Polish Red Cross marks its centenary with beautiful outdoor exhibition
The Polish Red Cross is marking its 100th anniversary this year with a stunning poster exhibition at the Łazienki Park in Warsaw.
Founded in 1919 following the restoration of Poland’s independence after the First World War, the organisation was set up under the patronage of Helena Paderewska (the wife of Prime Minister Ignacy Jan Paderewski).
Having organised aid for victims of the war, she brought together charitable organisations that shared the Red Cross’s aims to form the Polish Red Cross Association.
The exhibition by the entrance to the Łazienki Park, which displays posters from the Poster Museum in Wilanów and the Polish Red Cross archives, celebrates the organisation’s work over the past century.
Introducing the exhibition, Małgorzata Szukała of the Polish Red Cross and Aleksandra Oleksiak of the Poster Museum in Wilanów issued a joint statement saying: “The fate of the Polish Red Cross is strongly associated with the rebuilding of our statehood.
“Throughout this period, the organisation shaped and supported Polish society, bringing selfless help and sensitising people to harm.”
They added that the posters have “historical, social, but above all artistic value.”
Created by representatives of the Polish school of poster art, the posters use bright pictures and wit to communicate their message.
Aware of the power of imagery, the Polish Red Cross commissioned work by celebrated graphic artists, such as Tadeusz Gronowski (who designed the logo of LOT Airlines), Marek Freudenreich and Andrzej Pągowski, among others.
Over the decades, the posters’ role was to inform and remind the public of simple steps they should take to look after their health.
Hygiene was a popular theme in the interwar years and in the 1950s.
During the communist era, the Polish Red Cross posters also encouraged citizens to watch out for alcohol and cigarettes, and to donate blood.
Artistically, the posters vary in style, reflecting the changes in Polish poster art over the past century.
For example, a poster from 1952 showing a beaming nurse flanked by a two other women – a factory worker and a peasant girl in traditional dress – with the slogan “In the Polish Red Cross’s ranks we are fighting for sanitary culture” echoes the imagery and slogans of the Polish People’s Republic.
Most of the posters are non-political, simply urging people to live healthily.
A 1985 poster by artist Wiktor Sadowski features a sporty-looking rabbit with the following words (which rhyme in Polish): “Ask the bunny how he stays healthy and he will tell you: he who looks after his health eats vegetables.”
The exhibition can be visited for free until 2 September.