Outsider Art Fair
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Anna Zemánková

Czech, 20th century.
Born 1908, Olomouc, Czech Republic; died 1986, Prague, Czech Republic. 


Anna Zemánková's lyrical, otherworldly floral compositions are as beautiful as they are mysterious. Her mediumistic working method was akin to that of other Outsiders partnering with unseen, guiding forces, yet her oeuvre stands radically apart from work produced within a communal Spiritualist context. 

Born Anna Velelá on August 23, 1908 in Moravia, which is now part of the Czech Republic, Zemánková was dissuaded by her family from pursuing art, and instead studied dentistry. She married and raised a family, settling in Prague after WWII. As she grew older, she suffered depression, and the amputation of both legs due to diabetes.

After her son, an artist, provided her with art supplies and a drawing table, Zemánková found solace and a renewed sense of purpose in her unique creative practice. She would rise early and work in a trance state from 4-7 am, listening to classical music as she drew or sewed graceful, curvilinear floral shapes onto different kinds of paper. Of her imagery, Zemánková has said: "I am growing flowers that are not grown anywhere else.” 

Over time, her work progressed from large works on paper to much smaller, more textured pieces made with crimped paper. Zemánková also created work with textile and embroidered furniture elements, much of which is lost. Also lost to us are a series of drawings in black ink on paper, created during a severe bout with diabetes, but destroyed by one of her sons. 

Curator and scholar Annie Carlano has found evidence in Zemánková Moravian culture of a grassroots tradition of channeling spirits, and has proposed that this practice informed the artist, who worked with no connection to local Spiritualist circles. While this local tradition likely facilitated Zemankova engagement with ́ ́mediumistic creativity, her genius and dedication and staggering production make her a quintessential Outsider Artist.

Jenifer P. Borum


Selected Exhibitions

2016, World Made By Hand, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York

2015, Twilight Before Dawn: Anna Zemánková, Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York

2015, In Dreams Begin Responsibilities: 30 Years of Cavin-Morris, Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York

2015, Spirited Women: Drawing Down Fire, Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York

2014, Preview Birdman (with Chris Hipkiss), galerie gugging, Campus Maria Gugging, Austria

2013, Anna Zemánková: Hortus Deliciarum, Christian Berst Gallery, Paris

2013, The Encyclopedic Palace, 55th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale, Giardini and at the Arsenale, Venice

2012, Anatomia Metamorphosis, Sarlaandische Galerie, Berlin; Hyogo Prefectural Museum Japan; Hiroshima City Museum of Art, Japan

2008, Visions Drawn Before Dawn: A Centennial Celebration of Anna Zemánková, Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York

2006, Magical Vision of Eva Dropová and Anna Zemánková, Galerie X, Bratislava, Slovakia

2006, Inner Worlds Outside, traveling exhibition, Sala de Exposiciones de la Fundacíon "La Caixa," Madrid; WhiteChapel Gallery, London; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin

1998, Onirické vize Anny Zemankové, Muzeum umeni Olomouc, Olomouc (Czech Republic)

1979, Outsiders, Hayward Gallery, London

Selected Collections


The Anthony Petullo Collection of Self-Taught & Outsider Art, Milwaukee
L'Arcaine Collection, Lille Métropole Musée de Art Moderne, d'art contemporain et d'art brut
Arnulf Rainer Collection, Vienna
Collection abcd, Paris
Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne
Halle Saint Pierre, Paris
Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee
Musée de la Création Franche, Bégles
Museum Dr. Guislain, Belgium
Museum of International Folk Art, New York
Olomouc Museum of Art, Olomouc (Czech Republic)
Outsiders Archive, London

Selected Bibliography

Zemánková, Terezie, Anatomia Metamorphosis, Anna Zemankova, exhibition catalogue, Muzeum Montanelli, Prague, 2011.

Zemánková, Terezie, Artists of Pure Heart II: Homage to Anna Zemánková, 2008. 

Inner Worlds Outside, exhibition catalogue, Fundacíon "La Caixa," WhiteChapel Gallery, Irish Museum of Modern Art & Ediciones El Viso, Madrid, 2006.

Zemánková, Terezie, "Anna Zemánková: The Flowers of Passion," Folk Art Magazine, New York, Winter 2004/05. 

Carlano, Annie, "Lecture on Anna Zemánková at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art," Chicago, Illinois on February 22, 2003.

Petullo, Anthony. Self-Taught and Outsider Art: The Anthony Petullo Collection, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 2001.

Hernandez, Jo Farb, "The Dawn Drawings of Anna Zemánková," Raw Vision, #14, Spring 1996.


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