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Private Enterprise

Oil Sketch
1947 (painted)
Place of origin

Oil sketch entitled 'Private Enterprise' (study for an illustration for Lilliput). Inscribed in pencil on the back with titles.

Object details

Object type
TitlePrivate Enterprise
Materials and techniques
Oil on paper
Brief description
Oil sketch entitled 'Private Enterprise' (study for an illustration for Lilliput) by James Boswell. New Zealand School, Britain, 1947.
Physical description
Oil sketch entitled 'Private Enterprise' (study for an illustration for Lilliput). Inscribed in pencil on the back with titles.
  • Approx. height: 50cm
  • Approx. width: 33.7cm
Dimensions taken from departmental object file
Object history
Purchasd, 1982

Historical significance: Born in New Zealand, James Boswell (1906-1971) came to England in 1925 and took up a place to study painting at the Royal College of Art. He exhibited intermittently with the London Group, and joined the Communist Party in 1932. A co-founder of the Artist's International Association (AIA; originally the International Organisation of Artists for Revolutionary Proletarian Art) in 1933, during the 1930s Boswell became known as one of the foremost artists of the radical left.

Boswell was art editor of Left Review (launched 1934), a journal in which his illustrations appeared regularly until 1938. During the Second World War Boswell was not made an official war artist, but during his time in the army made numerous sketches and watercolours. After the war, in 1947, he became art editor of Lilliput, a small-format, 'pocket' magazine of humour, short stories and the arts which had been founded in 1937.

In his illustrations Boswell drew inspiration from Edward Ardizzone and the German artists George Grosz and Otto Dix. Private Enterprise dates from the beginning of Boswell's editorship of Lilliput, where it was published. The painting represents a man in an overcoat standing in front of a vegetable stall, the colours of which glow luridly against a grimy urban background, conjuring up a drab early post-war atmosphere.

Private Enterprise was purchased in 1982.
Historical context
Study for an illustration for Lilliput.
Accession number

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Record createdMay 14, 2007
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