Franciszka Themerson

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Franciszka Themerson
Born June 28, 1907 (1907-06-28)
Died June 29, 1988 (1988-06-30) (aged 81)
Nationality Polish

Franciszka Themerson (28 June 1907 - 29 June 1988) was a Polish, later British, painter, illustrator, filmmaker and stage designer.


Biography[edit]

The daughter of the artist, Jakub Weinles, she was born in Warsaw in 1907. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Art in Warsaw with great distinction, in 1931.

From 1938 to 1940 she lived in Paris, and then from 1940 lived in London until her death in 1988. She was principally a painter, although, throughout her life, she worked in several other fields of the visual arts: illustration, stage design and graphic design.

She collaborated with her husband, the writer Stefan Themerson, on experimental films, Apteka [Pharmacy] (1930), Europa (1931–1932), Drobiazg Melodyjny [Musical Moment] (1933), Zwarcie [Short Circuit] (1935) and Przygoda Czlowieka Poczciwego [The Adventures of a Good Citizen] (1937), only the last of which survives, along with two films made in Britain, Calling Mr Smith(1943), an account of Nazi atrocities in Poland and The Eye and the Ear(1944/45), inspired by four songs by Szymanowski.

She illustrated books for children written by her husband and others, and in 1948 she founded with her husband the adventurous publishing company, Gaberbocchus Press, of which she was the art director. The press was named after a Latinisation of 'Jabberwocky', from Lewis Carroll's 'Alice' coined by Carroll's uncle, Hassard Dodgson. In 31 years the Gaberbocchus Press published over sixty titles, including works by Alfred Jarry, Kurt Schwitters, Bertrand Russell and the Themersons themselves. Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi was its flagship publication, published in many editions and still in print. The Gaberbocchus edition is a most apposite evocation of the spirit of Jarry's grotesque fable. The text, which was written directly by Barbara Wright wrote directly onto lithographic plates - along with Themerson's illustrations - is printed on loud yellow pages. Themerson's contributions as illustrator contributed enormously to the autograph originality of design of Gaberbocchus books. Apart from appearing in many journals worldwide, several collections of her drawings have been published as books: 'Forty Drawings for Friends, London 1940-42' (1943) The Way It Walks (1954); Traces of Living (1969); Music (1998).

Her theatre designs included marionette productions of Ubu Roi, Ubu Enchainé and Threepenny Opera. Many of these were exhibited at the National Theatre in 1993.

Her major one-man exhibitions include those at Gallery One in 1957 and 1959; Drian Galleries, 1963; Zachęta, Warsaw, 1964; New Gallery, Belfast, 1966; Demarco, Edinburgh, 1968; A retrospective at Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1975; Gruenebaum, New York, 1978; Łódź, Warsaw, Wrocław, 1981–1982; Nordjyllands Kunstmusum, Aalborg, 1991; Gardner Centre, University of Sussex, 1992; Gdańsk, 1993; Redfern Gallery, 1993; National Theatre, 1993; Royal Festival Hall, 1993. Unposted Letters, Imperial War Museum in 1996; Kordegarda, Warsaw, 1998; Art First, London, 1999 and 2001; CK Zamek, Poznan, 2004; Europe House, London, 2013; GV Art Gallery, London 2013; Muzeum Sztuki Lodz, 2013.

Other Books illustrated by Franciszka Themerson[edit]

  • 'Le Cochon Aerodynamique', Paris 1939
  • Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, 1946, (first published Inky Parrot Press. 2001).
  • My First Nursery Book. George G. Harrap & Co., 1947; Tate 2008.
  • Ronald Bottrall, The Palissades of Fear. Editions Poetry London. 1949
  • Aesop, 'The Eagle & the Fox, and the Fox & the Eagle' . Gaberbocchus 1949
  • Stefan Themerson, Mr Rouse Builds His House. Gaberbocchus. 1950
  • Stephen Leacock, The Unicorn Leacock. Hutchinson, 1960.
  • Franciszka Themerson, 'UBU' (a comic strip), Bobbs-Merrill, New York, 1970 (other, translated editions, 1983-2014)
  • Stefan Themerson, The Table that Ran Away to the Woods. Tate 2012

Further reading[edit]

  • Franciszka Themerson, 'Bi-Abstract Pictures', in Art News and Review; X/16 (1957 November) pp. 6-7 (reprinted in Aalborg 1991 and Lodz 2013 catalogues, listed below)
  • Nick Wadley, 'The Drawings of Franciszka Themerson', catalogue of an exhibition, Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum, Aalborg (Sept-November 1991)
  • Jasia Reichardt, 'Gaberbocchus Publishers', in Parenthesis; 12 (2006 November), p. 35-36
  • Jasia Reichardt (ed), 'Unposted Letters, 1940-1942; Franciszka & Stefan Themerson, Gaberbocchus & De Harmonie, Amsterdam,(2013)
  • Nick Wadley, 'The Paintings of Franciszka Themerson', in 'F&S Themerson', bi-lingual exhibition catalogue, Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz, 2013 pp. 112-127

External links[edit]