Sir William Russell Flint, R.A., P.R.W.S.
- Sir William Russell Flint, R.A., P.R.W.S.
- bronze and silver
- signed l.r.:W RUSSELL FLINT -
- watercolour with tempera and pastel
Frost and Reed, London;
Christie's, 31 October 1980, lot 197;
Private collection, Paris
'A romantic meeting with Anna Lee moved me to paint this. I was indulging myself in a book-shop when the proprietor showed me a copy of one of the books I had illustrated years and years before. He told me that a very beautiful lady, a film star, was collecting them. Quite fluttered, I asked her name. Alas, not being a film-goer, I had never heard of her. However, one of her films was then showing, 'The Camels are Coming,' and I went to see it. There she was, young, pretty, fresh and delightfully English, having all sorts of adventures. Correspondence followed. She and her husband had an old house, Cardinal's Wharf, where Sir Christopher Wren lived when St, Paul's was a-building, on Bankside, Southwark, and I visited them there. She was so paintable that a picture just had to be produced. This one was planned- then came shopping to buy a golden gown- then sittings. The result is this double portrait of Anna, the blonde star and Joanna the wife of Robert Stevenson, the film director.' (Arnold Palmer, More Than Shadows, A Biography of Sir William Russell Flint P.R.W.S., R.A., 1943, pp.36-37)
Flint's description of Bronze and Silver is confusing and implies that two women posed for the painting, whereas both figures were based upon the beauty of the same woman, the actress Anna Lee (Mrs Joanna Stevenson). The famous actress Anna Lee was born Joanna Winnifrith on 2 January 1913 in Ightham in Kent and when she was fourteen she ran away from home to join a circus. After a brief and unremarkable period treading the boards as a stage actress, in 1932 she had her break when she appeared in several British films. When Flint met her she had appeared in the comedy The Camels are Coming (1934) and it was whilst she was on the set of this film that she met the director Robert Stevenson whom she married in 1934. Robert Stevenson's film credits include Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Old Yeller and The Love Bug and many other Disney classics. The Stevenson's were wealthy, famous and glamorous and Flint hinted at their lifestyle in the details of the picture, such as the porcelain camel (a reference to the actress' 1934 film) and the picture of a female skier are suggestive of privileged foreign holidays. The books presumably relate to the tomes that Anna had ordered from the book shop where Flint had first had the idea of painting her and the hues of the goldfish echo the title of the painting and the tones of Anna's hair.