Celebrating the fantastic theater of Polish design and illustration

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Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal may not be household names, but their distinctive style of illustration – particularly through their beautiful book cover designs for Everyman Library’s PG Wodehouse collection – is instantly recognizable.

The married couple and their creative collaborators are now the stars of a new show dedicated to their work through graphic design, portraits, linocuts and more, titled Theater of Dreams. Held at the brutalist-style POSK (Polish Social and Cultural Association) gallery in Hammersmith, London, the exhibition is part of the Anglo-Polish cultural exchange program Granville-Skarbek, which “celebrates the contribution of the Polish diaspora to the culture and British society. ” through events and exhibitions, as well as an online museum and research center.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, cover by Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal
Andrzej Klimowski linocuts
Andrzej Klimowski linocuts

Klimowski and Schejbal are well known for their work on graphic novels, including their book titled Behind the Curtain. Billed as a “portrait of an artist’s life behind the Iron Curtain”, it follows the lives of two young art students and their vibrant community against the backdrop of soaring prices, social unrest and the presence military in Poland in the 1970s.

The Polish roots of Klimowski and Schejbal are central to this exhibition, with the exhibition focusing on the confluence of their influences from England, where they were born, and Poland. The couple – whose parents fled to the UK after fighting for the Polish resistance in World War II – went to art school in London but also spent time living and studying in Warsaw.

PG Wodehouse, Tales of Wrykyn and Elsewhere, cover by Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal
PG Wodehouse, Tales of Wrykyn and Elsewhere, cover by Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal
PG Wodehouse, Over Seventy, cover by Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal
PG Wodehouse, Over Seventy, cover by Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal

The exhibition features a new series of Klimowski linocuts, including a portrait of Krystyna Skarbek – better known by her pseudonym Christine Glanville, a master spy during World War II who was admired by Winston Churchill and inspired Ian Fleming (and is the namesake of the Anglo-Polish cultural exchange itself).

Other Polish personalities whose portraits appear include writer Joseph Conrad, artist Feliks Topolski, dancer and teacher Marie Rambert, philosopher Leszek Kołakowski, and composer Andrzej Panufnik. “I had the idea to do a series of linocut portraits of prominent Polish personalities living and working in the UK,” Klimowski explains. “These were inspired by a series of linocut portraits I did of Russian Constructivists for an exhibition marking the Russian Revolution at London Print Studio a few years ago.”

PG Wodehouse, Blandings Castle cover design by Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal
PG Wodehouse, Blandings Castle cover design by Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal

The couple’s personal relationship with England is reflected throughout the show; showcasing their work for UK clients and delineating Klimowski’s roles as head of illustration and now professor emeritus at the Royal College of Art. His film poster designs will also be on display, along with book covers from the entire PG Wodehouse collection and an illustrated version of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.

Theater of Dreams runs from October 21 to November 18 at POSK Gallery ; posk.org

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