Text on poster: Teatr im. Jana Kochanowskiego w Opolu // Opowieski Kanterberyjskie [The Canterbury Tales] // Geoffrey Chaucer // dla Tadka N. [for Tadka N.]. Date: 1976. Height x width: 84cm x 59cm (33” x 23”). Printing information: lower left corner: PZGraf Wrocław 528-78 8-4 0000 B; lower right corner: KAW logo Katowice. Condition: No visual flaws
Sawka, one of the most celebrated names in the Polish poster school, was also a painter, set designer, and architect. In 1976, because of his ties to counter-cultural movements antagonistic to government interests in Poland, he was expelled and emigrated first to France, and then, a year later, to the United States, where his work appeared frequently on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times.
What is now seen as the height of Poland’s poster creativity was a paradoxical by-product of the height of Communist Party control over public messaging related to the arts and cultural endeavors from the mid-1940s to almost the end of the century. What had been, before the war, and dating back as early as the mid-19th century, florid and often text-heavy formats, where fonts and textual layout bore a predominant or equal burden with imagery in conveying information, yielded in the five decades after World War II to the primacy of the image on its own. Visuals became mischievous, allegorical, satiric, and parabolic, and so fantastically creative that they could make innumerable apolitical or counterpolitical appeals while eluding the specific controls of verbal censorship.