Best known polish poster designer

Photo from C. Schroth on the cover of the catalogue of Jan Lenica's exhibition at the Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej in Warsaw, 2000

Jan Lenica, the great, best known polish poster designer and movie maker died on October 5, 2001 in Berlin where he had lived since 1986.

Jan Lenica died in Berlin on October 5. He was born in Poznan on January 4, 1928. In the 50s he moved to Warsaw, since 1963 he had lived in Paris. He was a professor at Universities in Kassel and Berlin, where he spent the last decade of his life.

Works of Jan Lenica belong to the best chapters of Polish art of the last fifty years. 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, whereas as a maker of animated movies he introduced an entirely new approach to this area of film art.

Lenica was also the author of the term “Polish School of Poster” which was used by him as the title of the article on Polish poster in Swiss “Graphis”. For, apart from his own art works, he was a successful art critic.

Lenica’s posters were characterised by aggressive expression, however an element of sarcastic satire also appeared in them. This peculiar atmosphere of his works made him be compared in the 60s to the generation of then contemporary “Angry Young Men” (Osborne). Artistic form of his works often surpassed experiences of then-up-to-date technique of workshop graphics. Lenica quite quickly developed his own “handwriting” and despite the fact that through decades it underwent understandable transformations, his works always maintained an element of his own specific style.

His way to film 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.

But what was decisive about the importance of his graphic and film works was their intellectual sphere. Internally focused, Lenica’s works always required an active perception from the viewer, a some kind of peculiar dialogue with the author.

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.

Zdzislaw Schubert
Curator of the Gallery of Poster and Design
National Museum in Poznan



An obituary (in german)
Posters at The Galeria Polskiego Plakatu, Warsaw
Posters at the Polish Poster Shop, Wroclaw
Posters at the Gallery “The Art of Poster”, Warsaw
A short biography (in french), listing Lenica’s films
Catalogue of a Lenica exh
1964, Alban Berg's opera Wozzeck at the Teatr Wielki in Warsaw
1964, Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck at the Teatr Wielki in Warsaw
ibition and film festival in Warsaw (2000) (in polish) and english

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