Ben Uri collection

Flame of Remembrance

Artist information

Name Nina Grey (1907-)

Other name Janina Gruenberg

Born Lviv, Poland

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Nina Grey was born in Lvov, Poland in 1907. The city had a large Jewish community and a long history of war from sieges by the Cossack forces in 1648, to battles with Russia and Austria in the First World War, and the captivity of its people during the Second. In 1915, at the age of eight, Grey and her family moved as refugees to Vienna, Austria, where she grew up: attending the College for Jewish Teachers, embarking on a teaching career, and getting married. In 1939 war broke out in Europe and Grey and her husband moved to England. Grey studied sculpture in London, attending the Hornsey School of Art, and then St Martin’s. In the 1960s she exhibited at Ben Uri and at Foyles Art Gallery. In 1980 she presented a bronze cast of ‘Flame of Remembrance’ to Yad Vashem (World Holocaust Museum, Israel).

Object Details

Date 1961

Object type sculpture

Medium plaster

Materials and techniques plaster (medium)

Dimensions H: 86 cm

Acquisition presented by the artist 1992

Accession number 1992-2

Display status not on display

The image of the eternal flame is used in many cultures as a continuous visual reminder of generations past. It is a particularly significant emblem in Jewish culture and is used religiously in Jewish synagogues: the ‘ner tamid’ hangs close to the Torah scrolls, representing their guiding light. Just as the eternal flame can never be extinguished, neither can the faces of the holocaust ever be forgotten; Grey’s ‘Flame of Remembrance’ ensures that the plight of the Jewish people is remembered eternally. By carving discernible features into the faces and including details such as kippah’s, men’s facial hair, women’s headdresses and variant lengths and styles of hair, Grey has given each Jewish face an identity. This evokes a closeness and familiarity between the viewer and the face and gives the work multiple narratives. Each face becomes a real person with their own tale to tell of the holocaust and its horrors. Grey reminds us of the fact that the Jews who were killed during the holocaust are not just a mass figure to be quoted from history books, but individuals who were husbands, wives, parents and children. Another version of this work was exhibited at St Martin's School of Art, where Grey had been a pupil, in 1961, before being cast in bronze and sent to Israel.

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© Nina Grey