Polish stage designer, graphic artist and illustrator. Deported to Kazakhstan by the Soviets in 1940, Adam Kilian joined the Polish Army under General Władysław Anders, and fought in the campaign that led across Iraq and Palestine to Great Britain via Italy. From 1945 to 1948, he studied architecture at the College of Arts and Crafts in Nottingham (Great Britain), and upon his return to Poland he studied stage design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. From 1948 to 2010 he has been associated with the Teatr Lalka, formerly named Teatr Lalek Niebieskie Migdały (literally: Blue Almonds Puppet Theatre; figuratively: Castles in the Sky Puppet Theatre), first as managing director (1948-1950), later as art director and stage designer.
Adam Kilian produced more than three hundred stage designs for actors’ theatres, puppet theatres, and opera, working also for television and animated films. He produced his best works with Jan Wilkowski as a director, first at Warsaw’s Teatr Lalka: Guignol w tarapatach (Guignol in Trouble, 1956), by Leon Moszczyński and Wilkowski, where actors and puppets were placed in what looked like a filmed sequence; O Zwyrtale muzykancie (Zwyrtała the Musician, 1958), by Wilkowski based on the novel by Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer, where the action follows a sequence of framed folk paintings on glass. Later, Kilian designed for the Teatr Lalek Pleciuga of Szczecin: Spowiedź w drewnie (Confession in Wood, 1983), by Wilkowski, where he evoked the wood folk figures of Christ, and Żywoty Świętych (Lives of the Saints, 1983), based on Jedrzej Wowro. And, finally, at the Białostocki Teatr Lalek (BTL, Bialystok Puppet Theatre): Decameron 8,5 (1986) based on Boccaccio, where actors in Renaissance costumes create the action with chess pieces, props, and all forms of theatre of hands.
Kilian discovered the charms of wicker as a construction material early in his career, and he never stopped using it, notably in two Teatr Lalka productions, Zaklęty rumak (The Magic Steed, 1960) by Bolesław Leśmian, directed by Zbigniew Kopalko, and Pańczatantra (Panchatantra, 1973), directed by Julianna Całkowa.
Adam Kilian is one of Poland’s most distinguished artists, inspired by Polish folklore treated in a personal manner, notably by enriching it with elements of children’s creative art and a fascination with colour. His stage designs and creations are recognized by his use of saturated, pure colour, a delicate humour, and a profound sense of the joy of creation.
- Jurkowski, Henryk. “Adam Kilian”. Teatr Lalek, No 2. Łódź: POLUNIMA, 1994.
- Koecher-Hansel, Agnieszka. “Adam Kilian – Świat radosnych barw i kształtów”/“Adam Kilian’s World of Joyful Colours and Forms”. Teatr Lalek. Nos. 1-2. Łódź: POLUNIMA, 1995. (In Polish and English)
- Rembowska, Aleksandra, ed. KILIAN. Fascynacje / Fascinations. Warszawa: Teatr Lalka, 2015. (In Polish and English)
- Rogacka, Joanna. Adam Kilian. Dokumentacja działalności [Adam Kilian. Documentation of His Work]. Vol. 6 of “Lalkarze. Materiały do biografii” series. Ed. M. Waszkiel. Łódź, 1995 (with bibliography).
- Sych, Honorata. Tajemnice teatru lalek [Secrets of Puppet Theatre]. Łódź: Muzeum Archeologiczne i Etnograficzne, 2010.
- Waszkiel, Marek. Dzieje teatru lalek w Polsce, 1944-2000 [History of Puppet Theatre in Poland, 1944-2000]. Warszawa: Akademia Teatralna im. Aleksandra Zelwerowicza, 2012.