June 27, 2022

Franciszek Starowieyski—Connoisseur of female body

Franciszek Starowieyski is believed to be one of the most outstanding representatives of the Polish School of Posters. He was the first Pole to have a solo exhibition in the most prestigious museum-the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The artist created theatre and film sets. He was also a painter, illustrator, printmaker, and calligrapher. Our online auction "Franciszek Starowieyski. Drawings and Posters" presents you with posters and sketches by the artist, demonstrating the broad spectrum of his artistic output.

For many years, the artist has been working both in Poland and Paris. He came from a noble family and had the Biberstein coat of arms. He graduated from the Academies of Fine Arts in Krakow and Warsaw. Starowieyski also originated the so-called drawing theatres-unique drawing festivals during which spectators and models participated in creating several dozen square meters of paintings with the accompaniment of music. 


Franciszek Starowieyski's art is a spectacle of bodies and ornamentation. The drawings, paintings, and sketches that came out of the painter's studio are a combination of an intellectual message and surreal visions.  As evidenced by his works, Starowieyski's interest and affection for female bodies defined his style. The artist's preferred protagonists were women with Rubenesque bodies, round bellies, and strong thighs. This combination of power and sexuality in Starowieyski's paintings makes him distinct from other painters.

The artist discussed the fairer sex and its appeals with his signature openness and transparency. As the artist's wife recalls, women played an important role in both the artist's work and everyday life. Teresa Starowieyska said about her life with the artist, "He did not like it when we did not go somewhere together. He would come and engage us with a lecture about the shapes of buttocks – pears or apples. And the girls would go to the bathroom to see what kind of fruit their bottoms were. Franek loved being among women, he just worshipped women. When my friends came, I said, 'Just be quiet, because Franek is working,' but he would stop his work and call from the top of our two-level apartment 'Come on, come on", holding court. He continuously suffered from an insufficient number of models, so I frequently invited a close friend to come and pose for him." (Teresa Starowieyska in an interview with Krystyna Pytlakowska, "Syna nazwał Belzebub, kochał sprośne dowcipy i kobiety. Franciszek Starowieyski we wspomnieniach żony", viva.pl, available at: https://viva.pl/ludzie/wywiady-vivy/wywiad-z-zona-franciszka-starowieyskiego-teresa-23444-r3/ ).

Our offer includes a large collection of posters for exhibitions, plays, and films. At the auction, we only showcase a small portion of the artist's impressive legacy, which comprises more than 360 completed projects, with movie posters being particularly noteworthy. These independent works of art are devoid of the rules of contemporary propaganda and clients' pressure. Starowieyski avidly made use of painting, which makes his works fascinating examples of artistic freedom and expression. In the 1970s, the artist increasingly referred to eroticism and death, as illustrated by the posters for Thomas Middleton's and William Rowley's play "The Changeling" at the Baltic Drama Theatre in Koszalin and the poster for Strindberg's play "The Dance of Death" at the Ateneum Theatre. These compositions combine motifs representing humans, animals, skulls, and bones, which together form fantastic visions.