Art in the Family

Many members of my family had tumultuous lives, from experiencing the glamorous 1920s art scene in Paris, to the trauma of Stalin’s Siberian gulags in WWII.  Although my suburban London upbringing couldn’t have been more different, I have inherited my creative nature from them. Here are a few of my artistic ancestors:


Maria Ritter

My great-aunt Maria Ritter studied at the L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris in the 1920’s, during the time of Post-Impressionist movement. From 1921 to 1927 she studied at the Fine Art Academy of Krakow, alongside Philosophy and Art History at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.



She belonged the Krakow art society ‘Zwornik’, and also lived in Italy to study Fresco paintings. During the Nazi occupation she worked underground helping to feed political prisoners displaced from the East. My mother sat for this portrait below, as a little girl, and says how very difficult it was having to stay still for so long!


Maria Ritter, Diana Walles Art,

My mother, Anna Lenduszko Walles

You can see the influence of Ritter’s French contemporaries in her work. This one particularly reminds me of Cezanne’s style. As well as painting, she directed the conservation of frescoes and designed church interiors across Southern Poland.





Here are some extracts from a book on Maria Ritter. The family townhouse has been turned into a gallery and museum which is still open for visiting: “‘Maria Ritter Paintings Gallery and Historic Interiors are the exhibitions covering four rooms on the first floor of the historic tenement house of the Ritter family, from the turn of the 18th and 19th Century.”

“The exhibition in the first room is a monograph exhibition of works by Maria Ritter (1899-1976), the renowned painter from Nowy Sacz, as well as elements of her studio equipment.”

~ from: Maria Ritter Museum & Gallery website



Art museum, Maria Ritter,


“The corner “green” living room is in the

Biedermeier interior style, while the white
living room introduces the atmosphere of
historic apartments.

The last room of the exhibition is a bedroom
in the Louis Philippe I style with the
Viennese portraits of Maria Ritter’s

Diana Walles Art, Diana Walles family history

Diana Walles Art, Diana Walles family history


Sofia Prus-Wisniewska


My grandmother, Sofia Prus-Wisniewska, used some interesting techniques to create artwork. She and my grandfather were deported from Poland by the Russian Communists during WWII and put into Siberian gulags. Stalin didn’t want any opposition; the Polish intelligentsia and nobility posed a threat and were considered ‘enemies of the people’. Read more about the tragic Deportations to Siberia WWII


Diana Walles Art, Diana Walles family history, Bronowice, Krakow, Poles in Siberia, Polish intelligentsia, Polish nobility, Siberian gulags

My grandparents at the family home in Krakow, Bronowice 1935, before being taken to Siberia by the Russians

They endured harsh conditions there until they escaped 3 years later, travelling through Iran and India, and finally settling in Uganda and Kenya. They were the lucky ones.

They re-built their lives and ran a successful farm in Kenya – home of the beautiful Rift valley and the Masai tribe. My father’s first words were in Swahili~ before he came to study at Kings College, London University in the 1960’s.


Poles in Africa, Poles in Siberia, Kenya, woodwork

Grandmother’s carving of Kenyan Masai warrior, 1955

Inspired by the beautiful Kenyan landscapes of the rift valley, wilderness, nature and local people, my grandmother loved carving artwork into wood. Here are some of her woodworks:


East African Crane, burnt onto wood, Kenya 1958

Dr Prus-Wisniewski






Krakow, St Barbara's Church Krakow, Diana Walles family history

St Barbara’s church, Prus-Wisniewski

My (paternal) great-grandfather lectured at Krakow University and also loved painting as a hobby.

As well as painting a few frescoes on the walls of his home (pictured above), he enjoyed painting images of Krakow.  Here he depicts his favourite corner of the city (which happens to be my favourite corner too). St Barbara’s Church was built in the 14th Century and lies between the main square and the famous St Mary’s church.  Much later, Maria Ritter added the figures into the foreground, herself!


Dr Konstanty Prus-Wisniewski

Polish nobility, Polish intelligentsia, Krakow, Diana Walles family history

Great grandmother Maria Prus-Skowronska



Zygmund Lenduszko

My (maternal) great-grandfather left Krakow to live in Brazil during the 1920’s and also painted as a hobby. Rather unfortunately, his wife nagged him so much about the humidity and heat, that they returned back to Poland in 1939… Great timing huh?

This is my favourite, and hung in my Krakow flat for a while:

Brazil, 1921 Zygmund Lenduszko







As a geologist, he worked in the Amazonian jungles discovering oil, and took photographs of previously undiscovered Amazonian tribes who had never seen Western man.

He loved discovering the Brazilian culture, language and exotic landscapes.

Zygmund Lenduszko



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