CYRK...Polish circus/art posters, with their most recognizable subjects and unmatched popularity, are the quintessential posters of the golden age of the Polish School of Posters -1945 (the end of World War II) through 1989 (the fall of Communism). During this time, the Polish Government financially supported and encouraged poster art. Posters became the primary art form of the nation. The art of Polish posters attained international fame, becoming established as the best in contemporary/vintage poster art.
The Art of Polish Posters (c.1945-1989)
The end of World War II marked the beginning of a new period in the development of Polish poster art. Building sites throughout Poland were enclosed with wooden fences, which were quickly covered with posters. These fences became the substitutes for the absent museums and galleries; and posters became the art of the street. During this time, poster design flourished, developing definite characteristics: the painterly gesture, a linear quality, and vibrant colors, as well as a sense of individual personality, humor, and fantasy.
From the l950s through the 1980s, the Polish School of Posters continued to successfully marry the experiences and ambitions of painting with the succinctness and impact of the poster. The distinction between designer and artist totally disappeared. The Polish poster became a national treasure and the golden era of the Polish School of Posters was established.
The Art of CYRK Posters
During the golden era of the Polish School of Posters (post World War II-1989), the most recognized subject and the most highly acclaimed posters were CYRK Polish circus/art posters. For approximately a quarter century, CYRK posters achieved a remarkable artistic quality as well as an unmatched degree of popularity.
Contemporary CYRK posters were first created in 1962, when the state circus agency, the United Entertainment Enterprises (ZPR), commissioned leading artists to develop a modern approach to the circus poster. The ZPR wanted a revised look for the circus poster to parallel the circus' efforts to upgrade its image. These new CYRK posters were not to be advertisements presenting concrete objects, people, or facts; but rather, they were to be artistic renderings reminding the public that an exciting and modern circus was coming to town. Based usually on a single theme, their metaphors and allusions created a wonderful artistic expression that should be viewed, but should also be read, pondered, and digested.
The artists of the Polish School of Posters, from the end of World War II through the l980s, possessed a genius not seen in one country since France's La Belle Époque of the 1890s. With state financial support and artistic encouragement, the graphic artists of the golden era of the Polish School of Posters designed strong, original, individualistic images - often intended to surprise, provoke, or disturb the viewers' beliefs and values. They frequently used camouflage and commonly understood ironies to communicate surreptitiously with the public and comment on society. Some designers preferred painterly realistic gestures; some drew upon the fantastic and surreal while others favored abstraction. CYRK posters, like the circus they portray, are exciting and diverse, encompassing a wide range of artistic styles.
Many CYRK posters and most CYRK artists have received awards in national as well as international poster competitions. (See the individual artists' page for brief biographical data as well as the artists' awards.)
Politics and Poster Art
Beginning in 1945, Poland was governed by a Soviet-supported Communist regime - the Polish People's Republic. Under this Communist government, all media including the poster, were given an exalted status although subjected to censorship.
In the 1960s, Poland achieved relative political autonomy from the USSR, and culture increasingly became the center of public life. The state as both patron and controller of the arts gave recognition to posters as an art form. While the state's patronage supported the poster, the state's encouragement created its success - sponsoring the 1st International Poster Biennale (1966) in Warsaw (note: the 18th Biennale will be held in Warsaw in 2002) and opening the world's first poster museum (1968) in Wilanow (Warsaw).
The 1970s witnessed a lessening of direct state supervision of the media resulting in state-owned publishers exerting less and less influence over poster content. In this atmosphere of greater artistic freedom, poster design flourished; becoming more dynamic, more expressive, and more artistic. Posters also became more intellectual and challenging as artists smuggled their own ideas into works still supported by the state.
In 1989, the introduction of a free market economy in Poland dramatically changed the role of the poster. Posters as advertisements began replacing posters as art - commercialism began replacing creativity. The trademark originality of Polish posters began to disappear. Their artistic level declined. Their future became cloudy and still remains uncertain. The fall of Communism brought with it the end of an era - the end of the golden era of the Polish School of Posters.
The Popularity of CYRK
The Polish School of Posters was never isolated behind an iron curtain but from its inception was part of the international art community. Polish poster artists entered international poster exhibitions and competitions both at home and abroad; their many awards helped establish the international dominance of the art of the golden era of the Polish School of Posters.
The use of this document is permitted under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
Other contemporary vintage Polish posters by artists of the Polish School of Posters
For comments/questions contact us.
A VeriSign Company
We accept PayPal
Contemporary Posters, Prior Products Inc., 115 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023-4198 USA
© Contemporary Posters, 1996-2022