Franciszka Themerson

 

Eleven persons and one donkey moving forwards, oil on canvas, 68.5 x 83 cm, 1947 thumbnail
Four bowler-hatted men and a woman in the street (second version), pen & ink, 28.5 x 18 cm, c.1946 thumbnail
Composition (coloured abstract on black ground), oil on canvas, 76 x 63.5 cm, 1948 thumbnail
Franciszka Themerson, Emportez  moi sans me brisez, 1952, oil on canvas, 62 x 75 cm thumbnail
‘Comme la vie est lente et comme l’espérance est violente’ (Apollinaire), oil on canvas, 100 x 150 cm, 1959 thumbnail
Painted relief III, oil, canvas and plaster on canvas, 103 x 76 x 8 cm, c.1961 thumbnail
Voici un monsieur qui a été développé par l'état, mixed media on canvas, 180 x 120 cm, 1960 thumbnail
Gathering image, oil on canvas, 152.5 x 122 cm, 1962 thumbnail
The party, ink drawing, 46 x 50 cm, 1964 thumbnail
Multifigure, black and red, acrylic on canvas, 132 x 99 cm, c.1972/73 thumbnail
I am seven and I am one, acrylic on unprimed canvas, 35.5 x 25.5 cm, 1973.  thumbnail
Why is there something rather than nothing? oil on unprimed canvas, 50 x 40 cm, 1974 thumbnail
Why are you angry? ink and coloured crayons on paper, 52 x 63.5 cm, 1977 thumbnail
Peripatetic multi-person out of nowhere, oil on canvas. 102 x 76 cm, c.1974 thumbnail
Eleven persons and one donkey moving forwards, oil on canvas, 68.5 x 83 cm, 1947
Four bowler-hatted men and a woman in the street (second version), pen & ink, 28.5 x 18 cm, c.1946
Composition (coloured abstract on black ground), oil on canvas, 76 x 63.5 cm, 1948
Franciszka Themerson, Emportez moi sans me brisez, 1952, oil on canvas, 62 x 75 cm
‘Comme la vie est lente et comme l’espérance est violente’ (Apollinaire), oil on canvas, 100 x 150 cm, 1959
Painted relief III, oil, canvas and plaster on canvas, 103 x 76 x 8 cm, c.1961
Voici un monsieur qui a été développé par l'état, mixed media on canvas, 180 x 120 cm, 1960
Gathering image, oil on canvas, 152.5 x 122 cm, 1962
The party, ink drawing, 46 x 50 cm, 1964
Multifigure, black and red, acrylic on canvas, 132 x 99 cm, c.1972/73
I am seven and I am one, acrylic on unprimed canvas, 35.5 x 25.5 cm, 1973.
Why is there something rather than nothing? oil on unprimed canvas, 50 x 40 cm, 1974
Why are you angry? ink and coloured crayons on paper, 52 x 63.5 cm, 1977
Peripatetic multi-person out of nowhere, oil on canvas. 102 x 76 cm, c.1974

Eleven persons and one donkey moving forwards, oil on canvas, 68.5 x 83 cm, 1947

Four bowler-hatted men and a woman in the street (second version), pen & ink, 28.5 x 18 cm, c.1946.

Composition (coloured abstract on black ground), oil on canvas, 76 x 63.5 cm, 1948

Franciszka Themerson

‘Comme la vie est lente et comme l’espérance est violente’ (Apollinaire), oil on canvas, 100 x 150 cm, 1959

Painted relief III, oil, canvas and plaster on canvas, 103 x 76 x 8 cm, c.1961

Voici un monsieur qui a été développé par l'état, mixed media on canvas, 180 x 120 cm, 1960

Gathering image, oil on canvas, 152.5 x 122 cm, 1962

The Party, ink drawing, 46 x 50 cm, 1964.

Multifigure, black and red, acrylic on canvas, 132 x 99 cm, c.1972/73

I am seven and I am one, acrylic on unprimed canvas, 35.5 x 25.5 cm, 1973

Why is there something rather than nothing? oil on unprimed canvas, 50 x 40 cm, 1974

Why are you angry? ink and coloured crayons on paper, 52 x 63.5 cm, 1977

Peripatetic multi-person out of nowhere, oil on canvas. 102 x 76 cm, c.1974

Franciszka Themerson, daughter of the painter Jakub Weinles, was born in Warsaw, 1907, and graduated from the Warsaw Academy in 1931. The same year, she married the writer and experimental photographer, Stefan Themerson, and during the 1930s they became kingpins in a small but vital Polish film-making avant-garde. Their films were financed in part by a series of inventive books for children (his words, her drawings).  Moving to Paris in 1938, they were overtaken by the outbreak of war, separated, and finally reunited in 1942 in London, where in 1948 they founded their highly original Gaberbocchus Press. She designed most of the 70 books they published and illustrated many, most memorably Jarry’s Ubu Roi (1951). She also designed marionette productions of UBU in Stockholm and Copenhagen (1960s/70s).

 

Alongside this busy world, Franciszka’s independent career as an artist was forged. A natural draughtsman, she steadily accumulated ways of painting that enabled her to draw with and into the paint, using knives, sticks, fingers, anything but the right end of a brush, and always with an easy dexterity. Line is at a higher premium than colour generally, and towards the end she even abandoned the light glazes of her mature art to work in luminous whites and off-whites. Her subject from the outset was the human condition, and the mood of her imagery ranged from the comic (but never caricatural) to the tragic (but never expressionistic) with techniques in which the subject and its medium walked hand-in-hand, embedded in each other. In a typical painting or drawing, faces and figures grow out of and dissolve into each other in what seems an endlessly fertile natural cycle. The wit and range of her titles exemplifies the breadth of her cultural reference. She died in London in 1988.

 

Nick Wadley