Andrzej Pągowski is a poster artist and one of the most celebrated Polish graphic designers. He was born on 19th of April 1953 in Warsaw.
Graphic artist and poster designer.
He is a graduate of the University of Arts in Poznań at the Poster Studio, under Professor Waldemar Świerzy. Applied graphic design is his domain. He cooperates with various magazines - he is an artistic director of the Polish edition of Playboy as well as the owner and creative director of KreacjaPro.
Andrzej Pągowski, a leading representative of the commercial-free poster art of the the communist period, was able to take advantage of the economic transformation in 1989 and soon became very successful in the field of creative advertising.
In the present day an artist is no longer free to do whatever he wants. The commission tells you what to do. Luckily when I started creating adverts I was already quite well known and that gave me a chance to smuggle my ideas within the framework of any commission – says Andrzej Pągowski.
In his rich portfolio there is a firm border between his older posters, which are regarded as classics of the Polish school of posters, and newer works, cleverly applied to the commercial realities of contemporary advertising. It seems that he feels equally comfortable in both worlds and the transition seem to have made his works even more lively; the colours are more saturated, the tempo of watching is increased.
All of Pągowski’s works have one thing in common – spontaneous, handwriting emanating from a ‘charging gesture’. This characteristic flick of the wrist always leaves an impression of authenticity and commitment.
In 1975 Pągowski made his début by presenting his works at the University Exhibition in Nowa Gallery in Poznań. In 1977, he started his career as a poster artist by creating a placard for Man and Wife by Aleksander Fredro. In 1982 he participated in the Polish Nationwide Poster Fair. In the 1980s, his works were exhibited in Sophia, Berlin, London, Stockholm and Gottingen.
He won numerous awards including multiple distinctions for Best Warsaw Poster, Most Popular Poster of the Month, Best Film and Television Poster from The Hollywood Reporter (the so-called ‘Poster Oscars’) as well as an award at the International Film Poster Competition in Chicago. Tadeusz Różewicz and Andrzej Wajda consider him ‘their’ best poster artist. In 2005 he was honoured with the Order of Polonia Restituta, one of the highest Polish orders, for his lifetime achievement.
Even though Andrzej Pągowski used to be primarily associated with with posters, his interests are much wider. He has designed billboards, logos and CD artwork. He cooperates with the Polish Postal Service – designing stamps, sitting on the committee which evaluates projects, and searching for new designers. He designs covers for Brief, OOH Magazine, Pro-KREACJA and creates satirical drawings commenting on current news.
His portfolio is full of various successfully accomplished commissions, such as animated advertising spots for the TV channel Discovery History Historia Miecza, Historia Pióra, Historia Goździka (History of the Sword, History of the Pen, Carnation History), a mural in the Rosary Garden of the Warsaw Uprising Museum and a hand-painted Cow statue, one of a hundred, which ‘pastured’ in Warsaw in 2005 (each was painted by a different artist).
Pągowski has nothing but good memories of the ‘cow project’ unlike his idea for the painting of Fryderyk Chopin’s piano replica, which was meant to be placed in the centre of All Saints Square in Kraków during the Chopin In The City Project. The artist describes the emotions which he felt during the creative process:
I was eager to make it until the piano arrived at my door. The cow was simple and tractable. In contrast, the piano is terribly complicated and ‘culturally overcharged’.
The result of his effort is a blithely daubed, familiarized object. His involvement in the Chopin’s Year celebrations brought him a few other unusual commissions. He designed a label with a portrait of Chopin for a limited edition of Cisowianka Perlage mineral water. He described it as very demanding because of being forced to compromise between branding restrictions and his own vision. Chopin was also the subject of Pągowski’s project for Villeroy & Boch: a collectible teacup with the composer’s portrait and a saucer with musical score as well as a flag designed for the biggest Polish sail training ship, Dar Młodzieży (The Gift Of Youth).
Andrzej Pągowski is regarded as a top specialist in inventing unusual, memorable advertising campaigns such as Zawód Żołnierz (Occupation: Soldier), encouraging people to join the army) or Palę więc śmierdzę (I Smoke, So I Stink) poster for the Youth Without a Cigarette campaign.
His dynamic compositions have announced the most important cultural events: Tarnów Film Awards, European Film Festival, Commercial Poster Festival, Camerimage Festival, Kino na Granicy Festival (Cinema on the Border Film Festival) and Festival of Film Debuts in Koszalin.
Pągowski is constantly engaged in innumerable artistic and educational projects. He was a jury member during the competition for the project of the World War II Museum in Gdańsk as well as for a logo for Stettin (Szczecin) as the 2016 European Capital of Culture. He participated in Monar’s (an organisation which helps addicted people) workshops for drug addicts; Clean the World Project; a programme of preventive healthcare, What Every Big Boy Should Know; the Painting Matejko Project (Discovery History) and a project to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Solidarność.
Pągowski is a member of Polish Club of Enthusiasts and Collectors of Pens. This fact is important given that he draws and writes with carefully selected pens only.
Andrzej Pągowski: Ilustrując Filmy. (Andrzej Pągowski: Illustrating Films.) is an album published in 2013. It features hundreds of posters and photos, interviews, book fragments and even memories of outstanding Polish film directors. When Pągowski's poster exhibition was organised in 1989, Krzysztof Kieślowski wrote:
It's not all the same who creates a poster. Some I trust, if they made a poster, I seek a ticket. Others I don't – I don't care what they like. In this sense, the creator of the poster becomes a co-creator of the film, he took its side.
Illustrating Films is a journey into a world of posters that no longer exists. The album shows readers how Pągowski's greatest works came about. Over the years, the artist has evolved, experimenting with various forms and styles. These differences are easy to catch over the decades – from simple images based on a few lines, to complex brush-painted works to digital collages. In addition to Pągowski's creative path, the album also includes eventful stories of posters that are now part of the canon of film illustration and anecdotes about working with masters of Polish cinema.
Pągowski's work is also valuedabroad; his posters arepart of the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco as well as in the Pompidou Centre collections. TheMuseum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York has included Uśmiech wilka (Wolf's Smile) in their permanent collection among the 100best posters in the world.
In 2017, the artist celebrated his 40th anniversary of artistic activity. To honour him, the Museum of Cinematography in Łódź prepared an exposition of Pągowski's film posters. The works were then exhibited at the Gdynia City Museum during the 42nd Polish Film Festival.
To mark the occasion, the Częstochowa Municipal Gallery of Art prepared a unique exhibition of Andrzej Pągowski's artworks a year later. Pągowski chose the most characteristic poster for each year of his professional career. The artist admitted that selecting pieces for the exposition 40/40 (2018) was an interesting journey into the past.
In 2017, another extensive retrospective of Pągowski's work opened. This time it was at the Opera Gallery of the Grand Theatre in Warsaw. The exhibition presented a cross-section of the artist's work and his creative method. Before taking up any work, Pągowski thoroughly analyses the piece in question as well as the intentions of its author. He followed a similar method when creating a poster promoting Wojciech Smarzowski's film Kler (Clergy, 2018). Pągowski admired the director's uncompromising and essential portrait of the Catholic Church in Poland.
I don't have a lot of dream challenges that I look forward to. I was lucky to have been given the opportunity to comment with my art on the most important films throughout the last 40 years in Poland and work with almost every great director. But among those few there was a dream to make a poster for Wojtek Smarzowski's film. Ever since ‘Dom Zły’ (The Dark House) I was tempted to comment graphically on his works.
Być Jak Andrzej Pągowski (To Be Like Andrzej Pągowski) is a book published in 2017 by the Agora Publishing House. Dorota Welman's extensive interview with the artist focuses not only on Pągowski's career and art, but above all centres around the people who accompanied him at various stages of his life and in one way or another were important to him. Pągowski's biography abounds in amazing stories about family and friends. It paints an interesting picture of Poland in which posters and artistic censorship played a crucial role.
In 2019, Pągowski created a poster for the 100th anniversary of Bauhaus, featuring Walter Gropius – the founder and main theoretician of the school. According to the artist:
When I started working on the poster for the Bauhaus centenary, I was looking for a graphic, which I could occupy. Most of the works, which I saw on the Internet focused on form and specific colours. I focused on the man. The hero of my work is Walter Gropius, the creator of Bauhaus. The forms and colours typical for Bauhaus create the background of the poster and are reflected in the portrait, emphasizing that Gropius was steeped in Bauhaus, and Bauhaus in Gropius.
polish school of posters
- 2018 – AndrzejPągowski 40/40, Municipal Gallery of Art, Częstochowa
- 2017 – Pągowski w Operze / Pągowski at the Opera, Grand Theatre – National Opera, Warsaw; AndrzejPągowski:Plakatyfilmowe – 40 latPracyTwórczej / AndrzejPągowski: Film Posters – 40 Years of Art.Film Museum in Łódź exhibition, Gdynia City Museum
- 2010 – Franek’s Portrait – an homage to Franciszek Starowieyski (Pągowski was a curator and participant), Międzyzdroje
- 2007 – Andrzej Pągowski – Theatre Posters, Kraków; Andrzej Pągowski – Film Posters, Gdynia
- 2005 – Solid ART, Brussels and Barcelona
Most significant awards:
- 1989 – Grand Prix at the International Film Poster Competition in Istanbul
- 1988 – Stanisław Wyspiański Award
- 1987 – Grand Prix of the International Biennale of Theatre Poster Rzeszów 2011
- 1983, 1987 – Poster of the Year Award (Warsaw)
- 1983 – Silver Medal at the 23rd Biennial of the Polish Poster in Katowice
- 1978 – Bronze Medal at the Brno Biennale
Author: Sylwia Giżka, November 2010. Updated: HSz, April 2020