The distinct and distinguished graphic artist Andrzej Klimowski (1949-present), whose illustrations have appeared on the covers of works by Milan Kundera, Kazuo Ishiguro and Harold Pinter, is not only a master of visually interpreting and distilling a writer’s narrative within a visual, but has gone on to carve out his own peculiar illustrative niche.
Born in London to Polish parents, he initially studied sculpture and painting at St Martin’s School of Art. However, it was his decision to relocate to Poland between 1973 and 1980 that would prove the pivotal point in his career. In Poland he studied at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts under the award winning poster artist Professor Henryk Tomaszewski, who not only had a major influence on developing his style, but also supplied him a letter of recommendation to the ministry of culture enabling him to work there. Tomaszewski, who Klimowski describes as someone who did not suffer fools gladly, taught him to eliminate ambiguity from his work. His influence can be seen from Klimowski’s description of his own working methodology:
I am drawn towards working in a primitive, simplified mode. I use black ink and brush or the linocut, a discipline that requires me to reduce a design or composition to the bare essentials, leaving space for the viewer’s imagination.
With Tomaszewski‘s guidance, Klimowski became one of the leading young Polish poster artists of the 1970s, during which period he twice won The Hollywood Reporter Key Art Awards for best film poster in 1977 and 1978 (for Nashville and Chinatown).
On his return to the UK Klimowski combined teaching (he is currently Professor of Illustration and Senior Tutor at The Royal College of Art) with freelance work for Penguin, Faber and The Guardian. Although it was his illustrations for Milan Kundera’s novels that first got him noticed in the UK, it was working with Pinter, who picked him from a number of Faber illustrators, that brought Klimowski more personal satisfaction, as he felt he: ‘could identify with his lapidary use of language.’
In recent years, Klimowski‘s interest in creating a visual narrative through images has gone beyond merely providing illustrations for books. With Danusia Schejbal, he has adapted into graphic novels two literary classics: Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita (2008) and Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (2009). He is, also, the author of two graphic novels: Horace Dorlan and The Secret. His own books incorporate elements of silent movies, graphic novels, film noir and surrealism that fuse together to create his own unique visual narrative syntax.
The books in the photographs are a first edition of Milan Kundera’s Slowness published by Faber in 1996 and Lenz: Three Plays, published by Oberon Books in 1993.