Art, Books & Culture Research Group: Notes for “Boris Anrep – A Mosaic Life”

Virginia Woolf and Countess Jowitt in Boris Anrep’s “The Awakening of the Muses” [1933; National Gallery]


There was so much interest following our discussion about the mosaicist Boris Anrep on Saturday at The Beecroft that, as promised, I’ve listed a number of key references below (just click on the underlined links), and I shall continue chasing others to include. It certainly seems there is so much more for us to discover. Also, do please send me anything further you find, whether articles/images on Anrep or any other (20th-century) mosaicists – including photographs/snapshots if you espy something interesting on your travels: the mosaic really does seem to be an art that is often ‘hidden in plain sight’.


With regard to an overview of Boris Anrep’s life and career, Wikipedia is the best place to start, along with the Ben Uri Research Unit which also includes a brilliant listing of further resources.

The essay I shall try to get hold of – and which might answer lots of questions – is “Boris Anrep: A Russian artist in an English interior” by Olga Kaznina [Journal of European Studies: Volume 35, Issue 3]; I shall let you know!


To go into further detail with regard to the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition (1912), in which Anrep curated the Russian Section, visit the Database of Modern Exhibitions which includes Anrep’s catalogue essay “The Russian Group”, and to see more about the artist who inspired Anrep’s turn to art, Dmitrii Semenovich Stelletsky, there’s a great article in the Bonhams Magazine.

Russia/ Akhmatova

Regarding Anrep’s return to Russia (WWI) and his meeting with Anna Akhmatova, there is an article on the Afisha.London website. For Anna Akhmatova’s life in full I’d suggest Elaine Feinstein’s biography “Anna of all the Russias”. The documentary/ film I flagged up by Teatro Fabrico is called “The Black Ring” which (and I’ve not watched it yet, tells the (love) story of Akhmatova and Anrep. And the apparently final images of Akhmatova made by Anrep are at Mullingar, Ireland – Finlan O’Toole’s article is from The Irish Times,

Ethel Sands’ Chelsea House / Bloomsbury

The most brilliant essay – with images of the Bloomsbury Group – regarding Anrep’s early mosaic work in the London house of Ethel Sands is by Jane Williams and can be read in the British Art Studies journal (you’ll need to log in as an Independent Researcher, which is free and will give you access to 100 articles a month).

The Lady of Fashion?

The intriguing mosaic commissioned for Sir William Jowitt at 35, Upper Brook St Mayfair that depicts Various Moments in the Life of a Lady of Fashion (1922) – that Lady being Lesley Jowitt who was shown telephoning in bed, in her bath, and at a nightclub – are apparently now at the Birmingham City Gallery; I shall contact.

Mottisfont Abbey

Maud Russell was a great patron of the arts in the mid-20th century and supported Anrep’s work; at her house (now National Trust) there is an angel mosaic with her portrait.


Boris Anrep’s archive is in the National Art Library; the V&A has some images of preparatory sketches online.


Pierre Roy’s painting “Boris Anrep in his Studio, 65 Boulevard Arago” (1949), is at Tate.

Public Commissions

Tate Britain – The Blake Room, which illustrates Blake’s idiosyncratic Proverbs & can of course be visited.

Bank of England mosaics – film/presentation on their Museum website.

National Gallery: see the blog post by Mike Pitts – which includes the floor plans of Anrep’s mosaics at the National Gallery with a ‘who’s who?’ should you be visiting.


According to Historic England, other sites in London with mosaics by Anrep include Westminster Cathedral, the Greek Cathedral of Agia Sophia and the Church of Notre Dame de France; I shall try to visit/ take photographs.

Anna Akhmatova by Anrep at Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar, Ireland [mid-1950s]


Other (20th century) mosaicists &c:

There is a British Association for Modern Mosaic (BAMM); the website is and Twitter: @BAMMosaic, however they seem to be more for practitioners/courses. Perhaps more relevant in terms of modern history is to keep an eye on the Twentieth Century Society pages.

Edouard Paolozzi‘s mosaics are on the platform levels of Tottenham Court Road Tube station (Central line, so you’ll need a ticket) and there are good images and a film about the 2017 restoration work at Art in the Underground.

In David Buckman’s book on the East London Group, “From Bow to Biennale”, he has a chapter about the ‘mosaic revival’ of the 1930s. Not many images sadly, but John Cooper was the leading light of the revival and one of his mosaics can be found on the floor of The Wharrie Cabmen’s Shelter, Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead (photo c/o Historic England)

Let’s keep our eyes peeled!


24th June, 2023 – Art, Books & Culture Research Group at The Beecroft: The Life & Times of Evelyn Dunbar

Join us if you can on

Saturday 24th June, 11.15am (for about an hour & a half)

at The Beecroft Art Gallery, Victoria Road, Southend

when we’ll be discussing the life, times & art of Evelyn Dunbar (1906-1960).

Known especially for her role as a War Artist (you may remember her appearance as Cecily Browne in Alicia Foster’s novel “Warpaint”), Evelyn Dunbar is equally as renowned for her 1930s murals and extensive illustration work.

Evelyn Dunbar, “The Days of the Week” (1939), oil on canvas (© The Artist’s Estate, courtesy of Liss Llewellyn Fine Art) c/o a fabulous review article (with lots of images) in HyperAllergic [click here].


Today we’ll explore Dunbar’s work across the board, noting her ways of designing the image, use of decorative shape, colour and pattern and – primarily – the glory and joy her pictures exude. As ever, I shall bring as many references to books, articles and galleries as possible for further independent research, and enjoyment.


Our meeting will take place at The Beecroft Lecture Theatre.

There will be coffee & biscuits. £10 on the door. All welcome!


23rd June, 2023 – The Words & Pictures Book Club reads “Edith and Kim” by Charlotte Philby

Join us if you can on Friday 23rd June, 2pm (for an hour or so)

at the Community Cafe (in the old Havens, Hamlet Court Road)

when we’ll be discussing

“Edith and Kim” by Charlotte Philby

[First published by Harpercollins in 2022, now available also in paperback]

In June 1934, Kim Philby met his Soviet handler, the spy Arnold Deutsch. The woman who introduced them was called Edith Tudor-Hart. She changed the course of 20th century history. Then she was written out of it. Drawing on the Secret Intelligence Files on Edith Tudor-Hart, along with the private archive letters of Kim Philby, this finely worked, evocative and beautifully tense novel – by the granddaughter of Kim Philby – tells the story of the woman behind the Third Man

– so reads the publisher’s blurb, but actually it is even more interesting than this suggests as, although fiction, Charlotte has written a deeply insightful “biography” of Edith Tudor-Hart (Austrian-British, 1908-1973), whose photographs of everyday life in Austria and Britain document the trauma of 1930s European history.

“No Home, No Dole” (London) from around 1931,

is one of the 145 photographs that can be viewed on the National Galleries Scotland website [click here].


There’ll be plenty to talk about over coffee & cake!


16th June, 2023 – Art & Coffee Discussion Group at The Beaumont: Nina Hamnett & Friends – Marie Vassilieff

Today we continue our discussion of the art & life of Nina Hamnett (1890-1956), with particular reference to her time in Montparnasse, Paris where we will meet friend and fellow-artist Marie Vassilieff (1884-1957) who gave Nina this beautiful painting as a gift:

Titled “Circus”, the painting is now in a private collection. This image is c/o Sotheby‘s where, in the Catalogue Note they say: “Circus was a present from Vassilieff to her friend, the English artist Nina Hamnett. It reflects the lively energy and spirit of the bohemian Montparnasse, where Vassilieff and Hamnett operated what was in effect a cheap private club for artists, including Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine and Pablo Picasso.”

This meeting is free & open to all, whether resident or not – I look forward to seeing you!.

À bientôt!


A few useful references for further reading & independent research:

Nina Hamnett’s autobiographies: “Laughing Torso” (1932) focuses her early life through to the mid-1920s; the tale continues in “Is She A Lady?” (1955). Denise Hooker’s brilliant biography of Hamnett “Queen of Bohemia” was published in 1986 and Alicia Foster’s short introduction in 2021.

Alicia Foster has also written a very interesting article on the website [click here] which has six paintings by Hamnett in its online collection; Rebecca Birrell’s chapter on the early still life paintings in terms of Hamnett’s bedsit freedom is in her book “This Dark Country” (2021); the HyperAllergic magazine review of the exhibition at Charleston is here; and the 1955 photographs of Nina Hamnett can be seen on the Adrian Flowers website here.

(I shall keep adding to these as we go along)


June 2023 – Of possible interest to the Art, Books & Culture Research Group…


I don’t usually cross the boundary between my ‘The Common Viewer’ and ‘Hatchards Events’ selves,

but it seems to me that three upcoming events and new books might be particularly interesting

for our Art, Books & Culture group members and those who come to the Words & Pictures book club,

as they relate to artists we’ve looked at over the last few months. I’ve popped some details below, also further links to

artist/exhibition information if of intrigue!

Wednesday 7th June

Author Sarah Knights will be discussing the life & times of Barbara Ker-Seymer, renowned for her photography especially perhaps in the 1930s, her friends and subjects including Edward Burra and Nancy Cunard, as well as stars from the new theatre scene. This is the first book – ever! – about Ker-Seymer, and this promises to be fascinating evening especially as Sarah Knights will be in conversation with biographer Anne Chisholm. For further info, tickets &c. please click here.

(nb. Barbara Ker-Seymer’s archive at the Tate has been digitised and is available to look at here).

Thursday 8th June

Biographer Joanna Moorhead will be discussing the life and art of surrealist Leonora Carrington with particular reference to the places Carrington lived and worked from Cornwall to Mexico. It’ll be fascinating to hear how such different geographical locations inspired and affected the art-making and how memories of different places changed & developed. Joanna will be in conversation with literary critic Suzi Feay. For further info, tickets &c. please click here.

(nb. there’s an exhibition of Leonora Carrington’s paintings at the Fondacion MAPFRE in Madrid at the moment that has a very good virtual exhibition online here)

Thursday 15th June

Alicia Foster will be at Hatchards discussing her new book on Gwen John which coincides with the exhibition Alicia is curating at Pallant House Gallery. Following the artist from London to Paris, Alicia Foster emphasises how truly radical and devoted to her painting Gwen John was, and that rather than the ‘solitary’ figure we imagine, she was in fact very much part of the modern art world. For further info, tickets &c. please click here.

(nb. details for the forthcoming Pallant House exhibition are here).


How very glorious!


Art, Books & Culture at The Beecroft (27th May, 2023): Researching the Life & Mosaic Art of Boris Anrep

Join us if you can on

Saturday 27th May, 2023 (11.15am for about an hour & a half)

at The Beecroft Gallery, Southend

to discuss the Life and Mosaic Art of Boris Anrep (1883-1969) with particular reference to his mosaics at the National Gallery, London which include:

the depiction of Virginia Woolf as Clio, the Muse of History.

It’s a fascinating life story that will take us from St Petersburg’s Silver Age to London’s Bloomsbury Group.


The Art, Books & Culture meetings take place in the Beecroft Lecture Theatre, admission is £10 on the door and there will be coffee & biscuits – all welcome!


PS. thinking of mosaics, did you see during the Coronation ceremony the beautiful and extraordinary Cosmati Pavement?

Further images and history: Westminster Abbey


Words & Pictures book club, 26th May 2023: “The Flames” by Sophie Haydock


Our next Words & Pictures book club discussion is on

Friday 26th May, 2pm (for an hour or so)

at the Community Cafe (the old Havens, Hamlet Court Road)

when we’ll be discussing Sophie Haydock’s brilliant new book “The Flames”

Vienna, 1912. Behind every painting, there is a story… A new century is dawning. Vienna is at its zenith, an opulent, extravagant city teeming with art, music and radical ideas. It is a place where anything seems possible… Edith and Adele are sisters, the daughters of a wealthy bourgeois family. They are expected to follow the rules, to marry well, and produce children. Gertrude is in thrall to her flamboyant older brother. Marked by a traumatic childhood, she envies the freedom he so readily commands. Vally was born into poverty but is making her way in the world as a model for the eminent artist Gustav Klimt. Fierce, passionate and determined, none of these women is quite what they seem. But their lives are set on a collision course when they become entangled with the controversial young artist Egon Schiele whose work – and private life – are sending shockwaves through Viennese society. All it will take is a single act of betrayal to set their world on fire… [Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd]


These Words & Pictures meetings are very relaxed informal discussions – often ranging far and wide! – over coffee and cake.

All welcome!


Art & Coffee at The Beaumont (19th May, 2023): Introducing Nina Hamnett & Friends (Part One)

Join us for the next Art & Coffee morning on

Friday 19th May, 11.30am (for about an hour)

at The Beaumont, Barchester Care

15 Cannon Hill, Old Southgate, N14 7DJ

to discuss the artist Nina Hamnett and her life, art & friends in London & Paris.

Nina Hamnett: Paris Cafe [1921; Bridgeman Images c/o TLS]

Nina Hamnett is often referred to as the Queen of Bohemia for her notoriety in London’s Soho, but today we’ll discuss not only that notoriety but the beginning of her art career, noting especially her still life paintings and portraits from the 1910s.

Including numerous references to books, articles, programmes and websites for further independent research, this meeting is free & open to all, whether resident or not.

À bientôt!


Art, Books & Culture at The Beecroft (29th April, 2023): the Baroque wall paintings of Antonio Verrio and Gerard Lanscroon

Join our Art, Books & Culture group meeting

on Saturday 29th April, 11.15am (for an hour or so)

at The Beecroft Art Gallery, Southend

for an exploration of the Baroque wall paintings of Antonio Verrio (1636-1707) and Gerard Lanscroon (1655-1737).

Gerard Lanscroon’s “Muses” at Beaumont House, Southgate.

The 17th century saw a great rise in the art of the mural in houses around Britain; from the 1670s, the Italian artist Antonio Verrio created extraordinary images for royal and aristocratic patrons, from the houses of Burghley and Chatsworth to Hampton Court Palace. One of his assistants was Flemish painter Gerard Lanscroon who, though little known, worked across England and Wales, usually for more private houses.

Today, we’ll look at the work of these two artists and explore their dramatic visions.


All are welcome to these monthly art discussion meetings; tickets are £10 on the door and there will be coffee & biscuits to follow.


Words & Pictures book club (21st April, 2023): “A Month in the Country” by J.L.Carr

Join us for this month’s Words & Pictures book club

on Friday 21st April, 2pm (for an hour or so)

at the Pebbles Community Cafe (the old Havens, Hamlet Court Road)

to discuss “A Month in the Country” by J.L.Carr [Penguin Books]

In the summer of 1920 two men, both war survivors meet in the quiet English countryside.

One is living in the church, intent upon uncovering and restoring an historical wall painting while the other camps in the next field in search of a lost grave. Out of their meeting, comes a deeper communion and a catching up of the old primeval rhythms of life so cruelly disorientated by the Great War. 

The uncovering of the Church wall painting is described magnificently, both as a practical project and a complex symbolism underpinning the story. In the “Foreword”, Carr notes that the church he has in mind is in Northamptonshire. Might it be the Church of All Saints in Croughton? Certainly the great scholar of medieval wall paintings, Ernest Tristram had been there in the 1920s – his drawings are now at the V&A (click on the link here) – very much worth looking at (though the Doom is not illustrated), eg. figures from the painting of Christ’s Betrayal (museum no. E.215-1925). The drawing was made in 1924; the original wall painting around 1300.

Happy reading!