OFTEN acknowledged as ‘the first lady of Slovak painting’, Ester Martinčeková-Šimerová’s new monograph sums up her work and her life, which largely influenced her painting.

Born in Bratislava in 1909, the painter studied art privately during secondary school at the painting school of Gustáv Mallý, and later in Paris at two academies and at the private school of Russian painter Alexandra Exterová. She was the only artist on the Slovak scene to have studied and graduated from a Parisian art school. After returning to Czechoslovakia, she influenced the local art scene with her synthetic cubism and purism, as well as Russian avant-garde and other styles.

Martinčeková-Šimerová married František Šimer, a professor at the Medical faculty of Comenius University who was executed during the Second World War by the Gestapo secret police.

After a stay in Bohemia (then a separate state under the control of Nazi Germany), she married Martin Martinček, a top official in the Slovak parliament at the time. Martinček was removed from his position after the communists came to power in 1948, and he and his wife were both forced to leave Bratislava. They first moved to the village of Liptovská Ondrášová, before going on to Liptovský Mikuláš, where Martinček later worked in the literary museum of Janko Kráľ. He grew interested in photography and became an artistic photographer in his own right.

The eponymous monograph of Ester Martinčeková-Šimerová is comprised of 283 reproductions of her work, including some rare and lesser known paintings. The text, put together by art historian Ľudmila Peterajová, is enhanced with letters from the painter’s private correspondence. However, only a brief summary at the end of the book has been translated into English and French. But the pictures alone tell a story and offer a satisfactory overview of Martinčeková-Šimerová’s progressive artistic output, which transcended borders, literally and symbolically, and left a crucial imprint on the world of Slovak visual art.