Stefan Themerson was born in Plock (Poland) in 1910, the son of a doctor. He studied physics at the University of Warsaw and architecture at the Warsaw Polytechnic. In his twenties, Stefan became well-known in Poland as an author of children’s books. Franciszka was born in Warsaw in 1907, the daughter of painter Jacob Weinles, and pianist Lucja Kaufman. She grew up in a world filled with art. Franciszka studied painting at Warsaw Academy of Art and in 1931 graduated summa cum laude.
Stefan and Franciszka met in 1929 and they married in 1931. Between 1931 and 1937, the Themersons made several experimental films and Stefan invented new techniques for photograms. Adventures of a Good Citizen (1937) was the fifth and the last of their pre-war films and the only one that has survived.
The Themersons played a major role in the history of independent, experimental and pre-war cinema in Poland, their significance for the development of the Polish avant-garde film is enormous.
The Themersons moved to Paris in 1937, to be at the heart of the art world. Two days after the start of the Second World War Stefan and Franciszka volunteered for the Polish army. In 1940 Franciszka escaped by moving to London. Stefan served in the Polish army in France, ending up in a Polish Red Cross hostel in Voiron, 1940-42. At this time Stefan wrote his first novel, Professor Mmaa’s Lecture. After two years of separation Stefan and Franciszka were reunited in London in 1942. They made two more films, 1942-44.
In 1948 the Themersons founded a publishing house: the Gaberbocchus Press. In 31 years they published over sixty titles, including works by Alfred Jarry, Kurt Schwitters and Bertrand Russell.
In 1953 Stefan’s Professor Mmaa’s Lecture was first published. It is still a classic in Poland.
Through the 60s and 70s, Stefan’s books were published by Gaberbocchus Press, for example philosophical novels, children’s books, poetry, essays and a libretto and music for an opera. His books have been translated in eight languages. Ethics, language, freedom, human dignity and the importance of good manners are the topics Stefan wrote about most.
Franciszka was well-known as a painter and designer and many major exhibitions of her work were held. As art director she designed and illustrated many Gaberbocchus titles. Franciszka’s Ubu comic strip appeared in the Dutch literary magazine De Revisor from 1985 until 1987. In 1979 the Gaberbocchus Press was, at the request of the Themersons, taken over by the publishing house De Harmonie in Amsterdam.
Franciszka Themerson died in London in June 1988, Stefan Themerson in September 1988.