Wednesday, July 1, 2020 - Thursday, July 15, 2021
To help us through this difficult time, the Galicia Jewish Museum takes a peek into the extraordinary world of Jan Marcin Szancer – and suddenly everything feels possible!
Animals reading favourite children’s stories by Jan Brzechwa, the dangerous yet tempting sleigh of Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen, the jolly company helping grandpa to harvest his pride turnip, and of course everyone’s favourite locomotive – we all remember and love these cult book covers! The imaginations of a few generations of Polish kids were shaped equally by words of great authors and images created by the painter of childhood dreams Jan Marcin Szancer. Known as the king of illustrations, the artist was the author of drawings for over 200 books, and not just for kids. Let’s just say that without him, Poland would have never known what Pinocchio or Thumbelina look like, and of course there would have been no Mister Inkblot! For over half a century the artist brought characters and places to life with his bold, precise, distinctive drawings. He also wrote fairytales and designed theatre and film sets, and was the first artistic director of Polish Television.
But the life of the creator of these magical world wasn’t exactly a fairytale. Jan Marcin Szancer was born in 1902 in Kraków to a Polish Jewish family. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts and worked as editor and illustrator on the “Świerszczyk” children’s magazine. During the occupation he sketched propaganda posters for the Home Army. After the Warsaw Uprising, he spent time at an internment camp and later in Maków Podhalański. “…freight carriages, getting sealed in, the rattle of train wheels. We are being taken to meet our fate. […] But in spite of all expectations that we were about to pull up at the ramp in Auschwitz, our carriages were diverted and we finally set off again in a new, unknown direction…” Despite experiencing the horrors of war first-hand, Szancer never stopped drawing – in fact he created his most colourful illustrations during the darkest period of his life.
The exhibition Szancer, Imagine That!, opening on 1 July at the Galicia Jewish Museum, displays a wide selection of his paintings and presents the artist’s biography as a fairytale. Although it’s mainly aimed at children by letting them become fairytale heroes, it also aims to inspire adults to reflect on and discuss the role of Polish Jews in the development of Polish art and culture of the 20th century. “Jan Marcin Szancer’s story shows how imagination helps us survive through our darkest moments. Let’s teach our children to make the most of it from their youngest years!” says museum director Jakub Nowakowski. The organisers also invite kids, parents and grandparents to workshops with acclaimed illustrators, a concert featuring visualisations inspired by Szancer’s art, screenings of films about Mister Inkblot and walks around Kraków of the imagination (the full programme is being regularly updated on the museum’s website). The exhibition is accompanied by a presentation of artworks made by children What Were You Thinking? (dd)