Anna Zemánková is a well-established figure in art brut, so much so that in 2003 she was honoured at the 55th Venice Biennale prior to a significant part of her works joining the collections of the Centre Pompidou. In the early 1960s, this modest Moravian began to produce a body of work for which her humble background had not prepared her with, and which responded in a striking way to injunctions from the innermost depths. When her nightly demons clashed with the shimmering colours of the dawn, she would imagine herself picking strange flowers which would in turn later jut out from her paper.
« I grow flowers that don’t grow anywhere else » she used to say.
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.
Texts : Terezie Zemánková and Manuel Anceau
Foreword : Christian Berst
Catalog published to mark the exhibition Anna Zemánková : hortus deliciarum #2, from June, 17 to July 18, 2021.