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Talk: The Themersons - At Home and Abroad

Part of the Wiener Library’s One Family, Three Cities, Six Years of War exhibition series.

Part of the Wiener Library’s One Family, Three Cities, Six Years of War exhibition series.

This talk explores the unique contribution that the artists, writers, film-makers and publishers Franciszka (1907-1988) and Stefan Themerson (1910-1988) made to literary and artistic life in Britain. The Themersons were part of the wave of émigrés and refugees who fled from Hitler’s Europe to Britain, and so enriched culture here in the post-war period.

Franciszka and Stefan Themerson were originally from Warsaw and married in 1931. They spent much of the 1930s making experimental films in Poland. In 1938, Franciszka and Stefan moved to Paris in order to pursue their work at the centre of the art world. Following the German invasion of France in 1940, Franciszka escaped to London to work for the Polish Government in Exile, whilst Stefan was left stranded in France, having joined the Polish Army in France. During this period, Franciszka produced a remarkable series of drawings reflecting on her experiences and their separation, the Unposted Letters, which feature in the Wiener Library’s One Family, Three Cities, Six Years of War exhibition. The couple were reunited in 1942 in London, where they started to rebuild their lives, together and independently. In 1948, they founded Gaberbocchus Press, the first avant-garde press in Britain. They published the first English translations of Alfred Jarry, Kurt Schwitters and Raymond Queneau, alongside producing artworks and their own publications.

Professor Stephen Bann is Emeritus Professor of History of Art at the University of Bristol, where he was previously the Chair in History of Art. Since 2000, he has held visiting fellowships and appointments at some of the most prominent Research Institutes in Europe and America. He edited the first international anthology of concrete poetry to be published in Britain in 1967, and a major anthology of twentieth-century avant-garde writings, The Tradition of Constructivism, in 1974. He also curated the showing of his own collection of works by Ian Hamilton Finlay at Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, in 2014/15, and has recently published two volumes of his correspondence with Finlay (1964-69 and 1970-72).

Professor Bann first met Stefan and Franciszka Themerson in the early 1960s, when he was an undergraduate at Cambridge helping to run the Society of Arts. Stefan Themerson came to Cambridge at the Society’s invitation to give a lecture on Kurt Schwitters. Stephen Bann subsequently also reviewed a small clutch of Gaberbocchus publications for the magazine Granta. Contact between Bann and the Themersons continued over the succeeding decades, and Stephen curated the first American exhibition of Franciszka’s works in New York in 1977/78.

Supported by GV Art London.

Please note that the talk by Professor Stephen Bann will commence at 6:30pm.


Professor Stephen Bann | talks | www


Date and Time:

25 April 2017 at 6:30 pm


1 hour 30 minutes



The Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide
29 Russell Square
020 7636 7247

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