Poland's stylised interpretations of post-war film posters

Earlier in the year, the BFI Southbank in London celebrated the work of post-war Polish poster artists, whose original interpretations of British films released in Poland, became a seminal movement for 20th century European art history.

The Polish School of Posters was founded in 1947. Led by Henryk Tomaszewski – who also taught at Warsaw Fine Art Academy – he believed that his students should distance themselves from western “commercial” European poster design.

In 1948, the International Poster Exhibition in Vienna took place, presenting two thousand posters from 18 countries, where gold medals were also awarded to a selection of participating artists.

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Tomaszewski, who received half a dozen of those gold medals, had a distinctive painterly technique that is evinced in his interpretation of Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out (1947). Here, he chooses to represent the film through its wounded protagonist Johnny McQueen, who later disappears into Belfast’s back alleys.

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J. Lee Thompson’s intrepid 1956 drama Yield to the Night was based on the true story of Ruth Ellis, famed for being the last woman to face the death penalty in Britain. Also known as “The Blonde Sinner”, poster artist Ewa Frysztak chose to adopt this visual motif in her design, with a fragmented image of Ruth in a prison cell, coupled with a mirror image of actor Diana Dors’ face as if staring in to an abyss.

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Any guesses what iconic British film this poster references? With a nod to Andy Warhol’s 20th century icons and Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art, Waldemar Świerzy’s uses his signature conceptual style to adapt the 1967 film poster Blowup. Almost entirely deconstructing the human image, the result couldn’t be further from the original version.

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Poland was late in catching Nicolas Roeg’s finest cinematic achievements, but when the 1967 version of Far from the Madding Crowd finally touched down, Bronisław Zelek created a poster demonstrating Bathsheba’s (Julie Christie) Ménage à Trois that would eventually end in a bloody demise.

Check out more iconic Polish poster designs below:

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Poster for The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968) by Bronisław Zelek

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Poster for The Damned (1961) by Jacek Neugebauer

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Poster for Mandy (1952) by Jan Lenica

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Poster for Tiger Bay (1959) by Wojciech Wenzel