Franciszka Themerson

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Franciszka Themerson
Stefan Themerson28.jpg
Franciszka and Stefan Themerson
Born28 June 1907 (1907-06-28)
Died29 June 1988 (1988-06-30) (aged 81)
NationalityPolish
Alma materChopin University of Music
Warsaw School of Fine Arts
Spouse(s)Stefan Themerson
RelativesJasia Reichardt (niece)

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

Biography[edit]

Themerson was born in Warsaw in 1907, the daughter of the artist Jakub Weinles and pianist Łucja (née Kaufman).[1] Weinles' family was Jewish. She had older sister, the illustrator and pianist Maryla Weinles-Chaykin (1900-1942). She graduated from the Chopin University of Music and the Warsaw School of Fine Arts with a distinction in 1931. From 1938 to 1940 she lived in Paris, and then from 1940 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 and graphic design.

Themerson collaborated with her husband, the writer Stefan Themerson, on experimental films: Apteka [The Pharmacy] (1930), Europa (1931–1932), Drobiazg Melodyjny [Musical Moment] (1933), Zwarcie [Short Circuit] (1935) and Przygoda Czlowieka Poczciwego [Adventure of a Good Citizen] (1937). Only the last of these survives, along with two films they made together in Britain. Calling Mr Smith (1943) is an account of Nazi atrocities in Poland, and The Eye and the Ear (1944/45) investigates the visualisation of music. In 1983 Stefan, now living in London, made a reconstruction of Europa with the London Film-Makers' Co-op.[2] An incomplete copy of the original film was found in an archive in Berlin in 2019. Following restitution to the Themerson Estate, it was donated to the British Film Institute for conservation and preservation.[3]

She illustrated books for children written by her husband and others, and in 1948 she founded with her husband the quirky publishing company Gaberbocchus Press, of which she was the art director. The press was named after a Latinisation of 'Jabberwocky', the nonsense poem from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland whose name was 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 an apposite evocation of the spirit of Jarry's grotesque fable. The text, which was hand-written directly onto lithographic plates by the translator, Barbara Wright – interspersed with Themerson's conté crayon illustrations – is printed on bright yellow pages. Themerson's contributions as illustrator enormously enhanced the graphic originality of the 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) and Music (1998).

Themerson's theatrical designs included marionette productions of Ubu Roi, Ubu Enchainé and Brecht's Threepenny Opera, mostly made for the Marionetteater in Stockholm, in the 1960s, which toured worldwide for decades, to international acclaim. Many of them were subsequently exhibited at London's National Theatre in 1993.

Her major solo exhibitions of paintings and drawings include those at Gallery One One One in 1957 and 1959; Drian Galleries, 1963; Zachęta, Warsaw, 1964; New Gallery, Belfast, 1966; Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh, 1968; A retrospective at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1975; Gruenebaum, New York City, 1978; Łódź, Warsaw, Wrocław, 1981–1982; Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum, 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, Poznań, 2004; Europe House, London, 2013; GV Art Gallery, London 2013; Museum of Art in Łódź, 2013.

A collection of Themerson's greeting cards, called Gaberbocchus some of the old favourites is in the collection of the National Library of Poland.

Books illustrated by Franciszka Themerson published by the Gaberbocchus Press[edit]

  • Aesop, The Eagle & the Fox & The Fox & the Eagle: two semantically symmetrical versions and a revised application, (devised by Stefan Themerson). 1949
  • Stefan Themerson & Barbara Wright. Mr Rouse builds his House. 1950. (Translation of a story for children Pan Tom buduje dom by Stefan Themerson, with 122 drawings by Franciszka. Original Polish version published in Warsaw, 1938.) Tate 2013.
  • Stefan Themerson. Wooff Wooff, or Who Killed Richard Wagner?. A novella with drawings by Franciszka Themerson. 1951
  • Alfred Jarry. Ubu Roi. Drama in Five acts followed by the Song of Disembraining. First English translation and preface by Barbara Wright. Drawings by Franciszka Themerson. 1951
  • Bertrand Russell. The Good Citizen's Alphabet. An adventure in wicked humour. Illustrated by Franciszka Themerson. 1953. Tate 2017.
  • Stefan Themerson. Professor Mmaa's Lecture, An insect novel. Preface by Bertrand Russell. Illustrated by Franciszka Themerson. 1953
  • Stefan Themerson. The Adventures of Peddy Bottom. A story illustrated by Franciszka Themerson. 1954
  • Raymond Queneau. The Trojan Horse & At the Edge of the Forest. Translated by Barbara Wright. frontispice by Franciszka Themerson. 1954. Black series no.2
  • Franciszka Themerson. The Way it Walks. A book of cartoons. 1954. Black series no.3
  • C.H. Sisson. Versions and Perversions of Heine. English version of 14 political poems by Heinrich Heine. 1955. Black series no.4
  • The Gaberbocchus Independent. Broadsheet about Gaberbocchus with extracts from books and reviews. 1955
  • Stefan Themerson. factor T. An essay on human nature and another on beliefs, concluded with the Semantic Sonata and an index. drawings by Franciszka Themerson. 1956. Black series nos.8-9s.
  • The First Dozen by various authors. (The Black Series in a single volume) 1958
  • Harold Lang & Kenneth Tynan. The Quest for Corbett. Written for radio. Presentation by Franciszka Themerson. 1960
  • Anatol Stern. Europa. Facsimile reproduction of one of the first Polish futurist poems, 1925. Translated from the Polish by Michael Horovitz and Stefan Themerson. illustrated with stills from the Themersons' lost film of 1932. 1962
  • Bertrand Russell. History of the World in Epitome (For use in Martian infant schools). 1962
  • Franciszka and Stefan Themerson. Semantic Divertissements. 1962
  • Stefan Themerson. Bayamus and the Theatre of Semantic Poetry. A semantic novel. 1965
  • Franciszka Themerson. Traces of Living. Drawings. 1969
  • Stefan Themerson. Special Branch. A novel. 1972
  • Stefan Themerson. St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio, or Brother Francis' Lamb Chops. An opera. 1972
  • Stefan Themerson. Logic, Labels & Flesh. 11 essays. 1974
  • Stefan Themerson. The Urge to Create Visions. Essay on film. 1983
  • Nicholas Wadley, ed. The Drawings of Franciszka Themerson, 1991
  • Stefan Themerson. Collected Poems. 1997
  • Franciszka Themerson & Stefan Themerson, Unposted Letters. correspondence, diaries, drawings, documents 1940-42. Gaberbocchus & De Harmonie. 2013

Other Books illustrated by Franciszka Themerson[edit]

  • May d' Alençon, Tricoti Tricota. (as Françoise Themerson). Paris. 1939
  • May d' Alençon, Le Cochon Aerodynamique. (as Françoise Themerson). Paris. 1939
  • Forty drawings for friends : London 1940-1942 privately printed. 1943
  • Mary Fielding Moore: The Lion Who Ate Tomatoes, and other stories. Sylvan Press. 1945.
  • 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)
  • Franciszka Themerson, London 1941-42. privately printed 1987
  • Franciszka Themerson, Music. A Suite of Drawings. Themerson archive. 1998.
  • Franciszka Themerson, A view of the World: Drawings by Franciszka Themerson. Obscure Publications. 2001 [4]
  • Stefan Themerson (trans. Barbara Wright), Fragments from Darkness. Obscure Publications. 2001.[5]
  • Stefan Themerson, The Table that Ran Away to the Woods. Tate 2012

Exhibitions[edit]

  • London Group, New Burlington Galleries, February–March 1951
  • Arts Society of Paddington: Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture by Contemporary Paddington Artists — Odeon Cinema, Edgware Road, London, 2–14 July 1951
  • Exhibition of Paintings by Franciszka Themerson, Watergate Theatre Club, London, 11 September – 8 October 1951
  • London Group, New Burlington Galleries, to 24 November 1951
  • London Group, April 1952
  • Les Éditions de Gaberbocchus, La Hune, Paris, February – March 1956
  • Recent Paintings by Franciszka Themerson, Gallery One, London, 1 – 20 February 1957
  • A selection from the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition, RWS Galleries, London, 12 – 22 February 1958
  • New Paintings by Franciszka Themerson, Gallery One, London, 12 May – 6 June 1958
  • Paintings by Franciszka Themerson, Gallery One, London, 12 May -7 June 1959
  • Women's International Art Club, RBA Galleries, London, 19 January – 3 February 1961
  • Drian Artists, Drian Galleries, London, 2 – 19 January 1963
  • Retrospective exhibition of paintings by Franciszka Themerson, Drian Galleries, London. 10 September – 7 October 1963
  • Franciszka Themerson: malarstwo i rysunek, Zachęta, Warsaw, February 1964
  • Drian Artists 1964 exhibition, Drian Galleries, London, January 1964
  • Franciszka Themerson och Kung Ubu, Marionetteatern Konstframjandet, Stockholm, 7 – 29 November 1964
  • Franciszka Themerson drawings, Marjorie Parr Gallery, London, 8 – 28 April 1965
  • group H, thirty fifth exhibition, Better Books, London, July 1965
  • Joseph Lacasse, Douglas Portway, Cecil Stephenson, Franciszka Themerson, Drian Galleries, London, 6 September – 10 October 1965
  • The Second Ind Coope Art Collection, touring exhibition, 1965
  • Franciszka Themerson Paintings, New Gallery, Belfast, 24 January - 26 February 1966
  • group H, thirty-sixth exhibition, Drian Galleries, London, 4–21 October 1966
  • British Drawing Today, ICA, London, 15 April - 6 May 1967
  • I Musici di Franciszka Themerson, Il Vicolo Galleria D’Arte, Genoa, 13–31 January 1968
  • Cybernetic Serendipity, designed by Franciszka Themerson, ICA, London, 2 August - 20 October 1968
  • Franciszka Themerson, James Morrison, Alexander Cree, Richard Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh, 6 – 27 November 1968
  • Franciszka Themerson, It all depends on the point of view, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 9 September – 19 October 1975
  • Prunella Clough, Adrian Heath, Jack Smith, Franciszka Themerson — Sunderland Arts Centre, 14 November - 6 December 1977
  • Franciszka Themerson, paintings, drawings and theatre design, Gruenebaum Gallery, New York, 7 December - 7 January 1978
  • Z kolekcji Haliny Nałęcz z Londynu – Muzeum Narodowe, Warsaw, January – February 1978
  • Fantastiska figurer – Liljevalchs Konsthall, Stockholm, 1 June – 16 September 1979
  • Impasses – Galerie L’Ollave, Lyon, 6–22 March 1980
  • Stefan i Franciszka Themerson, Visual Researches – Muzeum Sztuki w Łodzi and tour, 1982
  • Presences Polonaises – Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 23 June – 26 September 1983
  • Constructivism in Poland 1923 to 1936 – Kettle's Yard Gallery, Cambridge, 25 February - 8 April 1984; Riverside Studios, London, April–May 1984
  • Painters in the Theatre – Gillian Jason Gallery, London, 23 November – 22 December 1988
  • Ubu Cent Ans de Règne – Musée-Galerie de la Seita, 12 May – 12 June 1981
  • Minnesutställning : Themersons – Marionettmuseet, Stockholm, 15 May – 14 June 1989
  • Franciszka Themerson, Stefan Themerson – Galeria Stara, Lublin, December 1990 – January 1991
  • Dziedzictwo – Galeria Kordegarda, Warsaw, September 1991
  • The Drawings of Franciszka Themerson (retrospective exhibition) – Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum, Aalborg, 6 September – 17 November 1991
  • Franciszka Themerson Drawings – Gardner Centre, University of Sussex, Falmer, 1 – 28 October 1992
  • Polish Roots British Soil, artists of Polish origin working in Britain – City Centre, Edinburgh, 2 April – 22 May 1993
  • Festival: The World According to the Themersons (Świat według Themersonów) — Gdańsk, 26–29 May 1993
  • Franciszka Themerson, Figures in Space — Redfern Gallery, London, 8 June - 15 July 1993
  • Franciszka Themerson Designs for the Theatre — Olivier Foyer, Royal National Theatre, London, 9 August - 25 September 1993
  • Lines from Life, the art of Franciszka Themerson — Foyer Galleries, Level 2, Royal Festival Hall, London, 9 August – 25 September 1993
  • The Themersons and the Gaberbocchus Press, an Experiment in Publishing 1948-1979 — La Boetie, New York, 14 October - 15 January 1993
  • Gaberbocchus Press — The Poetry Library, Royal Festival Hall, London, 15 November - 12 December 1993
  • Franciszka and Stefan Themerson in Time and in Space, books, photograms, films 1928 - 1988 — Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej, Zamek Ujazdowski, Warsaw, 23 November - 30 December 1993
  • Franciszka Themerson i Teatr — Galeria ‘Pałacyk’ im. Tadeusza Kulisiewicza, Warsaw, 13–22 December 1993
  • The Themersons and the Gaberbocchus Press — an Experiment in Publishing 1948-1979 — bNO (beroepsvereninging Nederlandse Ontwerpers), Amsterdam, 29 April - 20 May 1994
  • Another Reading – art inspired by the written word — Jason Rhodes, London, 30 November 1994 - 30 January 1995
  • Gaberbocchus Press, un éditeur non conformiste 1948-1979 — Galerie Colbert, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, 23 January - 24 February 1996
  • Franciszka Themerson: Unposted Letters 1940-42 — Imperial War Museum, London, 15 February - 8 April 1996
  • The Gaberbocchus Press of Stefan & Franciszka Themerson — Galerie Signe, Heerlen, The Netherlands, 29 August - 27 September 1998
  • Franciszka Themerson: Białe Obrazy / White Paintings — Galeria Kordegarda, Warsaw, 18 December 1998 - 17 January 1999
  • Franciszka Themerson: Why is the mind in the head? — Art First, London, 13 January - 11 February 1999
  • UBU in UK — The Mayor Gallery, London, 20 July - 15 September 2000
  • Franciszka Themerson: What shall I say? — Art First, London, 2–19 April 2001
  • Wyspy Themersonów w Poznaniu, Zamek i Galeria Oko/Ucho, Poznań, 21 October - 14 November 2004
  • Franciszka Themerson: Ubu Król / Drawings for Ubu Roi — Galeria Oko Ucho, Poznań, 21 October – 14 November 2004
  • Lightbox: Stefan & Franciszka Themerson, Tate Britain, London, 2 May - 28 June 2009
  • Themerson & Themerson, two exhibitions — Muzeum Mazowieckie, Płock, 13 September - 2 December 2012
  • The Themersons and the Avant-Garde, Muzeum Sztuki w Łodzi, 22 February - 5 May 2013
  • Franciszka Themerson, a European Artist — 12 Star Gallery, Europe House, London, 19 February - 8 March 2013
  • Franciszka Themerson, Why is the Mind in the Head?, GV Art, London, 11–20 October 2013
  • Dni Themersonów w Warszawie (The Themerson Days in Warsaw), 21–23 November 2013
  • Ubu według Themersonów (Ubu according to the Themersons), Książnica Płocka, Płock, October 2013
  • Franciszka & Stefan Themerson: Books, Camera, Ubu — Camden Arts Centre, London, March 23 March – 5 June 2016
  • Franciszka Themerson, Lines and Thoughts — l’étrangère, London, 4 November – 16 December 2016
  • Franciszka Themerson & UBU — Richard Saltoun Gallery, London, 21 July - 15 September 2017
  • FT & it's in SW19, Norman Plastow Gallery, Wimbledon, London, 29 September - 10 October 2017
  • Franciszka Themerson Lifelines — Centre for Contemporary Art, Łaźnia, Gdańsk, 12 July – 13 October 2019

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. ISBN 9789076168760
  • Nick Wadley, 'The Paintings of Franciszka Themerson', in 'F&S Themerson', bi-lingual exhibition catalogue, Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz. 2013 pp.  112–127
  • Nick Wadley and others, edited by Jasia Reichardt, Franciszka Themerson. Themerson Estate, London 2019. ISBN 9781916247406

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]