Polish poster art

It’s a little-known fact outside of Poland, and a less-than-widely known fact within Poland, that Polish poster art is among the best in the world. A lot of people with impressive qualifications claim that it is THE best in the world, and I’m not about to argue. I love them. If I could figure out how to get hold of the originals and print off copies to sell to students I’d be a millionaire in a snap.

This is one of my favourites. Anyone who’s seen it can guess immediately which movie it’s for:

Poster for the 1973 movie Day of the Jackal by Eryk Lipinski

posterjackal.jpg

As recently as ten or twenty years ago the Poles were able to get away with using radically different poster styles to advertise movies. Today you see exactly the same artwork on movie posters here as you do across the world. Shrek posters in Poland look exactly the same as Shrek posters in the US, just with the words translated. I don’t know why the situation changed, but it’s a hell of a shame. Have a look at these two posters for major blockbuster movies of the 1980s:

Poster for the 1986 movie Platoon by Andrzej Pagowski

posterplatoon.jpg

Poster for the 1980 movie Superman III by Grzegorz Marszalek

postersuper3.jpg

Somehow I feel they’re better movies that I might have thought otherwise.

Sometimes the transformation through the eye of the Polish artists can be quite bizarre. Consider the following poster for the lighthearted Peter Sellers’ Pink Panther comedy:

Poster for the 1978 movie Revenge of the Pink Panther by Marek Ploza-Dolinski

posterrevengepink.jpg

What the hell’s going on there?! Looks like Peter Sellers’ head transposed onto the body of a bicep-popping Arnie Schwarzenegger.

But when they’re good, they’re really really good. I give you The Bridge on the River Kwai, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Shinning:

Poster for the 1957 movie The Bridge on the River Kwai by Mieczyslaw Wasilewski

posterriverkwai.jpg

Poster for the 1968 movie Rosemary’s Baby by Andrzej Pagowski

posterrosemarys.jpg

Poster for the 1980 movie The Shining by Leszek Zebrowski

postershining.jpg

Stunning stuff. I don’t know why Polish people don’t make more of a big deal about this stuff.

By the way, there’s a fabulous Museum of Polish poster art in Warsaw.

If you thought that was good, you should see my personal blog

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14 thoughts on “Polish poster art

  1. mj says:

    Of course it does have a website, and a quite good looking one too: http://www.postermuseum.pl/

  2. Ai says:

    oh! i admit i love polish artistry. There’s something in there art works that makes ur eyes hook on it….there’s an in-depth interpretation. A frustrated artist like me is a sucker of such arts.i love there movies too from the old ones, though I can’t fully understand the whole dialogues. I have to consult my słownik if hubby get pissed off everytime i ask him to interpret the whole scenes. heh!

    let me view that site by the way…

  3. island1 says:

    mj: Thanks for the link! I admit I didn’t look that carefully.

  4. michael farris says:

    But isn’t this a dead artform now?

    AFAICT Polish movie theaters just use the same crappy posters used in western countries where movie posters are all … crap.

  5. some dude says:

    I never appreciated Polish posters before. That’s why I like to hear foreigners’ opinions on my country. Some things are more visible on the outside.

  6. guest says:

    British posters are great ,too. The old beatles posters for example.

  7. island1 says:

    Michael: It does seem to be dead as far as movie posters go, yes. You’re exactly right, modern posters in Poland are just replicas of studio-approved posters that appear world-wide (as far as I know). I never really understood how the Poles got away with using their own style of posters in the first place. Anybody know?

    All advertising seems to have gone that way in fact. I’d love to see a revival of this style on billboards instead of the same old glossy ads selling a hundred different kinds of identical car or house or lingerie.

  8. island1 says:

    Dude: I does surprise me that Poles don’t make a bigger deal about this heritage, perhaps they just don’t know about it.

  9. scatts says:

    The Poles are great artists in almost every genre as far as I can tell.

    Some more links:

    http://www.theartofposter.com/

    Where you Krakovians can visit

    http://www.cracowpostergallery.com/galeria2.php

  10. Ai says:

    that link in krakow poster gallery is exiting..i’ll be spending summer in krakow hope to visit there and get some pictures..whew!

  11. island1 says:

    Ai: Ahhh… summer in Krakow – I can’t wait.

  12. Krzysztof says:

    and don’t forget to add one more link: http://www.polishposter.com
    This is the page from which all the above images came.

  13. island1 says:

    Krzysztof: That’s not completely true but, yes, a lot of them did. Thanks for thinking to post the link where I forgot.

  14. Sylwia says:

    The answer to why it was so and why it’s not anymore is because the main principle now is commerce and then it was not. Artists need to eat just as anyone else. Today the majority of artists that graduate from the various Art Academies in Poland work for advertising agencies and do an absolute crap for their clients. During communism advertisement almost didn’t exist, and if it did it wasn’t to sell a product, but usually for prestigious reasons. I.e. an anniversary of the Polish Army (in a country where every young man had to serve in the army for 2 years anyway). Products in Poland back then sold just because they were, and people bought them not out of conviction only out of necessity (those lucky ones who could get them anyway). No ads were needed, but companies had their budget for promotion and if they didn’t spend it all for themselves (i.e. alcohol that the boss would drink with a boss of another company, or other promotional gifts) they could do the prestigious thing that was hiring an artist to make a poster. A poster served as an information, not an ad. So in case of films or theatre it was only informing people of a new film or play to see. People would go anyway, no matter whether the poster was truly enticing.

    The funny thing in communism was that various institutions were not earning money as a rule. Today cinemas need to earn their bread, then they just were, because in a happy people’s socialism happy workers are provided with entertainment. So it was a governmental steered machine. Workers of any institution could bye cheap tickets in their work places. This means that i.e. a hospital was obliged to buy a number of theatre or cinema tickets and sell them to their workers at a much lower price. Who needs advertisement!?

    Of course a happy communist country is driven by the great energy that arises from its happily hard working people. That energy is transformed into blooming artistic and intellectual thought by artists of all kind appreciating the country’s shared efforts. Communists cared for all of the outside appearances, so they didn’t starve their artists, on the contrary, they cared for their well-being. Museums were buying artworks of young graduates and storing them in their basements (they’re still there), and various agencies were providing them with orders. So a film was advertised by a Polish poster so that a Polish artist could earn their bread (there were no commercial art galleries or art buyers who’d pay their living otherwise). It’s also worth mentioning that a foreign film in a cinema was such a unique occurrence that people would go to see it anyway, just because they could. Today people make discriminative choices, and the ads are to entice them. Quite a novelty!

    How we got away with using our own posters back then? It’s quite simple. Communist countries were an oddity. A mentally disabled child, stubborn in its own weird way. No one seriously argues with one, does one?

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