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24 September 2018

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A Russian Master in Britain

Author: Gregory Edwards

Sep/Oct 2016
Russians Abroad
Page 36   ( 3 pages)

Summary: Boris Anrep left Russia after the Revolution and made a life in Britain as one of world’s greatest artists. But in Russia he left behind a great love named Akhmatova.


Strange as it may seem, the most important British mosaic artist of the twentieth century was born in Russia.

Boris Vasilyevich Anrep was born in St. Petersburg in 1883. His father, Count Vassily von Anrep, was an aristocrat and a member of the Russian civil service who reported directly to Tsar Nicholas II. In the natural order of things, Boris would have followed in his footsteps, but of course things turned out much different.

In 1899, as a teenager, Boris Vasilyevich was sent to study English at Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire. Then, from 1899-1901 he went to school in Kharkov, Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire. It was in Kharkov that Anrep met Nikolai Nedobrovo, who was later to become an important literary critic in St. Petersburg.

As the son of an aristocrat, Anrep would have visited many grand, Russian Orthodox churches, and there may have been churches he regularly attended where he saw beautiful mosaics. In fact, The discovery of mosaics in the eleventh century Ukrainian cathedral of St. Sophia in Kiev motivated the tsar to create a mosaic workshop. This ultimately resided in St. Petersburg, and was supervised by the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts. Though there is no record of it, it is possible that the young Anrep may have known about the workshop, and even had some involvement with it.

In any event, before he became committed to art and mosaics, Anrep studied law at the St. Petersburg Imperial School of Jurisprudence. During this time his friend Nedobrovo introduced him to Dmitry Stelletsky, a Russian painter and sculptor eight years his elder. Anrep was already leaning towards poetry, for which he had shown some talent, but, through his association with Stelletsky, Anrep also became serious about art.

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