Women Artists

Immerse Yourself in the Magical World of Maria Anto

Pola Otterstein 16 December 2023 min Read

Maria Anto (Maria Czarnecka) was a late 20th-century Polish painter. She created a series of paintings in the genre of magical realism, depicting animals, people, and a world of surrealistic surroundings. Her pieces have been compared to works by artists such as Henri Rousseau, Giorgio de Chirico and Frida Kahlo. Come with us into the make-believe world of Maria Anto.

Anto’s paintings are mostly characterized by dark colors illuminated through bright features. The scenes and their surroundings have mysterious auras, creating something extraordinary: a marvelous combination of Realism and Surrealism, as realistic scenes intertwine with magical effects and intricate details.

Two Marias (for Frida Kahlo), Maria Anto, 2001, The fantastic-realism paintings by Maria Anto, Location unknown
Maria Anto, Two Marias (for Frida Kahlo), 2001, private collection. Pinterest.
At the table, Maria Anto, 1986, The fantastic-realism paintings by Maria Anto, Location unknown
Maria Anto,  At the Table, 1986, private collection. Twitter.

Anto also painted portraits of herself, her daughters, and other family members. In addition, she was known for depicting animals like owls, cats or unicorns, both in a realistic and surrealistic style, depending on the painting. The artist experienced a great deal of trauma in her childhood, having been raised during World War II, which had an impact on the art she created. Her paintings combine an original point of view and a bright imagination, tempered by a dose of negativity based on her early life experiences.

Owl, Maria Anto, 1969, Private Collection, The fantastic-realism paintings by Maria Anto
Maria Anto, Owl, 1969, private collection. Wyborcza.

The extravagant painter (during the darkest communist times she was driving a Jaguar on the narrow Polish roads) was known as erudite and socialite who hosted anti-communist gatherings of dissidents and artists in her home and atelier. She has been exhibited 70 times in her home country. Anto was also connected with the Cortina gallery in Milan. Furthermore, in 1963 she attended the Biennale in Sao Paulo, Brazil – no small feats for an artist based behind the Iron Curtain!

Although she dedicated a lot of her time to art, she did not sacrifice any important matters in her life because of it. She even once said:

The fact that I am a woman increases my possibilities when it comes to expression, but also involves more demands on my time and energy. I could not give up my home for painting. If I had no choice, I would stop painting (…).

Maria Anto

Cat, Maria Anto, 1974, location unknown (private collection?)
Maria Anto, Cat, 1974, private collection. Pinterest.

Anto’s individual style is one of the most recognizable among Polish painters of magical realism. Her art is often called naïve by critics, but that would appear to be a simplification and misinterpretation. Her paintings are emotional and well thought-through. It is worth delving deeper into her works to discover their true, optimistic yet sometimes haunting messages. Maria Anto will be remembered for her own unique style, which is a prime example of magical realism. The artist died in 2007 and was buried in a family grave in Powązki cemetery in Warsaw.

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