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Polish poster art in post-war Germany

Jan Lenica, Wozzeck, 1964
Jan Lenica, Wozzeck, 1964

"Fresh, aggressive, funny and intellectually challenging." Polish poster art in post-war Germany


1. Hymnic

Contemporary, fresh, modern and aggressive, witty and intellectually challenging", "boldly experimental", "avant-garde", "mentally stimulating and exciting" and completely free of "banality and kitsch": these were the words with which Erich Pfeiffer-Belli, the art critic on the Süddeutsche Zeitung, praised an exhibition of Polish poster art in March 1962, which was on show at the time in the Neue Sammlung in Munich.[1] (Fig. 1-3)

Pfeiffer-Belli's enthusiastic review was no exception. Rather, it was typical of practically all the public reactions to the exhibitions of Polish poster art in what was then West Germany. Exhibitions of Polish posters were a recipe for success. Those who organised them could be sure of a positive, if not hymnic, echo from the press. Their success was no accident. The high artistic level of Polish commercial graphics was recognized internationally. Polish poster art in particular was considered to be a leader in the field. It was a flagship of Polish art and enjoyed a legendary reputation in Germany. Significantly, it was unreservedly granted the status of an art form here , on a level with non-applied, free art and equally worthy of being presented in museums. This status simultaneously enhanced the value of commercial art in the Federal Republic of Germany.

West German critics praised the Polish posters for their "profound wit", their "sparkling zest" for irony, their "intellectually challenging" and "wonderfully disrespectful" treatment of historical styles and symbols. They praised their versatility, artistic boldness and experimental joy, at times their "drastic daring" and at others, their "Polish charm".[2] Some reviewers were close to singing hymns of praise to the planned socialist economy, because, as the director of the Neue Sammlung München Hans Eckstein put it laconically, "There, businessmen do not make posters".[3] Hence it was possible for commercial graphic artists to design their posters free of the constraints of the market and commerce. The fact that Polish poster art, even in the Stalinist era in the early 1950s, had been able to exploit creative freedoms that were at that time denied to non-applied art under the doctrine of socialist realism, made it additionally interesting.

 

[1] Erich Pfeiffer-Belli, “Plakate aus Polen. Eine Übersicht in der Münchner Neuen Sammlung“, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 27.03.1962, p. 12. The review was of the exhibition, "Plakate aus Polen", in the Munich Neue Sammlung, 22.3.-29.4.1962

[2] Quotations taken from the SZ, 27.03.1962, p. 12; FAZ, 10.11.1965, p. 9; FAZ, 28.2.1966, p. 11

[3] Hans Eckstein, “Vorwort”, in: Plakate aus Polen (exhibition catalogue), München, Die Neue Sammlung, 1962

Mediathek Sorted

Mediathek
  • One of the approximately 180 posters that could be seen in Munich in 1962: Wojciech Fangor, Czarna Carmen (Carmen Jones), 1959

    ill. 1: Wojciech Fangor, Czarna Carmen (Carmen Jones), 1959

    One of the approximately 180 posters that could be seen in Munich in 1962: Wojciech Fangor, Czarna Carmen (Carmen Jones), 1959
  • Also present at the Munich exhibition: Józef Mroszczak, Student żebrak (The begging student), 1961

    ill. 2: Józef Mroszczak, Student żebrak(The begging student), 1961

    Also present at the Munich exhibition: Józef Mroszczak, Student żebrak (The begging student), 1961
  • A poster was also shown in Munich in 1962, which became one of the most famous examples of Polish poster art: Henryk Tomaszewski, Henry Moore, 1959

    ill. 3: Henryk Tomaszewski, Henry Moore, 1959

    A poster was also shown in Munich in 1962, which became one of the most famous examples of Polish poster art: Henryk Tomaszewski, Henry Moore, 1959
  • Cultural posters were ubiquitous in Poland - at least this is how a Western audience was often suggested

    ill. 4: Cultural posters in Poland

    Cultural posters were ubiquitous in Poland - at least this is how a Western audience was often suggested by two photographs from Józef Mroszczak, Polish poster art, Vienna and Düsseldorf 1962, without...
  • Exhibitions of Polish poster art in the FRG 1964-1966, overview

    ill. 5: Exhibitions of Polish poster art in the FRG 1964-1966, overview

    Exhibitions of Polish poster art in the FRG 1964-1966, overview
  • View of the exhibition "Masterpieces of Polish Poster Art". Exhibition "Masterpieces of Polish Poster Art", Darmstadt,  Henschel & Ropertz department store, October 1964

    ill. 6: View of the exhibition "Masterpieces of Polish Poster Art"

    View of the exhibition "Masterpieces of Polish Poster Art". Exhibition "Masterpieces of Polish Poster Art", Darmstadt, Henschel & Ropertz department store, October 1964
  • Exhibition "Masterpieces of Polish Poster Art", Darmstadt, department store Henschel&Ropertz, October 1964

    ill. 7: View of the exhibition "Masterpieces of Polish Poster Art"

    Exhibition "Masterpieces of Polish Poster Art", Darmstadt, department store Henschel&Ropertz, October 1964
  • Henryk Tomaszewski, 22 Lipca (22. July), 1960

    ill. 8: Henryk Tomaszewski, 22 Lipca (22. July), 1960

    Henryk Tomaszewski, 22 Lipca (22. July), 1960
  • Photograph. V. Zamecznik, Józef Mroszczak, 1962

    ill. 9: Photo. V. Zamecznik, Józef Mroszczak

    Photograph. V. Zamecznik, Józef Mroszczak, 1962
  • Józef Mroszczak, Don Carlos, 1963

    ill. 10: Józef Mroszczak, Don Carlos, 1963

    Józef Mroszczak, Don Carlos, 1963
  • Photograph. W. Zamecznik, Roman Cieślewicz, 1962

    ill. 11: Photo. W. Zamecznik, Roman Cieślewicz, 1962

    Photograph. W. Zamecznik, Roman Cieślewicz, 1962
  • Roman Cieślewicz, Zawrót głowy (Vertigo), 1963

    ill. 12: Roman Cieślewicz, Zawrót głowy (Vertigo), 1963

    Roman Cieślewicz, Zawrót głowy (Vertigo), 1963
  • Jan Lenica, 1962

    ill. 13: Jan Lenica, 1962

    Jan Lenica, 1962
  • Jan Lenica, Wozzeck, 1964 


    ill. 14: Jan Lenica, Wozzeck, 1964

    Jan Lenica, Wozzeck, 1964 

  • Jan Lenica, Faust, 1964

    ill. 15: Jan Lenica, Faust, 1964

    Jan Lenica, Faust, 1964
  • Jan Lenica, Othello, 1968

    ill. 16: Jan Lenica, Othello, 1968

    Jan Lenica, Othello, 1968
  • Jan Lenica, Olympic Games Munich 1972

    ill. 17: Jan Lenica, Olympic Games Munich 1972

    Jan Lenica, Olympic Games Munich 1972
  • Monthly Bulletin Poland, edition FRG, 1961, no. 12

    ill. 18: Monthly Bulletin Poland, edition FRG, 1961, no. 12

    Monthly Bulletin Poland, edition FRG, 1961, no. 12
  • Franciszek Starowieyski, Gombrowicz: Operetka, 1977

    ill. 19: Franciszek Starowieyski, Gombrowicz: Operetka, 1977

    Franciszek Starowieyski, Gombrowicz: Operetka, 1977
  • Franciszek Starowieyski, Samuel Zborowskii, J. Słowacki, 1980

    ill. 20: Franciszek Starowieyski, Samuel Zborowskii, J. Słowacki, 1980

    Franciszek Starowieyski, Samuel Zborowskii, J. Słowacki, 1980
  • Deutsche Bundespost, a postage stamp for the United Nations International Year of Peace 1986, design Jan Lenica

    ill. 21: A postage stamp for the United Nations International Year of Peace 1986

    Deutsche Bundespost, a postage stamp for the United Nations International Year of Peace 1986, design Jan Lenica
  • Tomasz Sarnecki, Solidarność. W samo poludnie (Solidarność. Twelve o' clock noon), 1989

    ill. 22: Tomasz Sarnecki, Solidarność

    Tomasz Sarnecki, Solidarność. W samo poludnie (Solidarność. Twelve o' clock noon), 1989
  • The magazine "Jenseits der Oder" was published by the German Society for Cultural and Eco-nomic Exchange with Poland. Given the background of the Bonn border reservation, the maga-zine's title was a political provocation.

    ill. 23: Magazine "Jenseits der Oder" ("Beyond the Oder")

    The magazine "Jenseits der Oder" was published by the German Society for Cultural and Eco-nomic Exchange with Poland. Given the background of the Bonn border reservation, the maga-zine's title was a p...
  • Jan Lenica, Wizyta starszej pani (The Visit), 1958

    ill. 24: Jan Lenica, Wizyta starszej pani (The Visit), 1958

    Jan Lenica, Wizyta starszej pani (The Visit), 1958
  • Leszek Hołdanowicz, Pasażerka, 1963

    ill. 25: Leszek Hołdanowicz, Pasażerka, 1963

    Leszek Hołdanowicz, Pasażerka, 1963
  • Leszek Hołdanowicz, Bariera, 1966

    ill. 26: Leszek Hołdanowicz, Bariera, 1966

    Leszek Hołdanowicz, Bariera, 1966
  • First International Poster Biennale Warsaw, 1966

    ill. 27: First International Poster Biennale Warsaw, 1966

    First International Poster Biennale Warsaw, 1966