One of the most remarkable Polish poster artists, illustrator. Born on 24 September 1930, died on 21 February 2008. Today he is associated mainly with satirical drawings.
Jeden z najwybitniejszych autorów polskiego plakatu, ilustrator
Flisak’s first posters were indeed satirical. Later on, he started to design film posters (from 1955 he collaborated with the Polish Film Distribution Office), including wonderful ones to American westerns. One of his classic designs is the Polish poster for the film The Comancheros from 1965.
Flisak’s posters are sloppy. The illustrations are painted negligently, naïvely, with thick brushstrokes. Nevertheless, this way of painting is the source of their great power and, when combined with Flisak’s inexhaustible humour, it results in surprising diversity. Flisak used colours with great lightness. He also applied creative typography (The Comancheros; All in a Night’s Work, 1963; Jak Rozpętałem II Wojnę Światową [How I Unleashed World War II], 1975), clever cropping (Le Permis de Conduire, 1975), different stylistics and historical references (Paper Moon, 1975, Forced Entry, 1976, Jak Iwan Uszka Szukał Cudu, 1978) and varied his techniques. Among his works there are posters which are painted (It's Great to Be Young, 1960, Ciotki na Rowerach), or present photographs (Wiano, 1964). There are works which resemble cut-outs (Le pays d'où je viens, 1958), posters in mixed techniques (Noël, Noël, 1958, Three Men in the Snow, 1958, Roman Holiday, Touha, 1959), illustrative posters (Jak Zdobyć Prawo Jazdy) or the ones that make use of signs (Flam, Tvoy Sovremennik, 1968, La nuit américaine, 1974).
Jerzy Flisak was born in 1930 and died on 21 February 2008 in Warsaw. He attended the José Martí High School in Warsaw and in 1953 he graduated from the Faculty of Architecture of the Warsaw University of Technology. He illustrated many books, such as Lwowskie Baśnie i Legendy (editor's translation: Legends and Tales of Lwów), Jest Taki Dowcip by Jerzy Wittlin, Za Kierdziołkową Miedzą by Jerzy Ofierski, Zabawny Leksykon Historyczny by Jan S. Kopczewski, Pali się! based on Jan Brzechwa’s poem, Kim zostaniesz? Wybierz sam!, Ojczyzna Polszczyzna dla Uczniów by Jan Miodek and the Polish edition of Parkinson's Law, and Other Studies in Administration by C. N. Parkinson.
Flisak also created set designs and animated films. He made the following graphic productions for the Animated Film Studio in Bielsko-Biała: Wyprawa do Lasu (A Trip to the Forest,1976), Imieniny Cioci (Aunt’s Name Day, 1977), Myszka i Kot (A Mouse and a Cat, 1981), Koncert Świerszcza (Cricket’s Concert, 1980). In 1964 he shot the film Ludwik do Rondla (Ludwik to the Saucepan).
Flisak created the famous satirical drawings published in press, for example in ‘Polityka’, the weekly ‘Świat’ (more than five hundred drawings in the series ‘Krasnoludki Są Na Świecie’ [Dwarves Do Exist], in ‘Świerszczyk’ (the series ‘Co Robi Nasz Bobik’ [What Our Bobik Is Doing]), ‘Kultura’, ‘Polska’ and ‘Przegląd Kulturalny’. However, Flisak owes his press debut to a competition organised by the satirical magazine ‘Szpilki’ (1950), for which he later worked for as a graphics editor.
Flisak cooperated in the production of fifteen animated films.
The series ‘Co Robi Nasz Bobik’ was published in ‘Świerszczyk’ for over 20 years. Flisak invented a character which is almost iconic nowadays: a little dog called Bobik who experiences various adventures. The witty drawings created with jaunty lines won hearts of the young readers of the magazine for many years.
Flisak also created series of caricatures of famous figures of Polish culture and politics. In several thin lines he was able to capture the most important traits of the portrayed person, both physical and spiritual. Kołakowski’s enormous nose, Waldorff’s moustache or the delicate line of Osiecka’s hair: all these works prove that Flisak was a master of observation. He was sensitive to mimicry and gestures of the people he depicted and he was always able to hit the nail on the head: he showed Kieślowski with no lenses in the glasses that were too big, resting his face on his hand with melancholy, or Pieczka putting his hands inside his sheepskin coat’s pockets.
Flisak created in many techniques: in his portfolio there are simple sketches, gouaches and collages.
In 1961 Flisak received the award of the Minister of Culture and Art for his satirical works and in 1985 the award of the Prime Minister. On numerous occasions he was also awarded by the weekly ‘Szpilki’ and the Museum of Caricature. In 1962 he received the award of the New York Art Directors Club for the poster to the film Blood Feud. Flisak’s works were exhibited in Poland, for example in the Museum of Caricature, and abroad: in Austria (Vienna, 1955), Canada (1960), Lebanon (Beirut, 1961), Denmark (1963), Italy (1964), Sweden (1965) and Germany (Berlin, 1966).
Selected exhibitions and awards:
- 2012 – ‘FAUNA, FLORA AND PIRATES’, Galeria Grafiki i Plakatu, Warsaw
- 2009 – ‘Jerzy Flisak: Satirical Drawings’, Desa Unicum, Warsaw
- 2008 – ‘20 lat wSPAK’ – Jubilee of the Association of the Polish Caricature Artists (collective exhibition), Museum of Caricature, Warsaw
- 2001 – Jerzy Flisak: drawings and posters, Museum of Caricature, Warsaw
- 1998 – Panorama of the Polish Caricature 1945–1998 (collective exhibition), Museum of Caricature, Warsaw
- 1997 – Draughtsmen of the magazine ‘Polityka’ between 1957 and 1997, Museum of Caricature, Warsaw
- 1995 – Humour in Jerzy Flisak’s illustrations, exhibition in the Museum of Caricature, Warsaw
- 1985 – Jerzy Flisak – exhibition of drawings, Museum of Caricature, Warsaw
- 1972 – Złota Szpilka awarded by the satirical magazine ‘Szpilki’
- 1967 – Złota Szpilka awarded by the satirical magazine ‘Szpilki’
- 1962 – the award of the Art Directors Club for the poster to the film Blood Feud
- 1961 – the award of the Minister of Culture and Art for satirical works
Originally written in Polish by Sylwia Giżka, December 2006, update in March 2008 and in December 2016 by AM. Translated by MW, April 2018.