Franciszka Themerson (b. 1907, Warsaw, d.1988, London) was born into an artistic family. Her father Jakub Weinles was a painter, her mother, Łucja, a pianist, her older sister Maryla a graphic artist and illustrator of books for children.

 

Franciszka studied the piano at the Warsaw Conservatory and then painting and graphic arts at the Academy of Fine Arts, where in 1931 she obtained a diploma with the highest distinction. The same year she married Stefan Themerson, a writer and experimental photographer. In 1930 they had produced their first experimental film, Pharmacy, to be followed by Europa (1931), Moment Musical (1933), Short Circuit (1935), and Adventures of Good Citizen (1937). They were founders of the Film-makers’ Cooperative in Warsaw and published its magazine, f.a. (Art Film), of which Franciszka was the art editor. During the 1930s she illustrated many books for children, mainly written by Stefan Themerson, and published her drawings in various publications.

 

In 1938 the Themersons moved to Paris. After the outbreak of World War II, in September 1939, they volunteered for the Polish army in France. Franciszka became a cartographer for the Ministry of Information and Documentation for the Polish government-in-exile. After the capitulation of France in 1940, she was evacuated to London. Stefan stayed in France and came to England in 1942.

 

After their reunion, the Themersons made two films for the Polish Film Unit: Calling Mr Smith (1943) and The Eye and the Ear (1944-1945). In 1948 they founded Gaberbocchus Press of which Franciszka was the art director. She illustrated and designed almost all of the highly original publications of Gaberbocchus, most famously Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi in 1951; from that point on Ubu Roi became a significant element in her work. She designed masks for the performance of Ubu Roi at the ICA, London, life-size puppets for Marionetteatern in Stockholm and Dukka Teater, Copenhagen. In 1966 she was responsible for costumes and sets for The Three Penny Opera, Marionetteatern in Stockholm. In 1968 Franciszka designed the graphics and setting of the exhibition Cybernetic Serendipity at the ICA, London.

 

Throughout their lives, the Themersons stayed in touch with the intellectual life of Poland and of France. In 1961 they were awarded residencies at the Karolyi Foundation in Vence, France.

 

Between 1963-68 Franciszka taught at Wimbledon School of Art and Bath Academy of Art.
In 1951 she was elected a member of the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers and in 1960, became a Fellow. In 1959 Franciszka was elected to the L’ordre de la Grande Gidouille du Collège de Pataphysique. In 1966 she was awarded Gold Medal at the First International Triennial of Theatre Design in Yugoslavia. In 1976 she was elected honorary member of the Union internationale de la Marionnette.

 

There are four books devoted to Franciszka’s drawings. Her works are also to be found in numerous international art magazines. She has participated in many exhibitions internationally and her works are in many public and private collections.