Curiculum vitae

Anna Zemánková

* 1908 Hodolany (near Olomouc) - † 1986 Mníšek pod Brdy

She was born into the large family of the barber Antonín Veselý. In spite of the fact that she dedicated herself to painting in her youth, she went into an apprenticeship as a dental technician, after which she opened her own surgery. In 1933 she married a superintendent of the commissariat, Bohumír Zemánek, and two years later brought a son Bohoušek into the world. After the birth of her second son Slavomír, Anna gave up her dental practice and decided to devote herself to her family full-time. Her maternal task, however, suffered a great upheaval, when the first-born son was diagnosed with cancer, dying at the age of four. Anna never wholly recovered from this tragedy. To the end of her days she kept her son's bust and the urn containing his ashes. After the birth of a third son Bohumil she had a series of unsuccessful pregnancies. When she reached the age of 40, though, she added a daughter Anynka to the family. The Zemáneks subsequently moved to Prague, where Anna's husband's work took him.

The world of small children completely absorbed Anna. She concentrated all her instinctual passion on them, wholly devoting her attention to them. She dressed them in traditional Moravian folk costumes and clothes reminiscent those from fairy tales, she created toys for them, decorated their rooms and made up fairy tales for them with great skill. On the other hand, however, she demanded unrequiting obedience and respect in return. When the children began to grow up and she could no longer fully realise her maternal role, she fell into a state of frustration and moodiness. Her creative work, to which Anna was introduced by her sons in 1960, when she was 52, acted as a magnificent catharsis to her.

She always began drawing just before dawn. The first bulky drawings were influenced by listening to classical music, in a state between dreams and waking. From the outset she used tempera for her drawings. However, she soon turned to drawing with dry crayon, which she "softened" with cooking oil and complemented with pen and ink drawing. Later she began drawing the details in ballpoint, and in time she added perforations and relief extrusions. Continual dissatisfaction forced her to seek new materials and methods: paper or textile collage, crochet applications, pasting on beads and spangles... Techniques, which she had used earlier for decorating her home and clothing, now became an integral part of her work.

Even in her final days, when she suffered with serious diabetes, heavy glaucoma and had undergone the amputation of both legs, she continued making miniature textile collages. Creative work was a fundamental life activity for her, thanks to which she was able to extend her symbolic fertility and over and over again to become a creator of new beings, "who were even more beautiful than mother nature ever created."