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Stefan and Franciszka Themerson

Franciszka and Stefan in their studio in Paris, 1938
Franciszka and Stefan in their studio in Paris, 1938

The writer-painter couple worked together on seminal films in the history of Polish animation, including The Eye and the Ear, completed in 1945.

Stefan and Franciszka Themerson received acclaim for their film Europa (1930–31), based on the futuristic poem by Anatol Stern as illustrated by Mieczysław Szczuka. The film's dynamic collage montage, constructivist form, and its Dadaist and surrealist iconoclasm run counter to syntactic rules by which cinematic language functioned at the time.

Moment Musical (1933), advertising a leather-goods manufacturer, was hailed as the most beautiful Polish film in terms of visuals and sound. The Adventure of a Good Citizen (1937), with music by Stefan Kisielewski, is an irrational humoresque - according to the film's subtitle - filled with absurd events of two men carrying a wardrobe. At the beginning, the line "The sky won't fall in if you walk backwards!" is overheard, and starts the absurdity rolling.

In 1935, the Themersons founded the Film-Makers Co-op, with members including Janina and Eugeniusz Cękalski, Aleksander Ford, Wanda Jakubowska, Witold Lutosławski, Stanisław Wohl, Jerzy Zarzycki and Kazimierz Haltrecht. In 1937, the Co-op published a journal f.a. (Film Artystyczny) in Polish, French and English, that followed rules of the 'new typography.' In 1938, they emigrated to Paris.

During the Second World War, Stefan wrote a novel, Professor Mmaa's Lecture, along with the poetry collections Szkice w ciemnościach / Sketches in Darkness and Dno nieba / Bottom of the Sky. Beginning 1942, he resumed making films with his wife in London. Calling Mr. Smith shows the average British citizen the truth about Nazi war crimes. The Eye and The Ear is shot based on a precise score - as Zbigniew Rybczyński's Oscar winner Tango would be almost 40 years later - and analyzes four songs that Karol Szymanowski composed to the Julian Tuwim poem Słopiewnie.

Themerson's prose varies by genre. In the 1930s, he wrote children's books that are among the classics Polish children's literature. After the Second World War, he published novels, short stories, essays, poetic prose and philosophical short stories. His use of language transcends genre by weaving visual elements into the tissue of the text and evoking audio associations.

His The Urge To Create Visions (1937) is the most important theoretical text on avant-garde film to be published in interwar Poland. In 1983, Gaberbocchus + De Harmonie, (Amsterdam) published the book's expanded and illustrated version in English.
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Stefan and Franciszka Themerson


Stefan Themerson "Wyspa Hobsona"

This is the last novel of the Polish-English writer. Themerson says farewell to his readers, at the same time accepting defeat of his ethics of good manners. There is no hope for gentleness and decency in the world. Humanity is heading towards a catastrophy, and the best proof is what happened on the idyllic Hobson’s Island.Read more »

Adriana Prodeus, Themersonowie. Szkice biograficzne / Themersons. Biographical Essay, publ. Czuły Barbarzyńca

An aptly written book, rich in facts and witty comments – it constitutes a transparent reference position, not just about a mesmerizing art duo, but also the history of 20th century avant-garde in Poland and abroad.Read more »

Franciszka Themerson’s experimental comic book Ubu, is continuingly graphically shocking and still surprises with the freshness of its drawings, even though 40 passed since its first publicationRead more »

Animated film, dir. Franciszka and Stefan Themerson, 1943. Experimental propaganda film making an appeal to the average British citizen to become concerned about the growing Nazi terror in the occupied countries...Read more »

Stefan and Franciszka Themerson


Stefan and Franciszka Themerson


Krzysztof Wodiczko, Personal Instrument, 1969-1972, photo courtesy of Łódź Art Museum

The relationship between art, science, and technology has a long and complex tradition in Poland, going back to the experiments of the first avant-garde. Read more »

Adriana Prodeus, "Themersonowie. Szkice biograficzne", book cover

Semantic poetry is Themerson’s input into world literature, one which was creatively developed by French artists from the OuLiPo group. Thanks to the method begun by the Pole, it is possible to transform quotes from the Book of Ecclesiastes into, say, feminist manifestos. And inversely. Read more »

The Book Institute presents writings from eight Polish authors who are recognised as classics in their home country, but are thus far little known to a foreign readership. The presentation takes place as part of the London Book Fair, one of the world’s biggest literary events. Read more »

A still from "Ida"  by Paweł Pawlikowski, photo: TIFF

Paweł Pawlikowski’s Ida, shorts by Franciszka and Stefan Themerson and Holocaust drama Biegnij chłopcze biegnij will be included in the repertoire of the Jewish Film Festival in New York. Read more »

Franciszka and Stefan in their studio in Paris, 1938

A beautifully designed and produced book presents a moving record of two incredible artists, Franciszka and Stefan Themersons, during the two years of their war-time separation. Read more »

The Cartesian way of thinking about the world gave rise to a desire to record and save society's ever-changing reality with the help of technical equipment, making photography a combination of art and scientific invention. Read more »

Stefan and Franciszka Themerson