We went to the National Portrait Gallery today, and I saw a self-portrait of Anna Katrina Zinkeisen. The label said that she had gone to the Royal Academy and won a Landseer scholarship. She later became a muralist and seems to have specialised in paintings for transport, which seems like something of a comedown for an RA scholarship winner. During the second world war she worked in clinical and pathological drawings. It is not surprising that in war she would have needed to turn her talents to the real and immediate needs of people, but I loved her self-portrait and felt frustrated if she was only ever able to turn her hand to transport advertisements after the war ended.
The self-portrait showed a mature, beautiful, composed woman in what looks like a blue nurse’s uniform, with a scarlet red lining showing at the collar, holding her paintbrushes, and with a St John’s Ambulance bracelet on her arm. She looks as though she has been caught rushing somewhere, and there is purposeful movement in the painting. Her hair is also brilliant, immaculately curled and set. She named her self-portrait Anna Katrina Zinkeisen (Mrs Heseltine) as though she wanted both her identities represented. Perhaps her marriage gave her strength.
I rather admire her for painting such a flattering picture of herself. Art or food? I suppose she chose food, both in terms of using her talent to make a living from the transport paintings, but also in terms of using her talent in the war in order to help the war effort. I’m glad she found herself rather stunning.
(Originally posted on Posterous in 2011)