It is not uncommon for artists across disciplines to dip into the literary world by illustrating or writing a book, but Associate Professor of Design Jacek Fraczak has gone a step further by taking on the publishing process of a book concept especially meaningful to him. The anthology entitled Art & Friends: Selected Writings of Danuta Wróblewska delves into Polish art history through the words of his mother, Danuta Wróblewska, a renowned Polish art critic and curator.
One year after his mother’s passing, Jacek first came up with the concept for the book in 2014. The book would cover more than 50 years of Danuta’s professional activity and examples of her professional interests in fine art and design through her own written texts. From there, Jacek began to organize the things necessary to bring the idea to fruition. “I designed a precise step-by-step book editing and publishing planner, made a search [to hire] the proper writer/editor with a background in history of art, and after receiving several academic recommendations, I chose a young author [Karolina Zychowicz] holding a PhD in history of Polish art criticism in XIX-XX. I supervised the progression and direction of her works and paid author’s royalty and all the copyrights used in the book,” Jacek shares.
After organizing many of the first steps in the developmental stages, Jacek partnered with publishing house National Centre for Culture, which Jacek describes as a close equivalent to the US National Endowment for the Arts. Even after partnering with a larger publishing house, Jacek still maintained a voice throughout the process by working with the publishing team to make joint decisions about the book’s graphics and overall format. Art & Friends: Selected Writings of Danuta Wróblewska was published in December 2021, finalizing the process of the book concept transforming into a reality.
The final version of Art & Friends is a unique variation from what would typically be expected from an anthology. Rather than a brief introduction prefacing a collection of works fitting into a general theme, the book offers readers more historical context with an extensive analysis of Polish art and design of the 50-year period between 1956–2006. “This period of 50 years has been tremendously important for Polish art and design both at home and in its reception abroad. The introduction brings evidence of the efforts of generations of artists willing to stay in connection with the Western art and design scene and inspire it in certain disciplines—Polish School of Posters, the art of book illustration, textiles art— despite the oppression of communist regime ruling Poland until 1989,” Jacek explains.
The professional career of Danuta Wróblewska acts as a pretext for exploring Polish art history during this time period through the meticulous writing style of an art history scholar. The historical details are paired with supporting documents from Wróblewska’s own collection, including press articles, introductions to exhibition catalogues, and excerpts of her books. “Bringing together important texts so far scattered across different media and thus of limited accessibility . . . makes this book a perfect source of knowledge of Polish visual culture for students and scholars of art & design and art history, for artists, art collectors, gallerists, museum curators and all interested in the matters of visual culture of Poland and Central Europe in this interesting and significant time of manifold transformations: political, cultural, social,” Jacek adds.
Appreciation for Art & Friends: Selected Writings of Danuta Wróblewska is already off to a strong start. The book was presented by co-publisher National Centre for Culture at the International London Book Fair this past April and the Warsaw Book Fair, one of the largest book fair events in Europe, in May. Jacek still has future plans for Art and Friends, too. The 616-page book was originally published in Polish, and Jacek hopes to partner with a university Polish Studies program to translate it into English for a hard copy or e-book version.
Taylor Ladd is a graduate assistant for the Department of Art + Design. She is working towards her master’s degree in writing at Missouri State University with professional interests in writing about art, culture, and food.