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Like most of the paintings completed during Kokoschka’s stay in London, this portrait of Soviet Ambassador Ivan Mikhailovich Maisky has strong political significance. Maisky was closely involved in drawing up the Anglo-Soviet Alliance, after the breakdown of the Nazi-Soviet pact in 1941. Behind him is a statue of Lenin, and a globe turned to display the USSR. Kokoschka later recalled that the Ambassador was reluctant to talk, and hid his face in The Times during many of the 30 sittings.

July 2008