As we approach Women’s History Month, we highlight an exhibition from this year’s Master Drawings New York. It is Calligraphy of Line: the Drawings of Anna Walinska on view at Graham Shay Gallery through March 3rd.
The exhibition which originally opened in January in conjunction with the 2023 edition of Master Drawings, features works on paper inspired by Walinska’s international travels. Two distinct series are presented: Nude figure drawings sketched from live modeling classes in Paris during the 1920s, and abstract works on paper inspired by Burma [now Myanmar] from the 1950s.
The common thread between these bodies of work is a careful and intentional use of line; bold, thin, sweeping lines characterize the Paris drawings, while angles and curves weave together to form compelling compositions in the Burma pieces. By placing these series into conversation with one another, they can be compared and contrasted to highlight Walinska’s artistic evolution. The title of the show refers to the beginnings of her figurative work in Paris, about which she later said “I developed the calligraphy of line that stayed with me from then on.”
Anna Walinska was born in London, UK on September 8, 1906. At a time when women were expected to marry young and devote themselves to raising children, Walinska never married, but instead dedicated her life to the arts, unabashedly experimenting with different mediums and styles throughout her career. She spent time in Paris, living around the corner from Gertrude Stein. Learning from the avant-garde, she opened an art gallery in Manhattan where she gave Arshile Gorky his first solo show. She exhibited with the New York School, painted with Burmese artists en plein air, and traveled solo across Asia into Europe. She also earned two retrospectives during her lifetime – the first at the Jewish Museum in 1957, the second at the Museum of Religious Art, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, in 1979. She became a teaching artist in residence at the Riverside Museum, where she exhibited with sculptor Louise Nevelson, among others. Beyond her career in the visual arts, she ventured into the performative arts as a singer, dancer, and thespian.
Like a number of female artists, she has been overshadowed by her male counterparts in art history canon and deserves a second look. Under the guidance of her niece Rosina Rubin, Walinska’s work has continued to climb to recognition, gaining traction with exhibits in New York over the years (Graffiti Summer Vacation, Pen + Brush 2017), San Francisco (multiple shows at Chloe Gallery 2014-2019), Denver (Abstract Expressionism from the Denver Art Museum Collection 2017), Long Island (Nassau County Museum of Art, Anything Goes: The Jazz Age 2018) and the Jewish Museum of New York (2019), The Riverside Museum (2019), and now at the Graham Shay Gallery. She passed away on December 19, 1997 in New York City at the age of 91.
Graham Shay Gallery is located at 17 East 67th Street, 1A, NYC.