Maria Wnęk

Painter, one of the most outstanding representatives of Polish art brut.

Born as one of many children to a family in Olszanka. Her education was limited to four years of primary school. After her family home was devoured by fire, Wnęk moved to Nowy Sącz, where she repeatedly changed her place of residence and found employment in the River Dunajec regulation works, military kitchen, post office, hotel, dairy plant. After an accident in 1960, Wnęk received a disability pension. She often travelled with all her belongings – bundles and packs. Referred a number of times to the mental hospital in Kobierzyn, Wnęk was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Maria Wnęk started to paint at the age of forty, when she joined art classes at the Community Centre for Railway Workers in Nowy Sącz. She painted on paper, but also on found objects: metal sheets, chair seats, plywood, cardboard, fibreboard, wooden board, canvas. Wnęk was a person of profound faith, and her paintings betray a mystical character. The majority of works feature explanatory stories added on the back (the so-called “Life Stories”) – they provided the starting point of Wnęk’s work on a painting. The texts convey the artist’s visions – words of God and Saints. Wnęk performs the role of a messenger, who warns the world against the lurking dangers related to wars and nuclear tests, as well as moral corruption. Apart from transcendental themes, her works also concentrate on everyday life issues related to the artist’s living situation and conditions. Wnęk used her paintings to communicate her problems, fears, harm suffered from other people, sense of threat.

Wnęk was aware of her artistic success in Poland and abroad (even though it left her lifestyle completely unchanged) – and often signed her paintings „Maria Wnęk, painter famous worldwide.” Her works belong to major art brut collections, such as Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, and Art & Marges Museum in Brussels.

Show description