Polish Circus Posters Polnische Zirkusplakate Affiches de cirque polonaises CYRK Jersey Wasniewski [Deutscher TextSeite 536] [Texte francais: page 539] Polish circus posters have been valued by connoisseurs of the applied graphic arts for many years. And the hundred circus posters that were issued by the graphic arts publishing establishment W.A.G. in Warsaw between 1962 and 1966 certainly deserve attention. Their quality is perhaps the more striking because they diverge so much from what tradition would lead one to expect of the circus poster. Their very number also raises a question in the mind of most outside observerswhy should so many of these posters have been produced in a comparatively short period? Here the answer is simplethe number reflects the development of the Polish circus, which in the last ten years has earned its place among the best in the world. Although the circus is thought of today chiefly as a treat for children, it is in effect one of the oldest spectacles known to European culture. The huge walls of the Colosseum in Rome, which have survived the centuries, are after all only the remains of a circus building. In Roman times circus performances accompanied all the major events of state. From the glory of antiquity, however, the circus declined in the Middle Ages to the level of the travelling fair and the wake, with troupes of wandering performers not much higher on the social ladder than gypsies. Today the circus has risen from its ashes. This is reflected not only in an increase in the numbers of troupesthere are eleven in Poland todaybut in the elimination of much of the cheap glare and glitter that once surrounded them and the recovery of authentic values, to which new artistic qualities have been added. While a popular tradition has been revived, it has also been brought up to date by the resources of modern music, modern dancing, but above all modern technology. The endeavour to raise the artistic standards of the circus has affected costumes, equipment, lighting and many aspects of general presentation. The eleven Polish circuses now have a sort of art director in the person of the designer Stanislaw Miedza-Tomaszewski. The modernized circus naturally calls for modernized advertising and in particular for a new approach to the poster. The collection of posters reproduced here is not merely the visiting-card of the modern Polish circusit is also a pointer in the direction the circus is destined to go. It was not easy to overcome the initial resistance to this change. It came in part from the general public, but in an even stronger form from circus people themselves. The mistrust of everything new that was deeply ingrained in the profession naturally made no exception of the poster. The difficulties, however, already belong to the past. Today the circus artist himself believes in the renewal of his trade he has realized the value of a higher artistic standing and is proud of these posters, of which he himself is after all the real hero. Apart from the avant-garde style of the new Polish circus poster, its choice of subjects soon catches the eye of any attentive observer. It is not devoted to the circus as a whole. It almost always picks out certain features of a performance. This makes it possible to operate, in advertising campaigns, with whole groups of posters, a procedure which not only increases the artistic impact but also helps to compensate a technical weakness of the present-day Polish circus posterits rather small format. Under these circumstances the circus poster naturally becomes an attractive proposition for the artist. Its nearness to primitive and popular art has inspired designers such as Roman Cieslewicz, Roslaw Szaybo and Bronislaw Zelek, [Continued on page 560] 534

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