Moving away from Cuban posters, let’s take a look at another country that fostered some amazing, creative poster schools under a Communist government. As an art form, posters have been popular in Poland since their development in France in the 1880s and 90s, whether advertising gallery exhibitions and theater performances or promoting travel to foreigners. After the region gained political independence in 1918, industrialization and the new trade market led to a barrage of advertising and product-specific posters, incorporating new styles (mainly Cubism) and techniques. After World War II, Poland came under Soviet rule, and an official “Polish Poster School” was founded to spread propaganda through poster art. (In the USSR, graphic designers were actually considered better than fine artists, because they produced useful objects, as opposed to bourgeois painting and sculpture that served no function.)
Film production distribution was controlled by the state, and artists were hired to create posters for domestic use. By the mid-50s, some extreme Stalinist policies were lifted, and poster artists were given more freedom than other creatives. As in Cuba, there was no commercial intent, no push for posters to bring in audiences, so the content of the works didn’t really matter. These posters are rich with experimental techniques, surreal imagery, art historical references, and incredible imagination. I want to talk about them all the time, but I think the most reasonable approach is to do posts on individual artists. First I’ll take a look at Marian Stachurski, whom I’ll admit I thought was a woman for a while and was a little disappointed to find out was actually a man. It’s ok, his work is still pretty neat, and there are some women poster designers I will definitely be talking about in the future.
Marian Stachurski: Annie Get Your Gun, 1958. via 50 Watts
Born in 1931, Stachurski studied at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts under Henryk Tomaszewski, an influential illustrator who taught many of the most successful poster designers in Poland. Stachurski created film posters from the late-1950s through the mid-70s, for both domestic and international films. As with many designers, he employed a range of styles and approaches, but his work is generally characterized by its simplified forms, playful color schemes, and mix of film stills with painted elements. He was influenced by Polish folk art, as seen in the almost naive approach to figure drawing; their bold outlines and blocky shapes recall the aesthetic of paper cut-out crafts popular in the surrounding region. His subjects tended to reference the films directly, but with the addition of fanciful or abstract elements. I love the folksy-cute characters in his Annie Get Your Gun and Seven Samurai posters, as well as the darker undertones of The Time Machine and Spirits of the Dead. My favorite is probably his poster for Truffaut’s Bed and Board; with its soft watercolor effect and butterfly imagery I’m reminded of Henry Darger’s illustrations.
Below is a sampling of Stachurski’s sizable oeuvre. Many more to be enjoyed at the sources! And for more general information about poster history in Poland check out this Smashing Magazine article.
Marian Stachurski: Bullitt, 1971. via Polish Film Poster Picture Archive
Marian Stachurski: A Patch of Blue, 1968. via Polish Film Poster Picture Archive
Marian Stachurski: Podniebny Lot, 1960. via DESA Unicum
Marian Stachurski: Spirits of the Dead, 1971. via Polish Film Poster Picture Archive
Marian Stachurski: Seven Samurai, 1960. via Polish Film Poster Picture Archive
Marian Stachurski: The Ferry, 1970. via Polish Film Poster Picture Archive
Marian Stachurski: Ewa chce spac, 1958. via Art of Poster Gallery
Marian Stachurski: Bed and Board, 1972. via Polish Film Poster Picture Archive
Marian Stachurski: In the Heat of the Night, 1976. via PolishPoster.com
Marian Stachurski: The Adventures of Arsene Lupin, 1958. via PolishPoster.com
Marian Stachurski: Tomorrow is Forever, 1958. via PolishPoster.com
Marian Stachurski: The Time Machine, 1965. via PolishPoster.comby