I knew nothing about Stefan and Franciszka Themerson before seeing the documentary directed by Wiktoria Szymanska on ARTE TV. The film starts by filming the couple of artists – he was a writer, a composer and a film maker, she was a painter and illustrator at their old age, settled in Britain. It was the end of a long road that took them from their native Poland where they began as avant-garde artists in the 1920s, to Paris, the capital of arts in the 30s. When war broke Franciszka flew to England, Stefan stayed for a while in occupied France (that was the only time when they were separated after they had met), then joined her. They made films with the Polish propaganda studios during the war, and then stayed in England for the coming decades.


source http://deckert-distribution.com/film-catalogue/art-music-culture/themerson-themerson/


In the dull after-war British landscape they created colorful and merry art, were in the center of the artistic and intellectual life and opened an editing house Gaberbocchus Press. Here they translated and made known to the English readers some of the earlier decades French experimental writers and poets like Alfred Jarry and Guillaume Apollinaire. In the 60s Franciszka worked stage sets for theater in Sweden, and then the two moved for a few years in the Netherlands. They spent their final years in England, and died a few months apart one of the other.


source http://strawdogs.wordpress.com/2011/05/03/franciszka-themerson/franciszka-themerson-4/


Here is one of drawings created by Franciszka typical to the style she used in the many book illustrations that she created.


(video source richubertson)


The first minutes of the documentary filmed presented by ARTE can be seen here. The film traces the lives of the two artists, their multiple directions and means of expression, their careers with ups and downs but first of all it is a love story of two charming people who seem to have radiated goodness and joie de vivre – the joy of living and creating to all who met them and now remember them dearly.


(video source BolVVVerk)


Calling Mr. Smith (you can see it above) is the first of the two films made by the Themersons in England during the war. It tells about the atrocities committed by the Nazis in occupied Poland.



(video source sellarco)

Here is Oko I Ucho (The Eye and The Year), the second film made during the war at the Polish Studios in London in 1944/45, an example of experimental animation inspired by four songs by the Polish composer Karol Szymanowsky.




Franciszka’s style change towards the end of her life, she painted om larger canvases on almost abstract representations in a more dramatic mood. Here is ‘And so it goes’ - painting from 1977.

Seeing this documentary made me think that some of the avant-garde artists of the 20th century resemble the Renaissance artists in their multiple means of expression, their holistic view of the world, their thirst of exploring, discovering imagining. The Themerson Archives Web site allow all of you to learn more about these two wonderful artists and people – http://www.themersonarchive.com/index.htm