Like Frida Khalo half a century before her, Anna Zemankova has abandoned herself in creation while she is bedridden and depressed, a result of the amputation of her legs. Condemned to the silent contemplation of the rising day, an astonishing vegetation slowly grew in her: at dawn, this family mother, in a trance, picked strange flowers in thought, that she later made bloom on paper. These plants, lush and fertile, are present today in the most prestigious collections and were even highly praised at the international pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 2013.
Anna Zemánková was born in 1908 in Olomouc, Moravia, then a province of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. While still a child she showed a great fondness for drawing; her father, however, had no sympathy for her predisposition and she became a dental technician.
In 1933, she married an army officer and stopped working to devote herself to her family. The couple had three sons, the older of whom died at the age of four, and later, a daughter. A loving mother, she spent all her time taking care of her family. After World War Two, the family moved to Prague. In 1950 she began to suffer from depression, and because of diabetes, had to have both legs amputated.
She was over 50 when – perhaps in a return to her childhood dreams – she began painting daily, working every day from four to seven in the morning to sketch spontaneous drawings inspired by plants. It was in these early hours that she felt she could capture magnetic forces. When she set about drawing, she had no idea of the final shape the work would take, saying, “It all works by itself … there is no need to think.”
Her strikingly detailed works with a compelling rhythm of spirals, arabesques and geometric shapes make Zemánková a major figure in art brut. They are to be found in the most prestigious art brut collections and Zemánková is to be duly honoured at the international pavilion of the Venice Biennale 2013.
Preface : Terezie Zemankova
Foreword : Christian Berst
Catalog published to mark the exhibition Anna Zemankova : hortus deliciarum, from may 31st to july 20th, 2013.