Martha Grunenwaldt

1910 to 2008, Belgium

Martha Grunenwaldt (also spelt Grünenwaldt) was born in Hamme-Mille in the Wallonian province of Brabant, Belgium. As a child she began to play the violin; her father was a musician who performed with her and her brothers at local dances or in pubs.

It was a challenging way to earn a living. She did not have any school-leaving qualification. She ultimately married a musician and had a daughter, Josine. During the Second World War she left her husband and lost custody of her daughter. She worked as a maid for a farmer for 28 years. In 1968 Josine invited her mother to live with her and her family, where she remained until 2004. It was not until 1981, at the age of 71, that Martha Grunenwaldt began to draw after observing her grandchildren drawing. Then she began to work regularly and with discipline, spending her days drawing. People began to take notice of her as an artist, with an exhibition at Art en Marge in Brussels. Exhibitions began to take place regularly in 1991 at the Musée de la Création Franche in Bègles. Raw Vision dedicated a portrait to her in 2003. Her family reacted sceptically towards the public’s interest. Martha Grunenwaldt was a loner and remained that way. In the beginning she used A4-sized paper and pencils and markers. With time she moved on to larger formats. She used the back of posters belonging to her daughter, an environmental activist in the Belgian community of Mouscron where they lived. She also worked on cardboard boxes, packing paper, cheese boxes and ECG paper. Her style has an ornamental effect akin to compositions of patterns rich in colour. Her work mostly features colourful female faces in connection with a variety of motifs such as flowers, birds, buildings, cars and violins. Her work can be seen in several public and private collections such as the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, in LaM, Villeneuve d’Ascq, France, the collection abcd/Bruno Decharme, France, and the collection Eternod & Mermod, Switzerland.

 

Selected works