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Blazing a Trail / Anna Zinkeisen (British, 1901-1976) These Laid the World Away 59.1 x 77.2 cm. (23 1/4 x 30 3/8 in.)
Sold for £12,750 inc. premium
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Sale; Christie's, London, 12 December 1989, lot 219
Private Collection, U.K.
Born in Scotland but raised in Middlesex, Anna Zinkeisen was to become one of the most well-known and highly regarded names of the 1920s and 30s, both for her artwork and her presence as a London socialite. Talented from childhood, Zinkeisen and her sister Doris were awarded scholarships to the Royal Academy Schools. Anna studied there between 1916 and 1921, where she received numerous prestigious accolades such as the Landseer award, and in her final year exhibited two works in the Summer Exhibition. The inclusion of her work and that of fellow female artists upset many of the older established male artists, who thought that the output of these young women had no place in the exhibition. An article printed in the Sunday Express that year homed in on Anna and Doris in particular, and suggested that many of the traditional artistic elite were angered by the hanging committee's decision to give these women a prominent position within the exhibition. The consequent controversy surrounding the exhibition propelled the Zinkeisen's into the public eye.
Whilst continuing their studies, the sisters volunteered as St John's Ambulance Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses, caring for convalescing soldiers who had been injured on the frontline. During the Second World War, they both served as auxiliary nurses with the Order of St John at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, where they nursed wounded air raid victims injured during the Blitz. These experiences afforded Anna a first-hand understanding of the destruction and devastation that the two wars inflicted.
The war changed Anna profoundly. Her work in the 1940s took on a darker and more Surrealist form. This change in approach coincided with a commission from Imperial Chemicals Industries, for whom she produced several works for their Aspects of Industry series, which celebrated various elements of invention and progress. In contrast however, the present work was not a commissioned work and is evidently a much more personal piece. The title of the painting is taken from the fourth line of War Sonnet III: The Dead, from Rupert Brooke's 1914: Five Sonnets. The poem references the great waste of life that the war saw; young men's lives becoming 'rarer gifts than gold'. Her experience as a wartime nurse no doubt influenced her artwork of the period, with this painting in particular capturing the brutal loss of life that she saw daily, and the continued suffering afflicting all those who fought.
We are grateful to Philip Kelleway for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.