Some texts cannot be translated, some fail altogether, some give us an idea of the original but suggest something else in the process. For the Themersons, the idea of translation was not only possible but also natural, whether from one language into another, from poetry to film, from picture to text. In this short talk Jasia Reichardt will describe/reveal some of the ways in which the Themersons made use of translation.
BIOGRAPHY OF THE THEMERSONS
The Themersons were born in Poland, she in 1907, he in 1910. She was a painter and he was a writer. Among the early works made jointly in Warsaw were their avant-garde films, which Stefan described as ‘photograms in motion’, and their books and stories for children, many of which appeared in Płomyk during the 1930s, and later in Paris, in Moja Gazeta. Stefan wrote the texts and Franciszka illustrated them. They were probably the only avant-garde couple to have produced so much material for young readers, all between the years 1931 and 1963.
They moved to Paris to be in the centre of new art at the end of 1938. There, the war surprised them. In 1940 Franciszka escaped to London and Stefan followed her two years later. In London, they made 2 more films and then decided to launch a publishing company, which became the most important small press in UK. It was called Gaberbocchus Press, after the Latin translation of Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll’s dragon in Through The Looking Glass. The Themersons ran Gaberbocchus for 31 years and published 60 titles, all original in design, many of them first English editions. Stefan continued to write: philosophical novels, short stories, essays on art and aesthetics, poems, an opera (libretto and score), a radio play. Franciszka meanwhile also followed her prolific career as an artist (paintings, reliefs, stage design, drawings). The Themersons’ books are on many bookshelves throughout the world. Franciszka’s paintings are in galleries and museums. Their films are shown from time to time in cinemas, and information about them percolates through countless pages of the internet.
Franciszka Themerson detail of Multifigure, black and red, c. 1972/73, acrylic on unprimed canvas
© Themerson Estate
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