Art as mental health balm

By Katy Hessel

Mesmerizing is the work of Czech self-taught artist, Anna Zemánková born in 1908. Known for her lucid botanical drawings made from pastel, ink, and thread, it wasn’t until she was in her late 50s that she began to draw such wonderfully surreal and meticulously-crafted masterpieces. 

Moon Flower [cab-11470], crayon and ball-point pen on paper, 63 x 45 cm, early 1970s. © Anna Zemánková.

Untitled [00620], pastel and India ink on paper, 88 x 62 cm, 1968. © Anna Zemánková.

From the age of fifteen to eighteen she studied dentistry and then worked as a dental technician until her marriage, when she forwent paid labor in order to care for her children. In 1948, she and her family moved to Prague, and when she found herself increasingly depressed, her son, a sculptor, encouraged her to pursue the creative work she had always previously dismissed. 

Early in the morning, before anyone else arose, she’d sketch pastel and ink onto large swaths of paper, creating botanical dreamscapes all her own. In order to get recognized she held ‘open house’ exhibitions, which caught the attention of fellow artist Jean Dubuffet who launched her career exhibiting in the likes of London’s Hayward Gallery in 1979, six years before her passing. 

-Katy Hessel #katyhessel #thegreatwomenartists

Untitled

Untitled

Lamp [00730], mixed media, 1970s. © Anna Zemánková.

Anna Zemánková