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 1982 he immigrated to the US, where he soon established himself as a prominent painter, illustrator and designer. In 1985, he began teaching at the School of Visual Arts in New York.
For his artistic achievements, he has received more than 150 awards including Gold and Silver Medals from the Society of Illustrators in New York and Los Angeles, and The Big Crit 2000 award by Critique Magazine in San Francisco. In 1994 he was awarded the International Oscar for the World’s Most Memorable Poster, The 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”.
Rafal with Mayor Giuliani
In the same year he received the Creative Review Award for the Best of British Illustration in London. In 1995 a jury led by Mayor Rudolf Giuliani chose his poster as the official New York City Capital of the World Poster.
In the following year he won the Steven Dohanos Award for the best painting in the Annual Member Exhibition of the Society of Illustrators. In July 2002 the City of Fondi, Italy awarded him Divina Giulia for his contribution to contemporary art.
In 1996 he was commissioned by the U.S. Information Agency to design a poster celebrating the 25th Earth Day anniversary and commissioned again in 2004 to create the Earth Day NY poster. From 2002 through 2010, a selection of Olbinski paintings was included in the Grand Space projection in grand Central Terminal, as a highlight of the Earth Day Celebration in New York. The other artists featured in the show are Keith haring, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Raushenberg, and Andy Warhol.
In 2001, the Willy-Brandt House in Berlin presented the works of Rafal Olbinski in a one-man retrospective exhibition entitled Art at the Turn of the Century.
In 2002 his set design debut for the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni was highly acclaimed by critics in the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer. The New York Times remarks that if you don’t know his name, “Odds are you know his paintings.”
In the same year the “Art with Moral Purpose” at the Goethe Institute in Hamburg exhibited paintings and posters by Olbinski.
He is well known as an internationally acclaimed designer of opera house posters and for designing the covers of hundreds of magazines, from Time to Newsweek to The New Yorker. Commissioned by Allegro Music, he has completed over 100 album covers for their Opera D’Oro Series.
Olbinski was commissioned to create several paintings illustrating articles and essays on moral values, which appeared in seven consecutive issues of the German magazine Stern. This led to a traveling exhibition of these paintings, the first hosted by the wife of the President of Germany, Eva Louise Koeh.
In 2008 Olbinski had a one-man exhibition titled “Olbinski – Photokina Expo” for Hewlett Packard (Cologne, Germany). In 2009 he had an important museum exhibition at the Jule Collins Smith Museum entitled “New Dreams of Old Values”. He has completed many large murals for installations in public space in Europe.
With a reputation that spans the globe, Olbinski is involved in projects on nearly every continent. In Poland, he completed three public murals that were unveiled in Spring 2007; In Bangkok, he juried the 2006 International Film Festival; In Germany, an exhibition of his work is currently traveling across the country. In 2011 he was chosen to design the curtain for the important new opera house being constructed in Poland.
Olbinski’s lush images are layered with complex psychology. He does not paint the landscape of scientific reality, but rather maps the interiors of the mind. Like Dali and Magritte before him, Olbinski’s work has a poetic resonance – he depicts the mind as a theater of dreams, with new attractions around every corner.
“I believe that every artist falls in love with his work,” Olbinski says, “especially when you paint women.” Well known for his luxurious depictions of women, Olbinski’s nudes are both classical and controversial. He explores the mysterious aura of women who, although aloof, beckon to the viewer. A master of technique, he often draws on the works of Goya and Botticelli for inspiration.
As in Goya’s time, the female form has the power to incite controversy. Recent disputes erupted over Olbinski’s image of a bare-breasted mermaid, designed for the 2006 Miss World contest in Poland. As a concession to Polish officials, Olbinski painted a scarf across the mermaid’s breast.
Poetic humor is a quality rarely found in the fine arts, says Andre Parinuad, President of the International Arts Salon in Paris. Rafal Olbinski has this gift. He wants to show us that our imagination is a magical world, which we are recreating forever. He draws us into a different universe, and forces us to use our eyes to participate in a marvelous world which is the true dimension of dreams.
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