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Charleston has launched a crowd funding campaign to raise funds for the conservation of painted surfaces in the house, “the world’s only Bloosmbury interior.”

According to the campaign site,

Help Charleston continue to inspire future generations . . . Without your help, the walls will crack, the paint will peel and the surfaces will crumble. Donate now and get a great reward, including tote bags, silk scarves, framed fragments of Charleston’s wallpaper and the chance to see the completed restoration work at an exclusive unveiling event. Help restore Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant’s iconic painted surfaces for future generations to enjoy.

The fundraising goal is £25,000. As of today, it is 82 percent funded, with 176 funders, some of whom you will recognize.

You can join them to preserve this Bloomsbury treasure that Burberry credits that is as the inspiration behind its autumn/winter 2014 collection, the Bloomsbury Girls, and that is also the setting for much of the filming of this summer’s BBC Two show, “Life in Squares,” about the Bloomsbury Group.

All this month on the Such Friends blog, Kathleen Dixon Donnelly will be posting about what the Bloomsbury Group was doing from 1907-1915. Here is the link to her first post:

In 46 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, London, in March of 1907… | SuchFriends Blog.

Those of us on this side of the pond, without access to BBC programming, are wishing to the lighthouseand waiting—patiently or impatiently—for the as-yet unannounced release of “Life in Squares” to PBS.

While we wait, why not put the time to good use (and help it pass more quickly) by dipping into an enticing list from the outstanding Powell’s bookstore in Portland, Oregon: “25 women to read before you die.”

“Reading Virginia Woolf is like stepping out onto a veranda, where the entire world unfurls before you in dazzling detail.” So begins an inviting introduction to Woolf and specifically to a recommendation of To the Lighthouse.

Woolf joins an eclectic array of companions, authors of both fiction and nonfiction, ranging from Mary Shelley and George Eliot to contemporary greats Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood, thought-provoking essayists Joan Didion and Rebecca Solnit, cartoonist Alison Bechdel and others.

We would all make some swaps—I’d make room for Mary McCarthy, Alice Munro, Penelope Lively—but there’s something for everyone here, both tried and true favorites and some new discoveries. I’ve been wanting to read Clarice Lispector for years—perhaps this is the sign I’ve been waiting for.

I’d rather be watching Life in Squares, but what can you do?

Anne Fernald

Anne Fernald

Anne Fernald, Fordham University professor and editor of the Cambridge University Press edition of Mrs. Dalloway (2014) and author of Virginia Woolf: Feminism and the Reader (2006), will lead a reading group on two Virginia Woolf novels this fall.

Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927) will be under discussion every second Thursday for four sessions, beginning Sept. 17, from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Center for Fiction, 17 E. 47th St., New York City. Remaining dates are Oct. 1, Oct. 15 and Oct. 29.

The cost is $150 for members and $175 for non-members.

Most of the reactions below come via Twitter, where “Life in Squares” was a trending topic after the first episode aired last night with an audience of between 1.85 and 1.9 million UK viewers.

In the aftermath, one must-read review is by Frances Spalding, acclaimed biographer of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Her piece on The Conversation website is titled “Life in Squares: how the radical Bloomsbury Group fares on screen.”

Here’s a quote from it:

Her despairing cry may be echoed by some viewers of the BBC’s three-part series Life in Squares, for the Bloomsbury Group attracts many detractors as well as legions of devotees. — Frances Spalding

Be sure to click on the comments below to read Maggie Humm’s assessment of Spalding’s review, along with her own insights.

Family reaction

Before the official premiere, Emma Woolf, great-niece of Leonard and Virginia Woolf, penned her reaction for The Daily Mail: “How TV’s got my aunt Virginia Woolf so wrong.”

And Vanessa Bell’s granddaughter, Cressida Bell, posted this on Facebook the morning after:

Cressida Bell

Here’s a piece from The Charleston Attic blog on the 140-piece dinner service featuring famous women created by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. It is one of the largest commissioned works produced by the artists and was commissioned in 1932.

‘The firm of Bell and Grant’ and the Famous Women Dinner Service.

The Virginia Woolf plate is pictured in Diane Gillespie’s The Sisters’ Arts: The Writing and Painting of Virginia Woolf and The Sisters’ Arts: The Writing and Painting of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell Vanessa Bell (1988, 1991), as illustration 4.13 on p. 199. Gillespie discusses the plates briefly on p. 198. The plate pictures a young Virginia Woolf in profile with her long hair secured at her neck or pinned up; it’s difficult to make out which.

According to Gillespie, the plates were divided into four groups and Woolf’s plate is included in the writers’ group. Woolf’s plate features a border of alternating squiggles and large dots. In a July 27, 2015, message to the VWoolf Listserv, Gillespie noted that she was able to see a number of the plates during the 1980s in the home of Lady Clark.

Ann Donlon wrote a Oct. 9, 2013, post about the plates on her blog after a visit to Charleston. Titled Dinner Plates, it includes images.

Also see Woolf on a plate, a 2009 post on Blogging Woolf about Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party that includes a Woolf plate.

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