The Surrealism Website
Rafal Olbinski (1945-)




Born in Kielce, Poland in 1945, Rafal Olbinski studied architecture before dedicating himself to painting and design. He graduated from the Architectural Department of Warsaw Politechnical School. In the 1970s and early 1980s he created a number of poster designs for Polish rock and Jazz bands, as well as some more political pieces. In 1979 he created the poster for the film Man of Iron by Andrzej Wajda, which soon after became one of the most famous and reproduced posters of the 'Solidarity' movement.
In 1982 he emigrated to the USA where he quickly established himself as an artist, designer and illustrator. In 1985, he began teaching at the School of Visual Arts in New York. He turned again to poster designs, adapting his paintings as publicity posters for events, initially usually for American Opera companies but as his reputation grew many international companies also used his work. This led to him creating 100 opera illustrations for album covers for Allegro-Music's Opera D'Oro Series.
He became well known in the world of illustration and received more than 150 awards including from the Art Directors Club of New York and the Society of Illustrators in New York and Los Angeles In 1994 he was awarded the International Oscar for The World’s Most Memorable Poster, Prix Savignac in Paris. The President of the Republic of Poland awarded Olbinski the highest award in the field of arts, the gold medal, 'Gloria Artist'. His work has appeared in publications such as Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, The New Yorker, Newsweek and Time magazine.
His work primarily draws on the devices used by René Magritte, and his meticulous, detailed paintings, essentially continue that impulse into the 21st century. He has had a number of major exhibitions, one in Cologne in 2008, and his New Dreams of Old Values in Auburn, Alabama, in 2009.
Olbinski is extremely prolific and seems capable of continually creating new imagery.