Rene Wanner's Poster Page


front cover Political posters in Central and Eastern Europe

J. Aulich and M. Sylvestrova; Manchester University Press (1999); available from Politico's Bookstore; 227 pages, 476 color and b/w illustrations; 22 x 28 cm; hardcover ISBN 0-7190-5418-4, softcover ISBN 0-7190-5419-2; in english; GBP 15.99 (about 24 USD)

Cover from a 1976 poster by Miron Lukianov and Leonid Nepomniashchii
front cover Marta Sylvestrova front cover James Aulich

This book, and the accompanying exhibitions at the Moravian Gallery in Brno (CZ) and the Imperial War Museum in London (GB) is the culmination of a five year research effort initiated by James Aulich, a Senior Lecturer in the History of Art and Design at Manchester University.

He was soon joined by Marta Sylvestrova, Curator of the poster collection at the Moravian Gallery in Brno, Czech Republic, who's longtime connections with poster designers all over the world proved to be indispensable for the necessary field work which took her to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev, Ljubljana, Zagreb, Bratislava, Cluj, Lodz, Pecs, Rostock, Tallin, Timisoara, Wroclaw, Berlin, Riga, Vilnius, Bucharest, Warsaw, Poznan, Budapest, Minsk and Prague. Although rewarding, it was hard work: The one trip on which I accompanied Marta, to Bucharest in 1994, would alone fill the lifetime adventure budget of most people I know.

This work has historic significance, and the authors have my highest admiration for their tenacity to document a part of our cultural heritage that is disappearing fast, for various reasons. Many of the institutions that kept posters during the Cold War have vanished, or have destroyed their holdings before their commercial value was realized, and many poster designers prefer to forget their political works, together with the hard times and difficult personal situations during which they were made.

Westerners usually have no idea what it meant to live under a communist regime, and are unfamiliar with its customs, ceremonies, cults, written and unwritten rules, and lies. An explanation or interpretation of most posters and their background is therefore essential, and fortunately, the authors have done just that, on a level of detail that I have not seen in any other publication, with ample and well referenced quotes, supplemented with photographs that capture the spirit of the times.

The posters presented in the book were selected to show a wide geographical, artistic and thematic diversity, and cover the time from 1945 to 1995, although production of political posters after the end of the communist era in 1990 decreased drastically. Shown below is one example from each chapter of the book:

1. The political poster and communism

1949, Viktor Govorkov
Listen! Moscow speaks!

2. The aesthetics of socialist realism
1956, T. Szentpetery
The battle continues!

3. Modernization and rebellion 1956-68

1978, G. Bukosi
30. anniversary of association of hungarian-soviet defence

4. Stagnation 1968-85

1978, Jan Sawka
Jazz on Odra river

5. The collapse of communism 1985-95

1952, T. Trepkowski

6. Great leaders, political symbols and
communist ceremonies
1975, Viktor Ivanov
Lenin lived, Lenin lives, Lenin will live !

7. The communist future

1956, Jeno Molnar
Following the example of the soviet railway workers ...

8. The new socialist "happy" people

1950, Jupp Alt
Friendship forever, Month of german-soviet friendship

9. Internal and
external enemies

1950, Gyorgy Pal
We will defend the peace!

The exhibition in Brno included more posters than could be shown in the book, and all of course in color, while about half of the illustrations in the book are just in black and white, a major disappointement for me:

The conclusion of the project was celebrated in a symposium in Brno, in November 1999, whose proceedings will be published shortly, and here are pictures of some of the people who contributed to this vast undertaking, in one way or another:

Anna Grabowska
Assistant Curator
Defender of czech village against american agents
Irena Przymus
Assisstant Curator
Defender of peace
Snjezana Pavicic
Curator, Zagreb
Florian Zielinski
Sociologist and dealer, Poznan

Mariusz Knorowski
Author and teacher
Katalin Bakos
Curator, Budapest
Vladimir Il'ich
St. Petersburg
Andryi Budnik
Designer and collector, Kyiv
Defender of peace
Krzysztof Dydo
Author and dealer

Signs of the times, web site of the project
Review of the exhibition by J. Aulich
Description of book by Manchester University Press

home   more reviews    page last revised on January 10, 2001 / this section is part of Rene Wanner's Poster Page /