Barbara âBasia' Baranowska is the unsung hero of Polish poster art. Whereas the likes of Jan Lenica developed a distinct, often instantly recognizable style, Barbara Baranowska was a chameleon. She donned a variety of graphic personae from the sometimes brutal cut outs of her early Polish book jackets to voluptuous, almost psychedelic surrealism of her French film posters. In sharp contrast the savage eroticism of her later posters, Baranowska was adept in evoking a colourful fairytale world brimming with animals. While she may not be the most prolific artist of her generation, the works she produced in Poland during the 1960s and France in the 1970s are unforgettable.
THE POLISH POSTER SCHOOL
During the late 1950s, there was a revolution in Polish poster art. Free from the shackles of socrealizm (the Polish adaptation of socialist realism), a wave artists brought a strikingly modern artistic sensibility to the poster. Lacking the resources to produce slick Hollywood like posters, these artists turned to various modernist trends for inspiration. Often armed with little more than a brush, crayon or simply just a pair of scissors, these Polish artists developed a raw, sometimes savage but always intelligent approach to the film poster. Artists such as Henryk Tomaszewski, Jan Lenica and Roman Cieslewicz developed a unique and often witty approach to rendering the very essence of a film in a single, eye catching image. Less well known, however, are the women of Polish poster art, including Teresa Byszewska and, in particular, Barbara Baranowska.
Baranowska was born into a noble family in Katowice in 1934. She studied painting at the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1959. During the 1960s Baranowska designed film posters, book jackets and illustrated children's books. Less prolific than her more famous contemporaries (Jan Lenica and Roman Cieslewicz), she nevertheless employed a similarly pared down visual approach to her assignments.
Baranowska designed the covers and sometimes illustrating numerous books by the Polish-Jewish author Adolf Rudnicki (1909 1990), including Krowa (Cows), Narzeczony Beaty (The Blessed Bride), Niekochana (The Unloved) and Zolnierze (Soldiers) and Lato (Side). In addition, she also illustrated children's books, the first of which was Mira Jaworczakowa's Najmniejszy podroznik (The Smallest Explorer) in 1962.
Strikingly beautiful, Baranowska made cameos in a handful of films, including Janusz Morgernstern's Do widzenjie do jutraâ¦ (See You Tomorrow, 1960) and Witold Giersz's Oczekiwanie (Awaiting, 1962). However, arguably the most widely seen of her artwork is the cow she designed for a brand of butter which even today can still be found in Polish shopsâ¦
At the end of the 1960s, Baranowska moved to Paris. She designed some of the most visual striking film posters of the 1970s, including Milos Forman's Taking Off (1971), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1971) Luis Garcia Berlanga's Life Size (1974) and Andrzej Zulawski's Possession (1981).
During the late 1970s, Baranowska moved to Hollywood, where she completed a series of portrait paintings, including Alfred Hitchcock, studio head Barry Diller and the Viennese magnate Charlie Bluhdorn.
She lives in Paris.
Made possible with the kind support of Arts Council England.