was highly valued and popular with Cracow's artists, and was at that time run by Aureliusz Pruszyński's son, Zenon.

The poster announces a lecture by Stanisław Przybyszewski (1868–1927), titled Mistyka a Maeterlinck [Mysticism and Maeterlinck], which preceded the premiere of the Interior drama by Maeterlinck in Teatr Miejski in Cracow, starring Gabriela Zapolska, Irena Solska, Maria Przybyłko-Potocka and Maksymilian Hipolit Węgrzyn. Przybyszewski, a poet, dramaturge, journalist and ideologist of the Młoda Polska [Young Poland] artistic milieu, returned from abroad in 1889 and settled in Cracow. As the editor of Cracow's biweekly literature and art magazine “Życie” (1897–1900), he assigned the role of artistic director to Wyspiański, he also collaborated with him on many other publishing endeavours.

In the poster advertising the play Interior, an unusual elongated rectangle format emphasizes the horizontal layout, a double portrait of a young girl. Created with grey hand drawn lines and with delicate yellows and grey-greens, it depicts Anna – the younger sister of a poet and playwright, Lucjan Rydl. The two graphics create a frame around the text created with Wyspiański's hand-writing.

As Paweł Ettinger (1866–1948), bibliophile, collector, outstanding expert in applied graphic design and art critic, wrote: Indeed, it is hard to find an illustration to the drama of the brilliant Belgian poet more adequate and more similar in spirit than this little face looking over the window with the expression of fear and anxiety in her wide-open eyes! Pale, faded colours of the drawing and greyish shade of paper emphasize this atmosphere even more. (P. Ettinger, On Artistic Posters in General and Polish Ones in Particular, Tygodnik Ilustrowany, 1904, no. 25, p. 496).

Sztuka [Art]. Polish monthly art and literature magazine (1904) by Leopold GottliebThe National Museum in Warsaw

This poster that advertises ‘Sztuka’, and is the only work in the Poster Museum by Leopold Gottlieb (1879–1934) – painter, graphic designer and draughtsman. He was an apprentice of Jacek Malczewski in the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, who was active predominantly in Cracow, Paris and Vienna. The artist came from a prosperous Jewish family, in which three of Leopold's brothers painted, one of them being the extraordinarily talented, Maurycy Gottlieb (1856–1979), who sadly died at the age of just 23.

The poster advertises the Polish monthly “Sztuka” [Art], a publication dedicated to visual arts and literature, published in Paris between 1904–1905, where articles about Artists, Polish and European art, reviews of exhibitions with images of art works, and other items concerning cultural topics, were presented. The monthly was edited by Antoni Potocki (1867–1939), he was a literary critic and publicist, engaged in cultural activity of the Polish circle in Paris, and its art director and publisher was the painter Władysław Granzow (1872–1932).

The poster's layout is based on the portrayal of a young man pulling a bell rope, with the city’s panorama and infinite sky in the background composed using greyish green-yellow colours. The strong diagonal of the figure’s stretched body, with his arms covering his face and only a fragment of the bell visible, make the viewer focus on the great effort needed to put the bell in motion. The scene should probably be interpreted symbolically, and associations found with the programming guidelines of Sztuka, a magazine aiming at stimulating the reader to seek contact with contemporary art: To anyone who got to love it, it opens its treasury, treasury of eternal value, where entering is enough to become its heir. (Editorial, Sztuka 1904, no. 1, p. 5).

Friends of the Fine Arts Society Jubilee Exhibition (1904) by Piotr StachiewiczThe National Museum in Warsaw

This poster, by Piotr Stachiewicz (1858–1938), announces a jubilee exhibition held for the 50th anniversary of the Cracow-based Friends of the Fine Arts Society, celebrated in 1904. Stachiewicz, a painter and illustrator, educated in Cracow and Munich, also worked as book graphic designer and from 1900 held the position of vice-chair of the aforementioned Cracow society.

The poster layout, in an unusual elongated rectangular format, is based on a clear division between the upper section – portraying a young woman in the scenery of Cracow panorama, and the lower section – with text informing the public about the exhibition. The composition with the young woman has a dark brown background, whereas the accentuated elements, such as typography, are expressed in dimmed golden yellows.

A female looking into the distance with her hand held to her forehead, held within a square frame - is a personification of the art of painting. The same young female, but in a different pose and with laurels on her head, also appears in Stachiewich's painting Muza [Muse] from the series "Phantoms in the atelier", from 1883–1885.

The artist is the designer of one of the oldest preserved Polish posters, designed for the General National Exhibition in Lviv in 1894.

Lecture by Artur Górski "Mickiewicz - dead and alive" (1905) by Stanislaw KuczborskiThe National Museum in Warsaw

Stanisław Kuczborski (1881–1911), painter, draughtsman and cartoonist, studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow and then in Paris. He came from an artistic family – his mother was the sister of Aleksander and Maksymilian Gierymski. Kuczborski is one of the creators of the works gathered in Teka Melpomeny – a collection of lithographs published in 1904 in Cracow under the supervision of Stanisław Szreniawa-Rzecki, and printed in Aureliusz Pruszyński's lithographic printing house. Teka included caricatures of Cracow's actors, immortalized in their distinctive roles. The artist is also known to be the co-creator of the famous Zielony Balonik [Little Green Balloon] cabaret, started in a cafe called Jama Michalikowa, and founded by Jan Apolinary Michalik – the initiator of Teka Melpomeny. His professional activity also included graphic design and collaborations with the Liberum Veto Magazine, where he often published his drawings.

The work shown here announces a lecture by Artur Górski; Mickiewicz – dead and alive, organized by the School of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Górski (1870–1959), a writer and literary critic, published a series of articles in 1898 entitled Młoda Polska [Young Poland] in the Cracow-based daily newspaper Życie, leading to the adoption of this as a name for this new period in visual arts and literature.

The poster by Kuczborski, monochromatic and minimalistic in terms of materials, is a portrait of Mickiewicz with oak branches and leaves in the background – the oak being a tree symbolic of perseverance and the power of the spirit – enclosed in a rectangular frame. The poet is portrayed in semi-profile view with partially closed eyes and drafted using casually sketched lines. The lower part of the poster's composition contains information about the event, formatted in a justified, block shape – perfectly balancing the graphic.

Hygenic Exhibition (1908) by Konstanty Kietlicz-RayskiThe National Museum in Warsaw

Konstanty Kietlicz-Rayski (1868–1924), was a painter, illustrator, publicist, anthropologist, theatre critic and actor. He studied in the School of Fine Arts in Cracow and afterwards took lessons with the prominent painter, Wojciech Gerson (1831–1901), in Warsaw. Gerson was a hugely inspirational figure in the artistic and cultural life of Lublin and Szczawnica. Kietlicz-Rayski produced a series of paintings called Teka sztuki podhalańskiej, documenting the traditional art of Podhale (the Polish highlands) and Szczawnica, as well as initiating the idea of founding the Pieniny Mountain Museum [Muzeum Pienińskie] and a school for folk crafts.

The poster announces the Hygiene Exhibition organised in Lublin in 1908 by a Lublin subsidiary of the Warsaw Hygienic Society [Polish: Warszawskie Towarzystwo Higieniczne]. The exhibition was designed to raise awareness of hygiene and health among the general public. Different items were showcased at the exhibition: models and statistical tables, hospital equipment, medical tools, household appliances, educational publications on hygiene. Also, various health resorts and spas from Zakopane, Niemirów, Ciechocinek, Nałęczów, Druskienniki, alongside doctors and pharmacists, advertised their services during the exhibition.

The poster layout is based on the representation of a woman feeding a snake. It presents Hygeia, Greek goddess of health and the personification of hygiene. Depicted in a full body posture, dressed in a Greek chiton, with a helmet on her head decorated with the emblem of the city of Lublin and with a shield at her thigh with a deer, referencing the emblem of the Lublin governorate. The scene of a snake being fed takes place with the Lublin castle in the background. In the central part of the composition a text field was placed with the information about the exhibition, in both Polish and Russian. The artist applied a unified typeface.

The Zero Association Holds an Exhibition (1908) by Jan BukowskiThe National Museum in Warsaw

Jan Bukowski (1873–1943), painter and graphic designer, studied at the School of Fine Arts in Cracow and in the Ernst Neumann and Heinrich Wolff's school for graphic arts in Munich. He was a co-founder of the School of Fine Arts and Craftsmanship for Women in Cracow and the Polish Applied Arts Society. In the years 1904–1905, he worked as an art director at the Jagiellonian University printing house. He designed applied graphics and posters, as well as stained glass windows and furniture. At the International Exhibition of Modern and Industrial Decorative Arts, held in 1925 in Paris, he was awarded a silver medal in the category of L’art de la Rue.

The poster announces an exhibition by artists belonging to the art collective Zero, initiated in 1908 by Wojciech Kossak. Artists such as Kossak, Włodzimierz Tetmajer, Vlastimil Hofman, Jacek Malczewski, Zbigniew Pronaszko and Franciszek Żmurko, among others, showcased their works in the main building of the Friends of Fine Arts Society in Cracow.

Bukowski, who often alluded to historical styles in his artistic work, used a motif referring to medieval architecture and gothic lettering while creating this particular poster.

Le Thermogène engendre la chaleur et guérit: toux, rhumatismes, points de côté [Thermogène warms you up and treats cough, rheumatism, and a stabbing pain in your side] (1909) by Leonetto CappielloThe National Museum in Warsaw

A French Belle Époque period advertisement poster. It is one of the most valuable works in the collection of the Poster Museum at Wilanów and is considered a classic piece.

The advertised product – Thermogène – was supposed to warm up the body, treat coughs, rheumatism and other similar discomforts. Its name suggests its action, which translates into the image showing the effects caused by the product.

This particular poster is an important link in the evolution of the discipline. Through its design, the artist initiated a new standard in advertising. The new style rejected everything superfluous and distracting. It strongly accentuates the product’s trade name, completely eliminating the fashionable Art Nouveau ornamentation in favour of a clear hierarchy of presentation. In this case, it is expressed by an imagined plane, in which we can observe a grotesque silhouette in a bluish-green costume, depicted in an expressive pose. The central part of the composition is taken up by what is most important – the product’s strength and the resultant actions. The person breathes fire, which is supposed to eloquently convince the public of the effectiveness of Thermogène and encourage its use.

1st International Skiing Day and Contest in Zakopane (1910) by Mariusz ZaruskiThe National Museum in Warsaw

Mariusz Zaruski (1867–1941) was a mountaineer, sailor, writer, poet, painter, and Polish Army general. He studied in the School of Fine Arts in Odessa, the Maritime College in Arkhangelsk, after which he returned to his Polish homeland – studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow. He was a pioneer of skiing in the Polish Tatra mountains. He was author of tourist guides and skiing manuals (which he illustrated himself). In 1909, he founded the Tatra Volunteer Search and Rescue Service [Polish: Tatrzańskie Ochotnicze Pogotowie Ratunkowe], over which he presided until 1914. He was also an amateur sailor – co-founder of the Polish Yacht Club and captain of the Zawisza Czarny sailing-ship, owned by the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association.

The poster announces the first skiing contest, held in Zakopane in March 1910. Two contestants from Vienna were participating, thus the international status of the event. In the most important competition – the Tatra run – Mariusz Zaruski participated himself, taking third place.

The poster's dynamic layout is based on a representation of a skier running after a Tatra chamois, holding a bamboo stick in his hand (the so called "alpenstock"). The movement is emphasized with the scene presented on the diagonal, as well as a rapidly drawn line. The cold blue captures the observer's attention, one can feel the fresh mountain climate and tension intensified by a rush of adrenaline.

Friends of Ojców Society (1910) by Wlodzimierz TetmajerThe National Museum in Warsaw

Włodzimierz Tetmajer (1861–1923), writer, painter, graphic designer. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, as well as in Vienna, Munich and Paris. He was also co-founder of the Polish Applied Arts Society (1901). In 1895, the artist settled in the village of Bronowice, at the outskirts of Cracow. In his house the wedding reception of Lucjan Rydel (1870–1918), a poet and friend of Tetmajer's, and Jadwiga Mikołajczykówna, the painter's wife's sister, was held. Stanisław Wyspiański (1869–1907), who was a guest at the wedding, took inspiration from the event and shortly afterwards wrote his drama The Wedding.

The poster, published by the Friends of Ojców Society, was supposed to promote a prestigious health resort. The rapidly developing locality offered the inhabitants of Warsaw, as well as the entire part of Poland annexed by Russia, the opportunity to enjoy a spa without the need to cross the border, something not without significance. The main element of the poster's composition is a painterly landscape with ruins of the royal castle in Ojców. At the base of the monument, three women in folk dresses are seated, with the castle in the background. A separate element is the view of the building of the Health Centre for Nutrition and Hydrotherapy [Zakład Leczniczy Hydropatyczno-Dyetetyczny], called "Goplana" – the biggest health resort in Ojców. The author of the quoted slogan "Cudze chwalicie – swego nie znacie, sami nie wiecie, co posiadacie" (literally: You praise the foreign, yet you don't know your own. You have no idea what you have; related English proverb: The grass is greener on the other side of the fence) is Stanisław Jachowicz (1796–1857), a poet, fabulist and highly esteemed pedagogue.

Abdera. Polish biweekly art and satire magazine (1911) by Henryk KunzekThe National Museum in Warsaw

Henryk Kunzek (1870–1928), was a draughtsman, painter and sculptor; and physician by education. While working as a doctor in Lviv, he studied painting in the school of Stanisław Batowski-Kaczor (1866–1946), he also got an education in Paris and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow. Illustrator for the magazines "Naprzód" [Ahead], "Kropidło" [Aspergillum], "Nasz Kraj" [Our Country] and "Abdera", as well as author of stage designs and puppets for the Zielony Balonik [Green Balloon] cabaret. He was co-founder of the "Warsztaty Krakowskie" [Cracow Workshops] association (1913).

The work advertises the "Abdera" bi-weekly magazine published in Cracow in the years 1911–1912. The magazine's artistic-satiric profile was accurately reflected by the poster's concept alluding to Christoph Martin Wieland’s satirical novel Geschichte der Abderiten.

The novel tells the story of a grand event taking place in the city of Abdera, during which its inhabitants get caught up in quarrels concerning the fee for taking a rest in the shadow of a donkey. A display of stupidity and stubbornness finally leads to the animal's tragic death. Afterwards, they erect a memorial in the animal’s honour. The artist depicts a gigantic donkey wearing a laurel wreath, with a laurel branch attached to his tail, arching victoriously over the city.

Złoty Róg [Golden Horn]. Polish weekly literary magazine (1911) by Edward TrojanowskiThe National Museum in Warsaw

Edward Trojanowski (1873–1930), painter and graphic designer, also working on interiors, kilims and stained glass windows. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg, as well as in Munich and Paris. He was co-founder of the Polish Applied Arts Society (1901).

The poster is part of a bigger print that is preserved in its entirety in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow and comes from the Paweł Ettinger collection. The missing part is a uniform transparent frame with a text in Russian and Polish: "Golden Horn" the cheapest illustrated weekly on artistic, literary and social issues ["Złoty Róg" najtańszy ilustrowany tygodnik literacki, artystyczny i społeczny]. The poster was printed in Jan Cotta's lithographic printing house in Warsaw. In the 1960s, the company was the only one to print and post theatre posters for Warsaw Government Theatres.

The "Golden Horn" magazine, issued irregularly in the first decades of the 20th century in Warsaw, was published by the "Warszawska Spółka Nakładowa" publishing house and printed in the studio belonging to L. Biliński and W. Maślankiewicz. A young man blowing a horn explicitly advertises itself towards an educated youth, the magazine's target audience.

Hermanns & Froitzheim (1911) by Julius KlingerThe National Museum in Warsaw

The poster was created in Berlin and was commissioned by the Hollerbaum und Schmidt advertising agency, with which Klinger started collaborating in 1898. The work, coming from Julius Klinger's best creative period, demonstrates the designer's graphical virtuosity. It is an example of the modern advertising style (Sachplakat or Object Poster), introduced by Lucien Bernhard in 1905 with his design for the matchstick manufacturer Priester, which contributed to the company's financial success.

We can observe a bold, flattened design, minimalistic both in choice of motif and form. A toucan, holds in its beak several neckties in various colours, manufactured by the clothing company Hermanns & Froitzheim. It is a graphic full of elegance. A particular sense of humour, very much valued in advertising of that period, is highlighted by the modern styles and language used in the design. A lack of superfluous decorations and a focus on the most important elements of the composition reinforces the message’s legibility and the perception of its forms.

Müller Extra (1912) by Julius KlingerThe National Museum in Warsaw

The poster was commissioned by the Hollerbaum und Schmidt advertising agency and created in Berlin. The increase of market competition and the need to communicate content faster and in a clearer and more concrete manner was a stimulus to establish a new, functional style of advertising (the Sachplakat, or Object Poster), started in 1905 by Lucien Bernhard with his design for a matchstick manufacturer.

In 1912, Julius Klinger was already a renowned advertising designer. We can admire his mastery of both the synthetic depiction of the theme, and its graphical presentation.

The poster's surface was laid out in a consistent manner. All shapes are limited to the necessary minimum. Smoothly applied colours and a lack of decoration give it an aesthetic character. The artist grasped a characteristic moment in the consumption process – the gesture of serving an alcoholic beverage. Whether the presented person be a waiter (implied by the black jacket and white bow-tie) or a restaurant's guest (suggested by the monocle in the eye), the advertised product remains in the limelight – the exquisite Müller Extra – a drink of the highest quality, delivered even to the court of the Emperor. The brand name is composed using a heavy block typeface and clearly dominates the image, which, juxtaposed with the lettering, seems to be a simple contour drawing.

Herbstflugwoche Johannisthal (1913) by Julius KlingerThe National Museum in Warsaw

Advertising such a phenomenon as aviation in the early 20th century was a real challenge for a graphic designer. Novelties in themselves are attractive and compelling to the general public. The Wright brothers inaugurated the air age, but it was only in 1928, when the German LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin airship was built, that passenger flights gained popularity. In 1911, at the airport in Johannisthal, a town located on the outskirts of Berlin (today part of the city), one could already experience the pleasure and thrill as active participants in air shows.

In order to portray the spirit of sky adventure and convince the public to buy tickets for the show the graphic designer had to search for modern artistic means, different to those overloaded with decoration advocated by the still fashionable Art Nouveau style. Modernity was then associated with the simplification of form, the Sachplakat - called plakat rzeczowy in Poland - being its reflection. A more scarce arsenal of artistic means of expression helped to maintain the poster's clarity. The colour palette was reduced; in this case it is limited to orange, black, navy blue and sky blue. Shapes were reduced to the bare minimum. We can observe the flat contours of an aeroplane with brave passengers on board. Old-fashioned garments associated with the 17th century – ruffs and hats – attract our attention. What is their function in the poster? Are they supposed to convince the most conservative part of society to try something new? At the time, aviation was still at the stage of experimentation and was treated as a hobby. It was not so obvious then that the plane would become our regular means of transport.

Filmzauber [Movie Magic]. Berliner Theater (1914) by Julius KlingerThe National Museum in Warsaw

This is an advertising poster from 1914 commissioned by the Berliner Theater. It is the work of one of the most influential Austrian poster-makers active before the First World War, who updated the language of poster design to give it the status of a separate artistic discipline.

The magic of French cinema is now available in a Berlin theatre. The association of the advertised event with France is highlighted by a big tricorne hat (as worn by soldiers of the Napoleonic War era) with an emblem in Republic's colours. The artist skilfully uses a visual leap and an interesting, novel framing style. The simplistic means of expression was a reaction to motifs typical of Art Nouveau (Jugendstil), which dominated at the time, i.e. decorative forms and designs overloaded with details.

Due to the masterful use of colour and form, the poster's message is noticeable in the urban landscape. Legible and sophisticated lettering also plays an enormous role. The image and the typography complement each other to create a harmonious composition.

The Great Annual Concert (1918) by Jerzy GelbardThe National Museum in Warsaw

Jerzy Gelbard (1894–1944), architect, painter, graphic designer, illustrator and exhibition designer. He studied in École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and in the Faculty of Architecture at the Warsaw University of Technology. He took part in the preparation of the Polish pavilion at the International Exhibition of Modern and Industrial Decorative Arts, held in 1925 in Paris. In the 1920s, he ran an artistic advertising studio Plakat [Poster] together with a prominent graphic designer Tadeusz Gronowski (1894–1990) and Antoni Borman. The Atelier collaborated with the young generation of graphic designers and architects, such as Jan Mucharski (1900–19810), among others. In the years 1920–1939, Gelbard, together with renowned architect Roman Sigalin (1901–1940) ran an architecture studio; Biuro Projektów Jerzy Gelbard i Roman Sigalin – Architekci SARP, where they designed industrial buildings, modernist style houses and villas.

The poster comes from the early period of Gelbard's work. It announces a concert in the Warsaw Philharmonic, organized in 1918 by the Mutual Aid Society of the Warsaw Technical University. A baroque, chubby cherub in a counterpose posture, leaning on a cello with a colourful parrot perched on its right hand, invites us to attend the concert.

Rzeczpospolita [Res Publica]. Daily magazine. Warsaw–Poznań–Cracow–Lviv–Vilnius (1920) by Kazimierz SichulskiThe National Museum in Warsaw

The poster advertises the "Rzeczpospolita" [Res Publica] daily newspaper, published in the years 1920–1932, and associated with the conservative Christian political parties' milieu. It was distributed in Warsaw, Cracow, Poznań, Lviv and Vilnius. Illustrations and caricatures of prominent artists such as Kazimierz Sichulski, Władysław Skoczylas, Stanisław Sawiczewski or Zbigniew Pronaszko were presented there.

The poster layout is based on a clear division between the upper section – showing a man in Hutsul clothing holding a sword and blowing a horn, accompanied by a white eagle – the lower section holds the text. Sichulski (1879–1942), a painter, draughtsman, skilled cartoonist and graphic designer, being fascinated by the Hutsul region, made it the central theme of his work. Also in a previous poster promoting the General Polish Exhibition of Architecture, Sculpture and Painting in Lviv in 1910, the artist used some elements associated with this particular folklore.

Join the Army. Defend your Homeland (1920) by Stanislaw SawiczewskiThe National Museum in Warsaw

Stanisław Sawiczewski (1866–1943), was a draughtsman, illustrator and painter, and Artur Grottger's (1837–1867) nephew. He studied at the School of Fine Arts in Cracow, as well as in Munich and Vienna. He collaborated (from 1918) as an illustrator with "Tygodnik Ilustrowany" – a popular Polish weekly magazine covering cultural and social topics, issued in Warsaw in the years 1859–1939. He worked for the Polish Volunteer Army [Polish: Armia Ochotnicza], designing propaganda leaflets and posters. The showcased poster, printed in the B. Wierzbicki's Printing House in Warsaw and commissioned by the General Inspectorate of the Volunteer Army, comes from this period of Sawiczewski's activity.

The Volunteer Army was created as a response to the address to the Polish nation by the Council of National Defence [Polish: Rada Obrony Państwa] in July 1920, calling on Poles to defend their Homeland from the Bolshevik threat. The army was commanded by Gen. Józef Haller – depicted on the poster in the Blue Army [Polish: Błękitna Armia] general’s uniform, with his right hand raised and pointing at the audience. The directness of this gesture is supposed to strengthen the message motivating the citizens to take action: "Join the Army. Defend your Homeland".

Kainit Stebnicki. The Cheepest Fertilizer (1925) by Feliks Michal WygrzywalskiThe National Museum in Warsaw

Feliks Wygrzywalski (1875–1944), a painter, graphic designer and illustrator, who also worked with costume design, theatre, stage design and stained glass windows. He studied at the Munich Academy, as well as in Paris. He also spent several years in Italy and Egypt before finally settling in Lviv in 1908.

The poster advertises a fertilizer, its main ingredient being kainite – a mineral salt exploited in the potassium salt mine in Stebnik, located then in the Eastern Borderlands of Poland (now the Lviv region of Ukraine). Wygrzywalski operates with an easy-to-read means of expression: aesthetically pleasing multi-coloured folk costumes, and a landscape in warm colours. The skillfully represented atmosphere of familiarity and prosperity adds to the visual attractiveness of the advertisement.

1st Polish Graphic Art Showroom (1928) by Tadeusz Cieślewski; JrThe National Museum in Warsaw

Tadeusz Cieślewski (son) (1895–1944)

A graphic designer, illustrator, critic and theoretician – and a woodcut ideologue. His professional activity included book graphic design and bookplate design. He studied painting, printmaking techniques and book based graphic design at the Lviv University of Technology and in the School of Fine Arts in Warsaw. He was a member of numerous graphic art collectives, such as the Polish Graphic Artists Association "Ryt" [Polish: Stowarzyszenie Polskich Artystów Grafików „Ryt”], Polish Union of Graphic Artists [Polish: Związek Polskich Artystów Grafików], a visual artists group "Blok Zawodowych Artystów Plastyków", "Czerń i Biel" [Black and White] group. Being fascinated with woodcut printing, he made it a topic of his theoretical work titled Drzeworyt w książce, tece i na ścianie. Uwagi polemiczne o graficznej rasowości drzeworytu [Woodcut prints in books, folders and on walls. Polemical observations on graphical woodcut purity], published in Warsaw in 1936, in which the "pure woodcut" ideology was supported with original prints illustrating the aforementioned techniques.

The First Polish Graphic Art Showroom was organised in 1928 by the Polish Union of Graphic Artists [Polish: Związek Polskich Artystów Grafików]. The poster announcing the exhibition, printed by means of colour lithography, is composed of simple, overlapping multi-coloured shapes. Delicate mid-tones reflect the multiple layers where scattered text informing the reader of the event is integrated.

1st Woodcuts Exhibition of "Ryt" Association (1929) by Tadeusz Cieślewski; JrThe National Museum in Warsaw

The poster announces the first woodcut exhibition of the Polish Graphic Artists Association "Ryt", Cieślewski being its co-founder. "Ryt" operated in the years 1925–1939, its members included, among others, Edmund Bartłomiejczyk, Maria Duninówna, Janina Konarska, Tadeusz Kulisiewicz, Stefan Mrożewski, Stanisław Ostoja-Chrostowski, Władysław Skoczylas, Konstanty Maria Sopoćko, Wacław Wąsowicz. The poster, made as a linocut print, combines in its composition three main elements: the panorama of the Old Town in Warsaw – a motif often used by Cieślewski in his graphic works; the drawing of a woodblock with the "RYT" word carved in it and its mirror image; and a chisel, splitting the block of text with the exhibition title; lettering becomes a complementary element.

Polish- Palestinian Line (ca. 1934) by Zygmunt GlinickiThe National Museum in Warsaw

Zygmunt Glinicki (1898–1940), was a painter, illustrator and graphic designer, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, was a member of the Commercial Graphic Artists' Circle [Polish: Koło Artystów Grafików Reklamowych], and collaborated with the Ignis Publishing House.

A simplified layout, linear shapes and short textual information are features distinctive of Glinicki's designs. This work, intended to advertise the Palestinian line, was created in the framework of the Tourism Poster Contest organised by the Institute of Art Propaganda [Polish: Instytut Propagandy Sztuki] for Polish Transatlantic Ship Society [Polish: Polskie Transatlantyckie Towarzystwo Okrętowe]. Members of the jury included, among others, renowned graphic designers such as Władysław Skoczylas (1883–1934) and Zygmunt Kamiński (1888–1969).

Polski Fiat [Polish Fiat] (1934) by Wojciech KossakThe National Museum in Warsaw

Wojciech Kossak (1856–1942), a Polish historical style and battle-scene painter, also representing a realistic style. Educated in the School of Fine Arts in Cracow, the Munich Academy and in Paris, he was a painter in the court of the German Emperor Wilhelm II. In the years 1883–1894, together with Jan Styka (1858–1925) and a group of painters, including Teodor Axentowicz, Tadeusz Popiel, Włodzimierz Tetmajer and Wincenty Wodzinowski, he created the Racławice Panorama painting depicting this important event of the Kościuszko Uprising. Kossak rarely designed posters. Usually, they were prints announcing the famous panoramic paintings: namely the Racławice Panorama and Berezyna, as well as equestrian events. He is the creator of one of the first Polish artistic posters advertising a horse racing event (1895).

The poster was commissioned by the Polski Fiat SA company, manufacturing and selling the Italian car brand Fiat, operating in Warsaw between the years 1920–1939. The vehicle, presented in a realistic style, is a Fiat 508 – the most popular passenger car on Polish roads in the 1930s, having had its premiere in 1932 in Milan.

Polish Gothic Art Exhibition (1935) by Edward ManteuffelThe National Museum in Warsaw

Graphic design studio "Mewa"

The Department of Applied Graphic Design was founded in the School of Fine Arts in Warsaw in 1926. Until the outbreak of the Second World War, it was supervised by Edmund Bartłomiejczyk (1885–1950), a talented and versatile graphic designer, one of the most prominent Polish illustrators. He studied in the Drawing School belonging to the Museum of Crafts in Warsaw, took an architecture course in the School of Fine arts in Warsaw and also graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, Faculty of Applied Arts. During his professional activity, the artist designed books, posters, postage stamps, banknotes and leaflets, taking the latter creative discipline not any less seriously. In the years 1917–1930, he worked as a lecturer at the Warsaw University of Technology, Faculty of Architecture. In the School of Fine Arts, the later Academy of Fine Arts (this status was granted in 1932), the Professor Bartłomiejczyk initiated collecting Polish and foreign posters. He was also a progenitor of calling for a formation of an artists' union that would act to raise the standards of applied graphic design in Poland. The Commercial Graphic Artists' Circle [Polish: Koło Artystów Grafików Reklamowych] was founded in 1933, with its members including: Ludwik Gardowski (1890–1965), Tadeusz Gronowski (1894–1990), Jan Mucharski (1900–1981), Adam Półtawski (1881–1952), Józef Tom (1883–1962), Jerzy Zaruba (1891–1971), Tadeusz Trepkowski (1914–1954).

Ball at the Academy of Fine Arts (1933) by Antoni WajwódThe National Museum in Warsaw

Among the first graduates of the Department of Applied Graphic Design were: Jadwiga Salomea Hładki (1904–1944), Edward Manteuffel (1908–1940) and Antoni Wajwód (1905–1944). In 1933, they started the graphic design studio "Mewa" [Seagull], which operated until the outbreak of the Second World War. The studio was not only active in the area of applied graphic design, but also wall-painting, interior design, e.g. of "Batory" and "Piłsudski" ocean liners, display windows, e.g. of the Polish weekly literary magazine "Wiadomości Literackie" and stands. It participated in the design of the World Exhibition in Paris, held in 1937, with the theme of Art and Technology in the Modern Life.

Sea Festival. 29 VI 1935. Let's Build Ships at our own Shipyard (1935) by Jadwiga Salomea HładkiThe National Museum in Warsaw

Despite the fact that the artistic work of each member of "Mewa" was highly individual, they shared a common, painting-like approach to the topic. The artists, inspired by woodcut printing, were able to apply the results of this technique in graphic design. Square shapes, broken lines and planes were applied for example in the poster announcing the Polish Gothic Art Exhibition.

L'Art Polonais. Polnische Kunst [Polish Art] (1936) by Antoni WajwódThe National Museum in Warsaw

To them we owe the introduction of paper art – a discipline mastered by Wajwód – to the graphic designer's workshop. Paper, shaped and composed freely, was illuminated and photographed to create interesting forms.

This technique was applied, for instance, in the L’art Polonais poster and in numerous book cover and book jacket designs.

Narocz. Youth Sailing Camp / promotion (1935) by Bolesław Surałło-GajduczeniThe National Museum in Warsaw

Bolesław Surałło-Gajduczeni (1906–1939), was a painter, graphic designer, interior designer, film and theatre stage designer. He studied in the Urban School of Decorative Arts and Painting [Miejska Szkoła Sztuk Zdobniczych i Malarstwa] in Warsaw and in the School of Fine Arts, being one of the first students of the prominent graphic designer Edmund Bartłomiejczyk (1885–1950). From 1936, he coordinated workshops in the Public School of Graphic Industry [Państwowa Szkoła Przemysłu Graficznego] in Warsaw, educating printers and lithographers who, due to Surałło's classes, became acquainted with the principles of poster composition and design. In 1937, he founded the artistic graphic design studio AGAR. Surałło-Gajduczeni died tragically in Lublin during the first days of the war - while transferring Jan Matejko's painting The Battle of Grunwald [Bitwa pod Grunwaldem]. Most of the artist's heritage was destroyed.

The poster advertising the Youth Sailing Camp at the Narocz lake was commissioned by the Maritime and Colonial League (Polish: Liga Morska i Kolonialna), with whom Surałło-Gajduczeni collaborated. The layout, composed of simplified elements, represents a picturesque lake landscape, inviting the young audience to spend their vacation actively.

Credits: Story

Izabela Iwanicka
Aleksandra Oleksiak

Małgorzata Juszczak

GCI curator
Paweł Dąbrowski

Post-Translation Editor
Charlie Smith

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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