Radical poster pioneer Paul Peter Piech celebrated at People's History Museum
This article originally appeared on Culture24.
A major force in the development of the radical protest poster whose roots were in the world of corporate promotion is celebrated at the People's History Museum in Manchester
Paul Peter Piech, Racism Is a Poison, Remember Soweto. Linocut from the Regional Print Centre/Coleg Cambria Collection
An artist, humanitarian and campaigner, the artists and printer Paul Peter Piech took on
global issues, reflected the horrors of war and made some pretty stark
Yet the man whose posters were some of the most hard hitting of the post war years spent the early part of his career as an
advertising man, working in the industry on highly influential and
successful corporate campaigns on both
sides of the Atlantic.
These distinctly different aspects of
one of the most radical and influential figures in political posters
feature in the exhibition that also reveals his lifelong love of poetry
and jazz, which were inspirational to him and his career.
own support and voice for liberal causes together with his skills and
artistry in printmaking make him one of the masters of the political
poster, which this retrospective explores and celebrates,” says Mark
Wilson, Exhibitions Officer at the People’s History Museum.
“He was also a great observer of his time, often using the words and quotes of politicians and leading figures in his visuals.
understand his work and legacy, you need to understand the man, and
through Dedicated to all Defenders of Human Freedoms we’ve set out to
share Piech’s story as well as his work.”
Unpicking this story
has seen the museum plunder the Piech family’s private collection, as
well as items held at the Regional Print Centre at Coleg Cambria in
Wrexham, who have jointly curated the exhibition.
When Piech died in
1996 it was to the Regional Print Centre that his family donated an
extensive portfolio of his work.
Paul Peter Piech, Advert design for BP from ‘the Motor’ magazine October 1952. From Private Collection Paul Peter Piech Daw dydd y budd mawr y rhai bychain (Waldo Williams). Linocut from the Regional Print Centre/Coleg Cambria Collection Paul Peter Piech Decipherment (for RS Thomas). Linocut from the Regional Print Centre/Coleg Cambria Collection Paul Peter Piech Falklands Falklands Falklands. Linocut from the Regional Print Centre/Coleg Cambria Collection
Wales was to become the Brooklyn born Piech’s home. Whilst attending the
Cooper Union School of Art in New York his studies were suspended due
to the outbreak of WWII, which saw him posted to the UK where he met his
future wife Irene Tomkins.
Irene eventually brought him back to Wales and
the couple then moved to London in the late 1940s when Piech studied fine art
and lithography at the Chelsea School of Art.
Between 1951 and
1968 he worked in advertising as an artistic director, creatively
leading well-known campaigns including BP, ICI and British Steel. At the
same time he formed his own press, Taurus Press, as a platform and
expression for his political beliefs and to expand the art of
In 1968 Piech became a freelance artist and
lecturer, with a focus on his printmaking and began working for groups
like CND and Amnesty International and producing work that carried his
own political messages; as in the Racism is a Poison series featured in
“Piech used art as a means to question the
world and society around him and many of the themes and ideas in the
exhibition are still relevant today,” adds Jim Creed of the Regional
Print Centre. “The exhibition marks the 20th anniversary of his death,
which I believe is a fitting tribute to his artistic achievements.”
his retirement in 1984 he was still producing a prolific amount of art,
and when he died in 1996 he left behind a huge body of work that is
now held in collections around the world.
As well as Piech’s powerful
and historically important work, visitors to the People’s History
Museum will discover how he developed his printmaking techniques which
developed from lithography and woodcut, through letterpress using lead
type and small carved woodblock printed images to the Artists Books he
created as part of the Taurus Press.
Paul Peter Piech In Nixon we Trust. Linocut from the Regional Print Centre/Coleg Cambria Collection Paul Peter Piech The history of jazz. Linocut 1995. From the Regional Print Centre/Coleg Cambria Collection Paul Peter Piech They killed the dreamer but not his dream. Linocut, 1979, from the Regional Print Centre/Coleg Cambria Collection Paul Peter Piech (centred) working at Crawford Advertising in the 1950s. Image from Piech Estate Collection Paul Peter Piech working in his studio in Bushey Heath. Image from Piech Estate Collection
- Dedicated to all Defenders
of Human Freedoms: The Art of Paul Peter Piech runs from October 1 until
February 12 2017 and is free to enter www.phm.org.uk