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Madeleine Szemere Kemeny  


Budapest, 1906 – Zurich, 1993

Madeleine Szemere Kemeny  (born Lenke Szemere) was invited in 1949, by Cobra founder Corneille, to participate in the major Cobra exhibition in Amsterdam. Her work also featured in the Cobra magazine at the time.

Kemeny’s oeuvre consists mainly of paintings and drawings in earth tones depicting everyday scenes with women and children from her immediate surroundings. The naive character of children’s drawings and folk art from various geographical areas were an important source of inspiration for Kemeny. Her work was exhibited in Hungary and Switzerland from as early as 1926.

In 1948-49, together with her husband Zoltan Kemeny, also an artist, she made a modest debut in Paris. Their work already showed the influence of the French artist Jean Dubuffet and his interest in Art Brut. Dubuffet’s work inspired her to work in increasingly simplified forms. The artist couple successfully managed to survive financially by working as fashion designers. In 1949, at the invitation of Cobra founder Corneille, Szemere Kemeny participated in the major Cobra exhibition in Amsterdam. Her work also featured in the Cobra magazine at the time. In a newspaper article from a later period, Corneille emphasised again that she was a full member of the group.

Despite the quality of her work, she did not have a flourishing career in art. In 1956, she gave up painting “out of love for her husband”, who had also joined Cobra. She explained: “You had to be born a man; as a wife I could not constantly compete with Zoltan.” She never stopped making drawings, though. After the death of her husband, she also resumed painting.

Madeleine Szemere Kemeny, Femme et Oiseau (Woman and Bird) 1946. Collection Karel van Stuijvenberg

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