It Wouldn’t Be a Fantasy Without Flowers, Even If the Flowers Never Breathed Air

by Flaunt Editorial Staff

 ANNA ZEMÁNKOVÁ. UNTITLED, UNDATED (AROUND 1965). PEN, PASTEL, PAPER. 24.6×32.3 INCHES. COURTESY KANT PUBLISHING AND OLOMOUC MUSEUM OF ART.

ANNA ZEMÁNKOVÁ. UNTITLED, UNDATED (AROUND 1965). PEN, PASTEL, PAPER. 24.6×32.3 INCHES. COURTESY KANT PUBLISHING AND OLOMOUC MUSEUM OF ART.


You know that feeling when you awake from a peculiar dream, and you try desperately to cling onto the faded wisps of images and scenes? That’s the mental state in which “outsider artist” Anna Zemánková produced her best work, during the last twenty-eight years of her life. In the hazy hours of the early morning before sunrise, Zemánková would awake in a dazed state to create far-out, fantastical images of bizarre and beautiful flora.

Born in the present-day Czech Republic in 1908, Zemánková’s work is as intriguing as her bizarre and melancholy life. The self-taught painter spent her first fifty years working with fluoride and dental probes rather than paint and easels. After marrying, moving, bearing children, and finding herself mostly immobilized following the amputation of her legs due to diabetes, Zemánková turned to art to help her cope with her depression.

 ANNA ZEMÁNKOVÁ. “UNTITLED” (EARLY 1960S). PASTEL ON PAPER. 84CM X 59.5CM. COURTESY KANT PUBLISHING

ANNA ZEMÁNKOVÁ. “UNTITLED” (EARLY 1960S). PASTEL ON PAPER. 84CM X 59.5CM. COURTESY KANT PUBLISHING


She spent the remainder of her life immersed in a gorgeous fantasy world, disregarding the rules of geometry, botany, or reality to craft images of plants and flowers that existed only in her mind. Her flowers functioned more as personal therapy than self-conscious fine art, though she did receive local recognition in her community.

Zemánková’s portfolio, not widely appreciated in her lifetime, is now receiving the acknowledgement it deserves. KANT publishers have curated a collection of her work in a new book, presented with commentary from leading art experts. The accompanying essays attempt to unravel the magic behind the work and within the woman, allowing readers to peer into the life of a curious artist and share her fantasy.


Written by Tori Adams