Marianna Schmidt was born in Hungary in 1918 and immigrated to Canada in 1952, first settling in Edmonton where she studied medical technology. In 1960, at the age of forty-two, Schmidt moved to Vancouver, enrolled at the Vancouver School of Art and supported herself by working nights at Vancouver General Hospital. At art school she focused on printmaking with instructor Orville Fisher and was greatly influenced by the artist and instructor Jack Shadbolt. Her student work reflects her skill at drawing the figure and the impact of the expressive styles of Goya and Picasso.
Soon after graduating in 1964 her prints were recognized for their bold expressive qualities that presented figures in invented landscapes reminiscent of Bosch and Dubuffet. Throughout her career Schmidt engaged with international art movements. In the late 1960s and 1970s she produced a series of silkscreen prints informed by Pop Art and Hard-edge abstraction. The 1980s saw a return of expressionist figurative work, for which Schmidt had a lasting affinity. She especially admired the work of a number of German Neo-expressionist artists and during this time produced a large number of mixed media works on paper exploring the human condition through figuration.
Schmidt travelled extensively in South America and was particularly drawn to the street life of cities and in particular to folk celebrations and carnivals. She took photographs of these events and combined them with collage elements to produce lithographs that expressed the lively colour, costumes and dances of the performers. Collage had always been an important part of her art practice and in the 1990s she produced a series of works combining magazine images and other found materials with drawn or painted elements. She made multiples of these collages using the process of xerography.
Schmidt was never content to focus on one mode of expression and over the span of her forty-year career she made prints, drawings, painting, collages and photographs. What is consistent is her exploration of the figure and its power to represent emotional and psychological states. She not only drew from local and distant artists and movements she felt connected to, she drew from her personal experience instilling her work with poignancy.
Marianna Schmidt passed away in 2005 at the age of 87. She generously left her estate to Emily Carr University and this substantial gift includes work from her early student drawings and prints to her last collages produced in 2002. The exhibition reflects the wide range of works produced by this prolific and exceptional artist.