Roman Cieślewicz (born 1930 13 January in Lwów Poland, now Lviv Ukraine – died 1996 21 January in Paris France) was a Polish (naturalized French) graphic artist and photographer.
From 1943 to 1946 he attended the School of Artistic Industry Lvov and from 1947 to 1949 attended the Kraków’s Fine Arts Lycee. He studied at Kraków’s Fine Arts Academy (ASP) from 1949 to 1955. He was artistic editor of “Ty i Ja” monthly in Warsaw 1959-1962 . In 1963 he moved to France and naturalized in 1971. He worked as art director of Vogue, Elle (1965-1969) and Mafia – advertising agency (1969-1972) and was artistic creator of Opus International (1967-1969). Kitsch (1970-1971) and Cnac-archives (1971-11974). Taught at the Ecole Superieure d’Arts Graphiques (ESAG) in Paris. In 1976 he produced his “reviev of panic information” – “Kamikaze”/No. 1/ published by Christian Bourgois. In 1991 he produced “Kamikaze 2” with Agnes B. He took part in numerous group exhibitions of graphic, poster and photographic art and was a member of AGI.
Roman Cieslewicz was one of the most influential graphic design artists of the 20th century. Living on the very cusp of the computer age he was happier with scissors and glue than new technology. The Royal College of Art in London hosted a major retrospective exhibition of his work in 2010. BBC’s report is by David Hannah: www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-10698599
Summer 1993 | Reputations: Roman Cieslewicz
‘Posters are dying out. They need strong themes, which at present they lack. As a form of communication, they belong to another age’
Interview with Roman Cieślewicz by Margo Rouard-Snowman
MoMA has 11 of Cieślewicz’ posters in their collection.
Polish Posters 1945–89
During the political Thaw after 1956, Polish Communist authorities turned their attention from heavy industry to the promotion of consumer goods as a means of earning hard currency from the West. Cieslewicz pays homage here to the surreal fashions popularized by Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli. In 1963 Cieslewicz moved to Paris and became immersed in avant-garde art and fashion, winning international acclaim for his innovative art direction of Elle and Vogue magazines.
This disquieting image of a figure constrained within an armored shell and suffocating from an eruption of flames and blood synthesizes Luigi Dallapiccola’s nightmarish operatic tale. In it a Spanish prisoner thinks he has escaped punishment only to find himself in the arms of the Grand Inquisitor and led to a burning stake. Both poster and opera conveyed the pessimism and sense of deception and entrapment prevalent in Cold War Europe.
“It was my dream to make public pictures that could be seen by as many people as possible,” Cieślewicz said. “Hence the top importance of the poster—the street picture.” At a time when the dictates of Socialist Realism conventionalized the human figure and required a relentlessly optimistic image of the future, posters for theater and film were able to adopt a more abstract and psychological approach.
A keen sense of the absurd and the macabre drew Polish audiences to such writers as Franz Kafka, Harold Pinter, and Friedrich Dürrenmatt. This poster was commissioned and printed for a Warsaw dramatization of Kafka’s novel and was also subsequently printed and circulated in Paris, where the designer had moved in 1963. “I wanted to leave Poland to see how my posters would stand up to the neon lights of the West,” he explained in 1993. “I dreamed of Paris.”
by Margo Rouard-Snowman, Thames and Hudson 1993