Skip to main content

Anna Walinska papers, 1927-2002, bulk 1935-1980

Biographical Note

Anna Walinska (1906-1997) was a New York artist, teacher and gallery director who traveled widely and is most well known for her paintings related to the subject of the Holocaust.
Anna Walinska was born in London, England in 1906 to labor organization leader Ossip Walinsky and poet Rosa Newman Walinska. She had two siblings, Emily and Louis. The family immigrated to New York City in 1914, and Anna Walinska began studying at the Art Students League in 1918. In 1926, she travelled to Paris and studied art at the Academie de Grande Chaumier with Andre L'Hote. France was her primary residence until 1930.
In 1935, Walinska and artist Margaret Lefranc co-founded the Guild Art Gallery at West 57th Street in New York and gave Arshile Gorky his first solo exhibition in the city. The gallery closed its doors in 1937. In 1939, Walinska was the Assistant Creative Director of the Contemporary Art Pavilion at the New York World's Fair. During this time, Walinska also pursued her own art and exhibited work in numerous group shows.
From 1954 to 1955, Walinska traveled around the world, visiting the capitals and major cities of many countries in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Places she went included Japan, Burma (now known as Myanmar), Pakistan, Greece, Italy, France and Spain. During her four month stay in Burma, she painted a portrait of Prime Minister U Nu and she later became a highly respected portrait artist who painted numerous illustrious subjects such as First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, artists Louise Nevelson and Mark Rothko, and many others.
In 1957, Walinska became the artist-in-residence at the Riverside Museum where she also taught and exhibited with other artists. That same year, she had her first retrospective at the Jewish Museum in New York City.
Walinska exhibited widely and often. Holocaust: Paintings and Drawings, 1953-1978, which opened at the Museum of Religious Art at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, is probably the most well-known of her exhibitions and it traveled across the country to several other sites such as the War Memorial Building in Baltimore and Mercy College of Detroit. Works from this exhibition were acquired by multiple museums to become part of their permanent collections.
Walinkska died on December 19, 1997 at the age of 91 in New York City. In 1999, there was a retrospective of her work titled Echoes of the Holocaust: Paintings, Drawings, and Collage, 1940-1989 held at Clark University's Center for Holocaust Studies. The Onisaburo Gallery at New York's Interfaith Center also held a solo exhibition titled Portraits of Faith (2000). Her art is part of the collections at the Denver Art Museum, National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Rose Art Museum, and other museums.