Maria Frank Abrams
Born 1924, Hungary. Died 2013.
Listen to the oral history
Arrived in Washington, 1948
Maria Frank began drawing and painting when she was a 5-year-old in Hungary.
“I enjoyed doing illustrations to the children’s stories that were read to me,” she said.
She drew and painted throughout her childhood, though she never received any formal art training until she escaped to the United States.
In 1944, at the age of 19, the Nazis took Maria and her family from their home and deported them to Auschwitz. The small consolation she took from her imprisonment was her work in a factory, where she was able to get her hands on pencil and paper and the other women would ask her to draw how they looked before the war.
“I would draw a figure in this kind of clothes, and they loved it! And I loved it. It was very strange,” she said. “I guess it was a reaching for some reality from this completely mad, unreal tortured world that we lived in.”
Only she and a cousin, Vera, survived.
Upon liberation she worked with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Austria before she came to the U.S. through a Hillel scholarship to the art program at the University of Washington.
Maria’s influences included Paul Klée, Mark Tobey, Paul Cézanne, and Walter Isaacs, her professor at the University of Washington and a renowned Northwest School painter.
“The Northwest affects my work very, very much,” she said. “Most of my work is inspired by the landscape around me, and by the colors around me.”
Maria died at her home on Mercer Island in 2013 at the age of 88, but not before having received four King County Arts Commission awards, and been featured across the world including the Seattle Art Museum, the Henry Gallery at the UW, and in approximately 150 shows regionally and worldwide.