Boris Anrep

Nude and Ruins


Not on display

Boris Anrep 1883–1969
Gouache on board
Support: 604 × 370 mm
Bequeathed by Mrs M.J.A. Russell 1982

Catalogue entry

T03538 NUDE AND RUINS 1944

Gouache on board 23 1/4 × 14 5/8 (604 × 370)
Inscribed ‘BORIS ANREP/1944’ on reverse and BORIS ANREP/NUDE & RUINS./PAINTED 1944' on label on reverse
Bequeathed by Mrs M.J.A. Russell (d.1981); accepted 1982
Prov: Believed to have been acquired by Mrs Russell from the artist

Justin Vulliamy, who assisted Boris Anrep in his work in mosaic, writes of this work (letter, 23 February 1986):

I would say that Boris painted it while at his Heath Studio NW3, when working as Russian monitor at Reuters, at about the time when his friendship with Maud Russell was formed, and I have a feeling that it may have been made as a gift for her, with an esoteric meaning ... Boris could be an accomplished painter, but his work in this medium is rare ... I agree that the picture was probably meant as a tribute to Maud Russell.

The figure in the Tate's picture is without question based on the image of a particular bronze by Maillol. Anrep's own copy of Maurice Denis, A. Maillol, Paris, Editions des ‘Cahiers d'Aujourd'hui’, 1925, which Anrep gave to Justin Vulliamy, reproduces this work seen from two different angles. The right hand image in plate 30 shows it from an angle of view virtually identical to that in the Tate's picture in which, however, Anrep has substituted fragments of masonry for Maillol's integral base. The 1925 monograph contains no captions for the illustrations, no list of work and no index. It is therefore not known in what way Anrep may have interpreted the iconography of the Maillol, a work of 1899 reproduced elsewhere as ‘Eve à la Pomme’. In Justin Vulliamy's view, Anrep ‘may not have known, or cared, for an Eve connotation of the figure, which might equally well have been, in a classical context, a Judgement of Paris (or Pomona)’.

Dr Igor Anrep, the artist's son, told the compiler that his father was interested in classical art in general, in theories about the classical in art, and in classical ruins. But Justin Vulliamy adds that ‘as for classical antiquity Boris had rather slight regard for stylistic purity; he was of course a Byzantinist (tending to modified mosaical forms) and with knowledge of the Russian ikon (Roublev etc.). Without doubt he had the latter in mind while doing the background of the “Nude”.’

Recalling that Anrep's mosaics often had double meanings, Ivor Anrep thinks it possible that ‘Nude and Ruins’ might have been intended to signify the collapse of European civilisation. There is also an obvious possible link with Anrep's experience of the Blitz in the London of 1944, in which the volume on Maillol in which the related image appears suffered damage from exposure to the elements, as a result of bomb damage to Anrep's studio.

Anrep is known to have made two portraits of the testator, Mrs Gilbert Russell (1891–1981). One, believed to be a watercolour, was also made in the early 1940s, represents her standing by a spring, and contains zodiacal and astrological imagery (private information). The other, bearing the legend ‘FOLLY’, forms part of ‘The Modern Virtues’, the fourth and final sequence (located in the North Vestibule) of Anrep's mosaic floors in the National Gallery, London. It is reproduced on the back cover of Angelina Morhange, Boris Anrep: The National Gallery Mosaics, 1979. The commission for ‘The Modern Virtues’ was offered to the National Gallery by Mrs Russell in March 1945 and the work was opened to the public in November 1952. Mrs Russell also bequeathed to the Tate an imaginary portrait of Anrep by Pierre Roy, of 1949 (T03537).

Mrs Russell owned a pencil drawing by Maillol of a standing female nude (‘Etude de Nu’, 13 1/4 × 8 1/2 in, sold Sotheby's 1 December 1982 (131, repr.) with other works from her collection). The pose is related only very indirectly to that in the Tate's painting.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

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