Henryk Tomaszewski was an award-winning Polish graphic designer, poster artist, and the father of the Polish Poster School, which combined the aesthetics of paintings with the succinctness of design, and was particularly popular in the 1950s through the 1980s. The School put at the forefront the characteristics of linear quality, vibrant colors and the idiosyncratic personalities of its designers, thus allowing to blur the distinction between the design and the artist. The strength and exuberance of this innovative style lie in a simple and yet greatly intelligent translation of ecumenical symbols from the literary, theatrical, musical, and film worlds into a concrete visual language. The School significantly influenced the view and perception of graphic design and poster art. In addition to the aesthetic and artistic elements, their posters were able to reveal the artist’s emotional involvement, serving as both an objective representation as well as the artist’s personal interpretation, commentary, and critique on the subject conveyed in the poster and on society.
Born in 1914, Tomaszewski’s biography greatly affected his artistic endeavors in creating rigorous, incendiary designs that were innovative and revolutionary in the 1930s zeitgeist in Poland. He brought youth, freedom, richness, and a superfluous amount of imagination to his designs, something that Poland at the time was yet to see and experience, especially before and during the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany. His works, first presented in 1939 in the World Exhibition in New York, used bright and iridescent colors, spots and synthetic drawing. After WWII, he embarked on a more provocative play with the viewer’s imagination, using complex and sophisticated poetic structures, minimalist forms, and subtle intellectual precision in his works. Tomaszewski died in 2005, leaving behind a legacy of innovative designs and persistent artistic activism.