Tate Modern

Franciszka and Stefan Themerson

Natalie Bell Building Level 4 East
Franciszka Themerson, ‘Two Pious Persons Making their Way to Heaven, one propellered, one helicoptered, with a little angel below’ 1951

Explore the lifelong artistic collaboration of Franciszka and Stefan Themerson

Both Franciszka and Stefan were born in Poland, where they met and married. They moved to Paris in the late 1930s, then were exiled to the UK after the outbreak of the Second World War. The period between the First and Second World Wars was a time of great innovation for photography and the moving image. Developments in technology enabled new approaches to flourish. Photographers began to make abstract images, took shots from unusual angles and experimented with darkroom production. The Themersons explored innovative techniques such as the photogram, where artists produced photographs without a camera by laying objects directly on to light-sensitive materials.

The Themersons’s first films were made using a simple wooden camera that Stefan purchased in the late 1920s. During filming, they also drew on experimental camera-less photography techniques. They created effects by moving lights and objects, and used a specially constructed ‘trick table’. This glass surface allowed them to film objects from below, creating unique perspectives.

In the post-war period the Themersons’s work became more politically engaged. Following their move to the UK, they produced concrete poetry, paintings and illustrations. Their work investigated an abstract approach to reality, as well as exploring links between art and science. In 1948, the artists set up a publishing company in London, the Gaberbocchus Press. Between 1957 and 1959 they hosted the Gaberbocchus Common Room. They invited scientists and artists to contribute to this forum. The Themersons programmed discussions, film shows, plays and poetry readings. This display features their photographs, films, paintings and drawings.

Curated by Juliet Bingham.


Tate Modern
London SE1 9TG
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