Monday, May 17, 2010

Jan Lenica - Judy

"Poster art seems closest to jazz: it is all about being able to play somebody else's theme in one’s own way" Jan Lenica

Lenica's work marks one of the key chapters in the history of Polish art of the second half of the twentieth century. His activities in two fields - poster and animated film brought him fame and recognition. In both of them he was considered to be among the very best in the world. As a maker of animated movies he introduced an entirely new approach. He is regarded as a forerunner of modern animation.

Searching for his own form of artistic expression, he took an early interest in theatre and film posters. At the time of Socialist Realism in Poland, this allowed him considerable artistic freedom, and was supported by the Polish Government. The Polish poster became a national treasure and the golden era of the Polish School of Posters was established. Jan Lenica among others successfully married the experiences and ambitions of painting with the succinctness and impact of the poster. The distinction between designer and artist totally disappeared.

The most highly acclaimed posters for this period were the CYRK Circus posters. Above is Lenica's contribution. Fabulous examples from other artists can be found here:

and further discussion about them here:

Around 1962 Lenica began to make posters for the Warsaw Opera and his style developed further. He used his own, characteristic "handwriting" in his posters which were generally gouache, watercolour and tempera paintings on paper. He also introduced different, experimental means of expression, such as collages of old drawings and paper cutouts. He created his own, individual and distinct artistic language which used a capricious, flowing, wavy line betraying fascination with Art Nouveau and a simplified, detail-free form.
Lenica preferred to use two-dimensional forms, the space of his posters having neither background nor perspective. There was irony and absurdity in them, the artist creating a brand new, grotesque reality; he was also a master of poetic metaphor. The people in his posters seem to speak or cry out to the viewer; Lenica himself used to say that "a poster must sing".

Altogether Lenica made over 200 posters. Among his finest works is "Wozzeck" which was made in 1964 to Alban Berg's opera and won the Grand Prix at the Poster Biennial in Warsaw in 1966. It shows a huge red head with wide-open lips in the middle of the face. One gets the impression that the scream coming out of the throat reverberates, wave-like, in the concentric circles repeating the shape of the lips.

In the 60s Lenica also developed his highly influential animations. This move to animations was a logical consequence of conclusions taken during work done with graphics. Animated film is after all a graphic, but animated by a movement and broadened by a time dimension. Method of "cut-out" applied in animation broke away from Disney's smoothness of character movement of and introduced an entirely new quality to this genre.

His films can be found on You tube including this very creative one here:

Poster and film works brought numerous prizes and honourable mentions to their author in many international exhibitions and festivals. He was also invited many times to international jury of plastic art and film events.

Lenica also dealt with satirical drawing, book and workshop graphics, theatre stage design, later he designed post stamps. He maintained freshness of his artistic visions and strength of inner expression till the end of his life.

Lenicas work has stood the test of time well and still seems quite contemporary


  1. love your inital quote by lenica. articulate post

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