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Mosaics at the National Gallery, London

This two-tone mosaic pavement outside the National Gallery (in Trafalgar Square) isn't what you go to the gallery to see. Inside, on the landings of the main staircase, are four large floor mosaics by Boris Anrep (1883-1969). The mosaics were done at different times between 1928 and 1952, in the following order:

West Vestibule (The Labours of Life) 1928.

East Vestibule (The Pleasures of Life) 1929

Half-way Landing (The Awakening of the Muses) 1933

North Landing (The Modern Virtues) 1952

The east and west works are made up of twelve separate elements which illustrate the themes of work and leisure. The north landing has fifteen elements, with allegorical pictures featuring contemporary characters. With huge disrespect for the integrity of this work of art (described as "perhaps Anrep's most important work of the 1950's"), the Gallery planted kiosks and rubber flooring over six of the scenes! A refurbishment project for this area is planned, however, and following building work the mosaics are set to be revealed in all their glory in 2005.

My favourite is the half-way landing, the first to be reached. It shows the inspirational muses with the faces of, among others, Virginia Wolfe and Greta Garbo. I particularly like the portrayal of details around the edge of the main scene, which is very subtle. You can see a picture of "The Awakening of the Muses" on the National Gallery questions pages

national gallery mosaic pavement

Other Boris Anrep mosaics in London are at the Tate Gallery, the Bank of England and the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in Westminster Cathedral.

Meanwhile, across the way is a tile mural covering the walls of the subway under the south of Trafalgar Square.

trafalgar square

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