Born in London in 1906, Anna Walinska moved to New York City where her artistic talent showed early—at the age of twelve, she enrolled first at the National Academy of Design and then at the Art Students League. Walinska left New York at the age of 19 to study painting in Paris where she studied under André Lhote and spent time with Poulenc and Schoenberg at the literal center of the modernism movement. There, Walinski’s talent enabled her to become a formidable painter through contact with the major artists of the age. Including Picasso, whom she once sketched in a café. In Paris, she lived around the corner from Gertrude Stein who was a central figure in the Parisian art world.
In her lifetime, Anna Walinska painted close to 2,000 works on canvas and paper. Her work lives on in a number of prominent institutions including the National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, The Smithsonian American Art Museum, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Rose Art Museum, amongst others.
“The life and work of Anna Walinska are the most thrilling epitome of the entire Americans in Paris phenomenon, an irresistible combination of pluck and beauty, talent and the hunger to learn, and that enviable ability to be in the right place at the right time,” notes Nassau County Art Museum Curator Charles A. Riley II, Ph.D. Riley is also the author of two books on this era. Including Free as Gods: How the Jazz Age Reinvented Modernism, featuring more on Walinksa and her time in Paris.
“I will never forget the revelation of seeing her Abstract Expressionist paintings for the first time, and that was my doorway to the even more fascinating Parisian years. When she was right there, front row for the redefinition of Modernism in art.”
During a time in which women were largely absent from the art world, Walinska was an early innovator. In 1935, she founded the Guild Art Gallery with Margaret LeFranc . There she famously gave Arshile Gorky his first ever one-man show. Redefining the landscape for women as painters and gallerists. By the time of her death in 1997, many of Walinska’s paintings remained untouched in her Upper West Side apartment. Her niece, Rosina Rubin, began cataloging the paintings in the hopes of giving Walinska’s continued recognition post her death.
Walinska’s works will be at display in the Nassau County Museum in an art show called Anything Goes: The Jazz Age in Art, Music and Literature (opening on March 24th). Drawing from art, literature and music inspired by the Jazz Age. In addition to Walinska‘s work taking center stage at the Nassau Museum, she’s also headlining the contemporary art gallery show, WOMEN IN ART: GREAT Artists Who Happen to be Women, at Chloe Gallery in San Francisco the same month.