(Opera poster, 1961)
Józef Mroszczak 1910 Nowy Targ – 1975 Warsaw
26.5w x 39h on paper
Condition: 2 small tears at middle and lower right
A distinguished graphic and poster artist, representative of the Polish School of Posters, designer of books, magazines and exhibition interiors and teacher, Mroszczak studied at the National School of Decorative Arts and Artistic Crafts in Kraków (1930-34) and the Kunstgewerbeschule in Vienna (1934-37) prior to graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. In 1937 he co-founded the Free School of Painting and Drawing in Katowice. Under the Nazi occupation he stayed in Nowy Targ, teaching drawing and advertising at the local trade school. After the war he returned to Katowice to revive the fine arts movement and teach at the local higher school which opened in 1947 as a branch of the National Higher School of fine Arts in Wroclaw. In 1952 he moved to Warsaw where he was appointed Head of Chair of Applied Graphic Arts at the Academy of Fine Arts. He was made Professor in 1956 and from 1971 was the Dean of the Academy’s Graphic Arts Faculty.
Very active in organizational matters, he was a member of the Presidium of the Design Council at the Council of Ministers’ Office and a member of the Council of Culture and Higher Artistic Education at the Ministry of Culture and Arts. He was the Polish Chairman of the Alliance Graphique International and the Deputy Chairman of the International Council of Graphic Design Association. He lectured in Darmstadt, Dusseldorf, Ulm, Vienna, Berlin, Parma, Linz, Cologne and Brussels, and developed the designs of a number of trade fairs, notably in Paris, Helsinki, Stockholm, Vienna, Barcelona, Turin and Moscow, and of the Polish art exhibitions in London, Berlin and Brussels.
He exhibited his works in Paris, Milan, Stockholm, Barcelona, Vienna, Essen, London, Berlin, Caracas and elsewhere. His awards include a Gold Medal at the 1965 International Exhibition of Editorial Art in Leipzig, a prize at the 1966 International Graphic Art Biennia, and the Association of Swiss Graphic Artists Prisma Award in 1968.
Mroszczak is considered to be one of the fathers of the world recognized school of Polish posters art alongside Tadeusz Trepkowski, Henryk Tomaszewski and Jan Lenica. His promotion of the poster art was instrumental in it becoming known and valued by large numbers of the public. Mroszczak successfully and innovatively combined all the key ingredients of the poster: maximum information conveyed with minimum means through a persuasive pictorial aspect. His posters are more painting-like than those of most Polish artists. He covers large areas with unrestricted spots of color to achieve a decorative effect. He ensured a balance between the communicative and visual aspects – the communicative side never becoming a mere pretext for the visual side, the visual side never leading an existence of its own. His poster debut took place in 1933.
Folksiness, the most pronounced characteristics of Mroszczak’s posters, was not an esthetic convention adopted with premeditation, but something that suited his personality and temper. His posters, filled with vivid spots of green and red, blue and yellow, bring to mind folk glass paintings and naive art.
Some of Mroszczak’s film and theatre posters resemble children’s torn-paper collages (Karuzela neapolitanska / Carosello Napoletano, 1957; Student zebrak / The Beggar Student, 1961; Ptasznik z Tyrolu / the Birdman from Tirol, 1963). Others are humorous (Prywatne życie Henryka VIII / The Private Life of Henry VIII, 1955). His painting-like works, emanating vitality and cheerful humor, sometimes exist side by side with their dramatic and dignified counterparts – like the Boris Godunov 1955 film and 1959 opera posters.
A separate group of posters are Mroszczak’s works for exhibitions and advertising in which the focus is on the sign, information and typography, the latter an invariable strength of his (Słowo i obraz / Word and Picture, 1971, Cepelia – kilim / Folk Art Trading House: A Kilim Carpet, 1972).
Alongside being an accomplished poster artist, Mroszczak was also an outstanding exhibitor, organizer and teacher. In collaboration with noted architects and designers, he developed designer layouts of exhibitions, promoted the Polish poster abroad, wrote one of the most comprehensive studies on the Polish poster (“Polnische Plakat Kunst / Polska sztuka plakatu”, 1963), organized a number of exhibitions of Polish posters and lectured on them throughout Europe. He was the main initiator of the world’s first Poster Museum in Wilanów which opened in 1968.
He was involved in teaching for over thirty years, turning a number of his studio students into excellent and mature poster artists. His last years were devoted to packaging designs commissioned by businesses. His students collaborated with manufacturing plants, developing design prototypes during coursework. __________ Adapted from an essay by: Ewa Gorządek, Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, May 2006
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