It was, literally, love at the first sight. I clearly remember when I first got a glimpse of the Polish Posters during a research for an ad campaign I was working on. It was the twisted look of "Wozzeck", followed by the elegant creepiness of "The Birds". I was immediately captivated by the colors, the design, the simplicity and ingenuity each of those pieces contained.
That triggered my curiosity and, with some further research (not for the ad campaign, which by then was completely forgotten), I started learning about the historical context they were part of and the amount of creativity and cryptic messages each one of them carried. Pretty amazing stuff.
So before you jump into the pieces, its worth understanding their history. So here's what I've got from a bunch of sites specialized in the theme. Enjoy!
The end of World War II marked the beginning of a new period in the development of Polish poster art. Building sites throughout Poland were enclosed with wooden fences, which were quickly covered with posters. These fences became the substitutes for the absent museums and galleries; and posters became the art of the street. During this time, poster design flourished, developing definite characteristics: the painterly gesture, a linear quality, and vibrant colors, as well as a sense of individual personality, humor, and fantasy.
From the l950s through the 1980s, the Polish School of Posters continued to successfully marry the experiences and ambitions of painting with the succinctness and impact of the poster. The distinction between designer and artist totally disappeared. The Polish poster became a national treasure and the golden era of the Polish School of Posters was established.
It all started in 1945, when Poland was governed by a Soviet-supported Communist regime - the Polish People's Republic. Under this Communist government, all media including the poster, were given an exalted status although subjected to censorship.
By the 1960s, Poland achieved relative political autonomy from the USSR, and culture increasingly became the center of public life. The state as both patron and controller of the arts gave recognition to posters as an art form. While the state's patronage supported the poster, the state's encouragement created its success - sponsoring the 1st International Poster Biennale (1966) in Warsaw (note: the 18th Biennale will be held in Warsaw in 2002) and opening the world's first poster museum (1968) in Wilanow (Warsaw).
The 1970s witnessed a lessening of direct state supervision of the media resulting in state-owned publishers exerting less and less influence over poster content. In this atmosphere of greater artistic freedom, poster design flourished; becoming more dynamic, more expressive, and more artistic. Posters also became more intellectual and challenging as artists smuggled their own ideas into works still supported by the state.
In 1989, the introduction of a free market economy in Poland dramatically changed the role of the poster. Posters as advertisements began replacing posters as art - commercialism began replacing creativity. The trademark originality of Polish posters began to disappear. Their artistic level declined. Their future became cloudy and still remains uncertain. The fall of Communism brought with it the end of an era - the end of the golden era of the Polish School of Posters.