Jonasz Stern

In the 1920s and 1930s, Jonasz Stern developed an intense engagement in political activity as a vehement activist of left-wing groups, initially as a member of the Polish Socialist Party–Left, and later the Communist Party of Poland. In the 1930s, Stern studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, where he sought to politically stir his colleagues and engage them in leftist activity. The main ideologist of the Kraków Group, he also collaborated with the Cricot Theatre and created stage designs for satirical socio-political performances. The exhibited works by Stern originate from the 1930s, when the artist was heavily influenced by German Expressionism and Dadaism, particularly George Grosz (Lovers of Money), creating trenchant and engaged graphic prints critically portraying the socio-political reality of Poland in the 1930s, with its escalating violence and radicalization of political stances, militarization, authoritarianism, and repression by the state. He also often depicted scenes from working-class life: destitution, factories, the effects of the economic crisis, rising economic inequalities, demonstrations and protests, as for instance in the Semperit cycle, which addresses the sit-in at the Kraków factory of the "Semperit" company, brutally quashed by the police in March 1936.

Jonasz Stern (b. 1904 in Kałusz, d. 1988 in Zakopane) – Polish painter and graphic artist, co-founder of the 1st and 2nd Kraków Groups, collaborator of the Cricot Theatre. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków between 1929 and 1935. In the 1930s, Stern experimented with Cubism and Abstraction in painting as well as created politically and socially engaged graphic works. He was imprisoned at the Bereza Kartuska detention camp for his political activity in 1938. During World War II, he pursued conspiratorial activity in the Lwów ghetto. He escaped from a transport to the death camp in Bełżec in 1943, and then miraculously avoided execution by shooting. His post-war art involved experimentation with Expressionism, Surrealism and Matter Painting, featuring frequent returns to traumatic memories.

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