Biography


Emily Zay (née Natter) was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1912.  She studied art at the "Iparművészeti Főiskola" in Budapest.

Throughout her youth, Emily adored riding horses and was forever marked by the natural beauty of pastoral settings.  The ride, the chase, the fox hunt; these experiences and sceneries would leave lasting impressions which would later be reflected in her art.

Moving to Switzerland in 1944, she began her professional art career in Baden near Zurich.  Her paintings were in great demand and were exhibited in Zurich, Bern, Geneva and Lausanne.  During this period, she specialized in flowers and landscapes.

Particularly gifted at floral art, she could paint flowers all day from memory or imagination without the need for live subjects.

Emily came to Montréal, Canada in 1951 with her husband Emery where she started a fine art studio, a family of two sons and worked in public relations.  She continued her painting, as time permitted, to express her passions on canvas.

In 1990, seeking new artistic stimulation, Emily joined Portraits International in Montréal and began pursuing her interest for painting portraits in oil.  The studio workshops were organized by friend and fellow artist Agnieszka Rajewska.  The artists would meet weekly to paint themselves or models and learn techniques from each other.

"Emily was delicate yet strong, fragile but determined, outgoing and a little mysterious, colourful, but not too much, she knew the limit, not to use too much colour, or too many words.  As a painter of flowers, she was pretty accomplished in this genre; however, as a portrait painter, she was still learning, improving, discovering, determined, she was using her knowledge of painting flowers and using it to paint backgrounds, it worked very well.  She used oil paint, painting thickly, concentrated squinted eyes, brush firmly held, back straight, standing up.  She listened to advice, learning very quickly, her portraits show her style, women are fragile yet determined." remembered Agnieszka.

Among studio regulars were Peter Rochon, Joan Felvinci, Steven Rosati, Denis Beauchamp and Carl Duplessis.

Curiously, Emily almost never titled her works and rarely dated them except for portraits of close relatives or friends still alive.  She would sign her paintings Zay or EZay using either the North American Z or the European script version of her youth.

The works on this site were painted over a period spanning five decades from the 1950s to the 1990s.

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