Maria Werten vel Wertenstein (1888–1949), painter, graphic artist, designer, educator, was born in Warsaw and died in Los Angeles. Maria Werten’s collection was assigned to the PMA by her friend, Irena Piotrowska, in 1945. It consists of nearly 400 objects, signed and unsigned, part of them sealed with the stamp of the International School of Art, some of which do not seem to be her own work. Almost half are watercolors, drawings and lithographs of children—at work, at play, at prayer, and in portraits (sometimes in folk costumes). At times they are the prime actor of artistic fantasies, like the child as a butterfly being lifted by a bird, or Boy Driving Away Demons. The other numerically large section consists of applied graphics, namely illustrations, informative posters, decorative paper for packing, holiday greeting cards, postcards, posters publicizing the International School of Art and the Toy Factory, “Gnom,” and the wooden toys manufactured in this factory, most likely designed by Maria Werten. Finally, there are three kinds of wallpaper. The artist’s legacy is exhibited on occasion, but only in part, due to lack of space in the Museum. The most recent such exhibit was “Art Déco—Poland.”
Art of Maria Werten
Initially, the Museum of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America was focused chiefly on the gathering of historical materials, but changed its profile in 1941when it came into possession of exhibits from the Polish Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair of 1939–1940. Paintings, graphics, sculptures, and objects of artistic craftsmanship were a significant component of this exposition. Their arrival began the collection of art, which expanded systematically by way of purchases and donations. At present, they may be separated into several large groups: the above-mentioned exhibits from the New York World’s Fair of 1939–1940; the paintings and graphics of the People’s Republic of Poland; Polish posters of the 20th century; and the art of individuals whose work consists of 20 or more creations each: Władysław T. Benda, Marian Kratochwil, Stefan Mrożewski, Michał Rekucki, and Maria Werten.