An exhibition of Polish posters from 1918-1939: Between Art Deco and Modernism

An exhibition of rare Polish posters created between the two World Wars, which miraculously survived the second World War is on at the India International Centre, New Delhi till June 28.

Tadeusz Gronowski (1894-1990)/ Date:1926
Tadeusz Gronowski (1894-1990)/ Date:1926
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Amit Sengupta

This historic, eclectic and rare collection from the Poster Museum at Wilanow, Poland, span the period between the two World Wars. The second world war, when tens of thousands of Polish people were killed, while Jews were gassed to death in concentration camps across the country, also stands witness to the complete destruction of Warsaw and other towns in Poland. That these posters have survived without any digital or archival support of that era, amidst war, mass death and destruction, is nothing short of a miracle.

Since the early 20th century, and years before that, in the Polish creative and artistic narrative and inheritance, Poster design has been a cathartic source of cultural pride. Local traditions and festivals, sports, food and cuisine, family gatherings, picnics and social collectives, great historical memories, wars and victories -- posters captured and documented the reality of their times mixing various art forms, including avant garde and modernist narratives.

Tadeusz Gronowski (1894-1990)/ Date: 1936
Tadeusz Gronowski (1894-1990)/ Date: 1936

Posters thereby became integral to the folk and oral tradition, as much as to popular, modern and mainstream stories of both historical value and contemporary times.  Indeed, traditionalism and modernism complimented each other, as  by the students at the Warsaw Polytechnic Institute. "Works of these artists evoked feelings of fantasy, grotesque imagination, and humour, as well as elegance and style," says the Polish Institute in New Delhi. Opened in 1968, the Poster Museum boasts of one of the largest poster collections in the world. The Museum’s archives hold over 62 thousand artistic, advertising and propaganda prints from all over the world. It includes treasured works by artists Stanisław Wyspiański, Józef Mehoffer and Tadeusz Gronowski besides unique prints by artists Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Peter Max, Andy Warhol.

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