Boris Anrep National Gallery mosaics

NG guide.jpg

I posted photos in my earlier blog about Boris Anrep’s National Gallery mosaics, but I didn’t know much about them. I now have a copy of the gallery’s out-of-print guide. Here are some better-informed details that visitors might find interesting pending a new guide, and at the end a few words about a portrait Mary Beard acquired in 2008. I bought the guide online from Anytime Books, and was pleased to find the kind seller had included a separate fold-out leaflet, published in 1993. The plans here come from that.

The floor mosaics, writes Lois Oliver in the guide (2004), were created between 1926 and 1952. They were not his first works in Britain: Augustus John had promoted his talents, and his first commission came in 1914 for a mosaic floor at a house in Chelsea – Anrep so pleased the society hostess whose home it was, she later asked him to decorate her walls too. A 1919 mosaic in John’s Chelsea house showed him perched on a pyramid of wives and children. In 1923 he completed a floor in the Blake room at the Tate Gallery.

Anrep’s National Gallery work was all done in his Paris studio. He set out in 1926 to make The Labours of Life (west vestibule) and The Pleasures of Life (east vestibule), featuring respectively subjects such as commerce, engineering and science, and swimming, dancing, cricket and hunting (some of his choices, says Oliver, were “idiosyncratic”: he put music and theatre with labours).

The Awakening of the Muses followed, on the half-way landing, a larger work with an arrangement of scenes. Finally, on the floor of the north vestibule, Anrep completed the set with The Modern Virtues, which he began after the war in 1945.

He continued to work well into his 70s, says Oliver, his “last great work” being “an important cycle” for the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in Westminster Cathedral (1962).

Beard Anrep.jpg

Now for Mary Beard’s portrait (above), about which she blogged after she and her husband bought it at auction. Said to be an oil of Anrep, it was signed L Inglesis but otherwise came without information. No one was quite sure who the painter was (there are several good comments on the blog). The pose bears an interesting comparison to one that Henry Lamb caught of Anrep in a portrait of 1919 (below, from the NG guide), which sold at Christie’s in 1995 for £2,300 (Beard and Cormack paid £50 for theirs), and is now at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. There are separate pencil sketches of Boris and Helen Anrep.

Lamb Anrep.jpg

From Artnet

floor plan.jpg

life east-west.jpg




4 thoughts on “Boris Anrep National Gallery mosaics

  1. The portrait that Mary Beard owns of Boris was painted by Leonidas Inglesis, a Russian artist who ran Boris’s studio in Paris. It was painted soon after World War Two but did not represent Boris as he actually looked then and, as you indicate in your blog, he may have used the much earlier portrait of Boris by Lamb as a model. The first owner of the portrait was my grandmother, Maud Russell, who I think may have asked Leonidas to do the painting. She was also the sponsor of Boris’s final mosaic floor at the National Gallery.

  2. Many thanks for posting this. Whenever I am in the National Gallery, I never miss having a look at these mosaics that I fear too many art-lovers walk across without taking notice of in their haste to get to the obvious gems in the galleries. In my younger days, The mosaics are masterpieces and includes likenesses of some of the most interesting and attractive figures of the last century.

  3. I studied traditional mosaic making in Ravenna many years ago and considered writing a book about the humble mosaics, mainly by Italian craftsmen, that adorn many commercial establishments but are seldom noticed. I became interested in Boris Anrep when I discovered that the mosaic behind the altar in Mullingar Cathedral inIreland is by him. Then I discovered his National Gallery mosaics which are in a totally different style. As David Platzer says few people ever stop to look at them and often when I do people ask me to move on.

  4. Has anyone written a biography of Boris Anrep? It would make interesting reading. The mosaics at The Bank of England are also very interesting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s