T03829 Study for ‘Ambassador Ivan Maisky’
Coloured pencil on paper 14 × 10 (355 × 253)
Presented by Mrs Olda Kokoschka 1984
Exh: Oskar Kokoschka 1886–1980, Tate Gallery, June–August 1986, Kunsthaus, Zürich, September–November 1986, Guggenheim Museum, New York, December–February 1987 (208, repr. in col.)
Lit: Oskar Kokoschka, My Life, translated by David Britt, 1974, p.34
These two studies [T03829 and T03830] are for the Tate Gallery's portrait of Ivan Maisky 1942–3 (N05432). Ivan Mikhailovich Maisky (1884–1975) was Soviet Ambassador to London for eleven years from 1932 until 1943.
There were about thirty sittings for the portrait; these took place in Maisky's study at the Soviet Embassy, 13 Kensington Palace Gardens. The first sitting was on 19 March 1942, during which Maisky read The Times. Kokoschka recalled it in his autobiography:
I could not get him to talk; perhaps he regarded a portrait as some new form of brainwashing. Finally, after hours of sitting, I suggested he reverse the paper behind which he was hiding, for I had finished reading the part turned towards me. At length he became more talkative, and told me about his student days in Vienna and Munich.
The two sketches concentrate on Maisky's head. In the finished portrait Maisky is depicted writing at his desk; behind him, echoing the round shape of his head, is a globe which is turned to display the USSR. On the left there is a statue of Lenin who, with upraised arm, gestures towards the globe.
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986