Monthly Archives: September 2007

The tropes of the Polish film poster

Danton poster made  in 1991 by Wiesław Wałkuski, for a 1983 film by Andrzej Wajda

It seems that my current interest in the work of Polish-French artist Roland Topor brings me again to the work of the Polish film poster makers. Their work is fantastic, figuratively and literally. Why is it that graphic design is at such a qualitative height in Poland. And why is it that their work is so unbelievably strange?

The tropes of the Polish film poster school are the fantastique, grotesque, weird, uncanny: pierced and punctured bodies, cut-out figures, dismembered limbs, independent body parts, eerie physicality and visceral transparency.

As to the why, the site owner of Polish film posters has an explanation:

A lot of patronizing drivel had been written about the ‘Polish School’ of poster design being a ‘product’ of a ‘resistance to Communism’ or some such (and by extension, of an overwhelming desire to breathe free under the learned guidance of a Bushmonkey-on-a-cheney). That view, espoused by Western writers who don’t know any better, and Polish ones (who should know better) has been omnipresent lately. No matter that the idea of art as an expression of political circumstance is par excellence a classic communist one.

In fact, quite the opposite seems to be true : free from commercial stranglehold, these artists produced brilliant works over an extended period of time. A lot of talented people found themselves in the right place at the right time. Like any artistic movement (or ‘school’), it had its own dynamics, peaks and valleys. Indeed, some of the most accomplished works were political (pro-socialist). And now the fact that Polish film poster is dead (and had been so since 1989 when the film distribution was privatized) is further evidence of that.–

As an encore I give you one more poster with the theme of independent body parts:

poster by Lech Majewski 1977 for Le Mouton enrage (1974)
sourced here.

About 500 more movie posters of the same site here.

I’ve reported on the paratextual qualities of the film poster here.

Experience is like a comb to a bald man


Roland Topor portrait by Frantz Vaillant of Topor et moi.

Question: I was looking into the love life (cherchez la femme) of Roland Topor (who I consider the finest draftsman of the twentieth century) but could find nothing. Has there been a Topor biography? Yes there is, by  Frantz Vaillant.

The grotesque, the fantastique, niche marketing and printmaking

The Waking dream: Fantasy and the surreal in graphic art, 1450-1900 (1975) – Edward-Lucie Smith [] [FR] [DE] [UK]

My purchase of Quatre siècles de Surréalisme brought me back to the book pictured above (which I do not have in my possession, but which I feel covers the same terrain as Quatre siècles, please correct me if I am mistaken, in fact I believe the link between both books is French art historian Aline Jacquiot), of which Paul Rumsey says:

The tradition of the grotesque is particularly alive in prints. The fantastic is especially suited to the graphic medium, and it is possible to track almost its entire history in etchings, engravings and woodcuts. A fine book The Waking Dream: Fantasy and the Surreal in graphic Art 1450-1900 charts this progress through Holbein’s Dance of Death, the macabre prints of Urs Graf, the engravings of Callot, seventeenth-century alchemical prints, scientific, medical and anatomical illustration (I adapted the embryonic development diagrams of Ernst Haeckel for my drawing Species/Gender), emblems, the topsy-turvy world popular prints, Piranesi’s Prisons (which influence my architectural fantasies), Rowlandson, Gillray (whom I studied for guidance on how to draw caricature for drawings like my Seven Sins) , Goya, Fuseli and Blake, and into the nineteenth century with Grandville, Daumier, Méryon, Doré, Victor Hugo’s drawings and Redon. The tradition continues with the Symbolists and Richard Dadd, Ensor and Kubin, through to Surrealism, which recognised many of the artists of the grotesque and fantastic tradition as precursors. It is via Surrealism that much of this work has come to be appreciated. In the twentieth century this type of imagery has permeated culture, and is found everywhere, in diverse art forms including: the satiric installations of Kienholz, the drawings of A. Paul Weber, the cartoons of Robert Crumb, the animated films of Jan Svankmajer, photographs by Witkin, plays by Beckett, science fiction by Ballard, fantastic literature like Meyrink’s The Golem, Jean Ray’s Malpertuis, the art and writings of Bruno Schulz and Leonora Carrington, films by David Lynch, Cronenberg and Gilliam; all are part of a spreading network of connections, the branching tentacles of the grotesque. — Paul Rumsey

The significance of printmaking vs. oil painting is that of mechanical reproducibility. A print has always been much cheaper than an original, thus more democratic, thus more fantastic (it has to please fewer people, can address itself to niche markets), thus more nobrow.

Elsewhere #5

Surreal documents has three clips by Antonio Margheriti and three by Jesus Franco.

Musically, there is { feuilleton } with an extended profile on Street Sounds Electro and lots of audio via Youtube, praising the music just as much as the sleeve design. Also electro-ish is DJ Martian’s posting of Pink Industry’s What I Wouldn’t Give.

Giornale Nuovo reports on Érik Desmazières. I need to do more with ouvrage, a French adult comics history checklist. Lovely seated female nude by Prudhon.

*A Clockwork monk (automaton)

*Morbid Anatomy: Saul Chernick, 21st Century

*Dutch language dissertation on Unica Zürn(PDF).

Of pain and pleasure

The Tears of Eros, in a German translation, with a cover by José Manuel Capuletti.

I’ve been re-reading Bataille’s last book The Tears of Eros, including the introduction by J. M. Lo Duca and their correspondence. I also found an online version (see above) of the cover picture as used in the German and Dutch translations. The painting is by José Manuel Capuletti, a now forgotten surrealist, here depicting yet another Danaide just as Rodin did in post #795.

This afternoon I acquired the excellent Quatre siècles de Surréalisme, L’Art fantastique dans la gravure.