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Anna Zemánková

Anna Zemánková

Anna Zemánková (23 August 1908, Olomouc - 15 January 1986, Mníšek pod Brdy) was one of the world's most important artists of art brut. However, her high artistic culture, the diversity of her work, and her clear inner vision make her a departure from the original definition of art brut, and she figures in this category as a solitaire. Eighteen of Zemánková’s works were included in the seminal 2013 Venice Biennale. Her works were exhibited in New York, Paris, and on solo exhibitions in Lausanne and Prague. She is represented in the world's most important art brut collections and auctioned at Christie´s.

Anna Zemánková was born in Hodolany near Olomouc into the family of a barber Antonín Veselý and his wife Adolfina as one of four children. She trained as a dentist and after three years of practice opened her own practice in Olomouc. She was able to use her earnings to finance the construction of her own family home. In her spare time she was a landscape painter.

In 1933, she married Bohumír Zemánek (1904-1969), a lieutenant of the intendantura (rear security of the army), with whom she had three sons, Bohumír (1935), Slavomír (1936) and Bohumil (1942). After the birth of Slavomir, Anna Zemánek decided to devote herself to her children and household and gave up her artistic work. From 1939 the family lived in Brno, where Bohumír Zemánek was a clerk at the pricing office. After the birth of her third son Bohumil, she had several more unsuccessful pregnancies. In 1948 the family adopted a daughter Anna and moved to Prague, where Bohumír Zemánek was called to the General Staff of the Czechoslovak Army. After joining the army, his son Slavomír was transferred to the Technical auxiliary battalion and Bohumír Zemánek was suspended and reassigned to a food warehouse. He died in a traffic accident in 1969.

Anna Zemánková played the dominant role of the "Great Mother" in the family. She led her children strictly, but realized herself in making toys and clothes, decorating their rooms and inventing fairy tales. As the children grew older and this role began to fade, she experienced a personal crisis, which manifested itself in mood swings and emotional instability. In 1960, her sons discovered their mother's early paintings and convinced her to return to art. This "auto-art therapy" helped her find a new meaning in life and soon became a compulsive passion for her.

Friends of her children, including photographers Jan Reich and Jaroslav Krejčí and FAMU student Vlastimil Venclík, came to the Zemáneks' apartment in Dejvice to admire her drawings. As early as 1964, she presented her work in the first of the "Days of Open Doors". Her work came to the attention of Jean Dubuffet who included several of her pieces in the Collection de l’Art Brut Lausanne, the world’s most notable collection of Outsider Art. Olga Havlová also learned about Anna and brought the art historian Jiří Vykoukal to see the remarkable draughtswoman. He arranged her first exhibition in the foyer of the Na zábradlí Theatre in 1966. In the same year, Arsén Pohribný included her paintings in a travelling exhibition of naïve art. In 1968 he also selected her for an exhibition at the Brno House of Arts and in 1971 for an international naïve art exhibition in Prato, Italy. In 1969 she became one of two characters in the documentary film Man and Woman by Vlastimil Venclík.

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Anna Zemánková Artworks
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