What is the Polish School of Posters?

A good poster is something more than just an advertising medium. It can be art, or even a work of art. Poland has a long and rich tradition in this field. It is not a coincidence that the first Polish so called ‘artistic poster’ was made in 1899 by Stanisław Wyspiański- a playwright, painter, and graphic designer. This event made a starting point for the development of the poster design movement in Poland, which resulted in the emergence of a significant group of artists and the phenomenon described as the Polish School of Posters in the late 50’s of the 20th century.  The works of this unique group gained international success and fame.

The Polish School of Posters- why is it distinctive?

The term ‘Polish School’ does not imply any particular style. It is a broad concept, defining various episodes which took place within the Polish artists’ society. The time frame for this art trend is a bit controversial, due to the fact that some historians consider its members to be even the artists of the 20’s. However, the origins of the Polish School of Posters are most frequently attributed to the 50’s. A number of events taking place in the Polish poster artists’ community had undergone changes and modifications until the 70’s. The most prominent members of this group were: Henryk Tomaszewski, Roman Cieślewicz, Jan Młodożeniec, and Wojciech Fangor. Yet, some of the traditions set by the Polish School of Posters have been carried out until contemporary times.

It is extremely difficult to distinguish the fixed characteristics of the School. Still, they can be exemplified by the ability to form allusions, the humanistic approach to the audience, or universality of topics with a concurrent strong indication of the artists’ individuality. However, the most important features of the posters were succinctness and the unconventional, surprising typography which occasionally replaced graphic. Sans- serif was dominant, frequently designed especially for the purpose of a given poster.

Let us also remember that the history of the Polish poster can be found in the Poster Museum at Wilanów, Warsaw- it was founded in 1968 as the first museum of posters in the world! The museum exhibition is permanent.