Paul Piech was an important mid 20th century graphic artist who is best known for the Lino prints, posters and books from his private press set up in 1959, the “Taurus Press” in the U.K.
In the Penrose Annual of 1976 is a beautifully illustrated, in depth article on the private press of Paul Piech written by Kenneth Hardacre. Hardacre writes:
“His books broke all the rules of setting, spacing and layout. They gave the impression of having been printed on any paper that came to hand…Their typefaces were often unusual and hardly ever suited to their texts. The very ink on the paper seems restless. Piech’s books make you feel uncomfortable and that is why they exist – their aim is to disturb. They all have a power that is to be found above all in the profusion of linocuts and woodcuts that pour through their pages. Paul Piech expresses his pity with a knife. He handles his medium with compelling force, until the lino itself seems to cry out, expressing his horror at man’s inhumanity to man”
(For the purposes of this Penrose article the images were screen printed onto brown, textured card – but most posters you will see by Piech have a white background – and he often used bright bold colours in his posters)
The techniques used by Piech give an immediacy and urgency to his work, which suits the often political message of it. Harcare writes:
“Piech rarely uses type in his posters, their message lies as much in the urgency of the hand cut lettering as in the text itself – an urgency demonstrated in and even strengthened by the occasional mis-spellings. For Piech cuts his lettering very quickly, he blocks in areas, plans the lines, and counts off the characters; but there is no preliminary design of the letter shapes. He never cuts around a drawn letter – he creates the letter in the act of cutting. Thus his letters are alive as the faces he cuts.”
The following biographical information is extracted from Paul’s obituary published in The Independent (U.K.) on July 4th 1996, written by Lottie Hoare
“Some remarkable individuals keep on believing, throughout their lives, that the world could change for the better. The artist and printer Paul Peter Piech was one such man. He was born in Brooklyn in 1920 – Studied at the Cooper Union College of Art, New York. In 1937 he went to work as a graphic artist at Dorlands Advertising Agency under Herbert Bayer. During the Second World War he was posted to Cardiff with the United States Eighth Army Air Force. In Wales he met and married Irene Tomkins, and stayed in Britain studying at the Chelsea college of Art. Between 1951 and 1968 Piech worked as an artistic director for W.S. Crawfords Advertising.
In 1959 he set up his own private press, the Taurus Press. In the early years he used metal type to set his texts but he became increasingly attached to his own rough and expressive linocut lettering. He printed his linocut images alongside the wise words of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King or the crass boasts of Richard Nixon.
….. The Taurus Press exemplified the kind of contribution that a private press can make to modern society. It never ignored history, it republished numerous written works by William Blake for instance.
The University of Salzburg was to take a particular interest in Piech’s work and published some of his later books, including a collection of John Gurney’s poems, Coal, a Sonnet Sequence (1994), with Piech illustrations.
From 1968 Piech worked freelance as a graphic artist but he also taught in numerous art schools including Chelsea, the London College of Printing and Leicester
In our current climate of fin de siècle despair at the state of the world Paul Peter Piech stood out as a man who knew how to turn any anger about man’s inhumanity to man into creative work with a disturbing social message”
Paul Peter Piech died in Glamorgan 31 May 1996 and the Piech family gave his archive to the Yale College at Wrexham, Wales in 2006 – giving a wide insight into 50 years of humanitarian issues
You can read more about Paul Piech collection held HERE at the regional print centre in the U.K.