Rene Wanner's Poster Page


front cover Jan Lenica - Labirynt
by Ewa Czerwiakowska and Tomasz Kujawski, published on the occasion of an exhibition at the National Museum in Poznan (PL) curated by Zdzislaw Schubert, book and exhibition concept by Jan Lenica; published by and available from Muzeum Narodowe w Poznaniu (PL) (2002); 256 pages, 24 x 30 cm, about 500 color reproductions; hardcover; in polish and english; ISBN 83-89053-02-0; PLZ 220 (about US$ 54 )
An intimate and intensive review of the life of Jan Lenica, one of the world's greatest poster designers, with illustrations, stills from animated movies, scetches, designs for posters, photographs, and letters. The book is a fitting memorial to Lenica who died a few months before it's publication.

Running away from the piano

1950, Good man, Lenica's first poster
"Jan Lenica, author of posters, co-founder of the polish school of posters, director of animated films, draughtsman, stage designer and illustrator. Born on January 4, 1928 in Poznan, Poland."

With these words, the authors open a one page summary of the life of one of the most best known and most admired poster designer of the world, thereby pointing out that posters were just one part of his work. Indeed, Lenica himself confesses that "I design posters, and sometimes stage sets, and illustrate books, but it is film that is most important for me". The book is therefore aptly named after one of his animated films.

Jan's father Alfred, a professional violinist and an amateur painter, planned a musical career for his son, who quickly abandoned his piano studies, however, and began to study architecture. One of the very first illustrations in the book has the caption "Running away from the piano" and is repeated in the form of small vignettes on dozens of pages throughout the book. Nevertheless, the relation between father and son remained very close, although not always easy, as is documented through many quotes from letters between them: "All I achieved in my life was thanks to him. And also against him. This is only apparently a paradox".

As his father did not want him to acquire any skills in drawing and hardly let Jan watch while he painted, Jan recalls that he had major technical problems when the time came, in 1950, to draw his first poster, for a play that a friend had written. Working for Gronowski and Trepkowski for a while did not help either and only reinforced his belief that he had to find his own way. He was enchanted with Henryk Tomaszewski's first posters, and decided at the same time "to be as dissimilar from him as possible"; the two remained close friends till the end of Jan's life, which is again born out in numerous letters.

The stories above should serve as examples about the level and nature of detail that is treated in the text. It is difficult to describe such a dense book about such a great man as Lenica, but this monograph is also "as dissimilar as possible", in a good way, from the usual artist biography. Lenica himself discussed the layout with the authors and book designers, a few months before his death. It is as lively, surprising, humorous and colorful, profound and clear as Jan Lenica's posters.

Posters for Racine's Phaedra, 1957, 1977, 1998 1964, The making of Alban Berg's Wozzeck at the rue Notre Dame des Champs in Paris Scetches for the poster for the Olympic Games in Munich 1972


Lenica's Obituary
Jan Lenica "Labirynt", exhibition at the National Museum in Poznan

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