Anna Birtus-Seifert, ‘III Exhibition of the State School of Industrial Design in Krakow’ (1926), courtesy of Krakow National Museum
Art Deco usually conjures images of a jiving New York - a world of jazz, svelte cocktail bars and ball-busting movie producers with a penchant for cigars and not only. But rewind to Paris’s ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs’ of 1925 and we find that Poland was the toast of the show
Polish Poster Art began during the Młoda Polska, or Young Poland era. It was a period that lasted from roughly 1890 until about 1914. Before this, the most compelling pieces of artwork from Poland were wood cuts from the folk artists of the countryside and paintings. It is not surprising, then, that the first posters were created by painters and were heavily influenced by Polish folk art. The artists, at the time, also had their eyes open as to what else was going on in the world around them. At this time Art Nouveau was all the craze in Western Europe. Polish artistic attitudes revolved around reviving Polish Modernism and following the ideals of Art Nouveau. If we take a look at Sztuka by Teodor Axentowicz (1859-1938) we see that its style is very much reminiscent of Art Nouveau. Another of the early poster artists was Stanisław Wyspiański (1869-1807). He was a painter that had traveled all over Europe. His posters set the standard for what was to become of Polish poster art. One of his posters is for a play that was performed only twice in Poland. The drawing and text in that poster are not just illustrations of the play, rather, they are a comment on the content. The difference is that anyone can illustrate what happens in the play, but Wyspiański was able to get to the core meaning of the play with simple images and text. Yet another early poster artist was Karol Frycz (1887-1963), a theater set designer and a painter. In 1904 he designed a poster for Melpomena’s Portfolio. It is still heavily influenced by Art Nouveau.