Picture in Focus: Millennium of Poland's Christianity by Antoni Michalak

August 28, 2022

Picture in Focus: Millennium of Poland

We travel this week to Poland, renowned for the school of poster art that developed in the postwar Communist era, when artists with no access to a commercial art market took on official commissions for promotional signs. Given their country’s centuries-old Roman Catholic heritage, Polish graphic artists, working under official censorship, often turned to Christian symbols to evoke universal themes like innocent suffering and self sacrifice, as well as more provocative, political readings. My featured artwork this week is a poster designed by Antoni Michalak, a popular painter in the interwar period, printed in the U.S., commemorating the millennium of Poland's conversation to Christianity in 1966. Michalak gives pride of place to the Black Madonna icon in Czestochowa, Poland's most venerated sacred image, displayed above the traditional national emblem of the crowned eagle in defiance of the Communist authorities who had stripped the bird of its regal trapping and wanted to present the event as a celebration of the foundation of the Polish state. The Michalak poster is now the oldest on display in the gallery of the Polish Poster Art page in the Schools of Sacred Art section. (John Kohan)