We have already celebrated the big Shakespeare anniversary with our design of all his covers but we have (at least) one more thing to share on this occassion. The most obvious design field connected with Shakespeare are theater posters for his plays and a while ago we started researching those to write about them for the anniversary. But in the end we decided to write only about one designer and his work because it’s so damn good. Our admiration is only slightly colored by the fact that this designer taught both of us about design (and taught us a lot).
The designer in question is professor Tomasz Bogusławski, who is a representative of the so called Polish school of posters – one of a later generation, who uses more modern techniques than his predecessors. Professor Bogusławski creates, among other things, theater posters, often just for the sake of design not for actual theater productions. The posters use photography of common or unusual objects photographed in a way which both emphasizes their materiality and gives them metaphorical or metaphysical depth.
The three Shakespeare posters below are great examples of his unique, confident style and they also reflect well the gloom and mystery of Shakespeare’s tragedies mixed with their realistic element.
Poster for Hamlet, with bread and a fancy knife. The posters are for “Teatr Rekwizytornia” (something like “props storage room theater”, I guess, which sounds better and more punny in Polish), an imaginary theater Bogusławski made up to create his self-commissioned posters.
The poster for King Lear uses an old (shoe?) brush and the fact that it looks like an old man with hollowed eyes and a beard. It’s a great example of something that in Polish art schools is called “poster thinking”, where you look at things and see them in several ways at once. The image combines surreal humor and terror, much like the play itself, which is all you can ask from a poster.
And possibly the strongest, certainly most straightforward and, to us, most memorable of the trio: Titus Andronicus with a head made of raw meat and a twig suggesting Roman laurel (but also playing with the idea of dinner). Frankly, since we saw this poster we can’t conceive of any other image for this play and certainly none that would reflect its pointless brutality better.
It’s possibly too much to hope for but as Tomasz Bogusławski is definitely one of the people who most influenced our thinking about design, maybe you can see some of that inspiration in some of our works. At any rate, we’re happy to share this series of works in honor of Shakespeare’s year.