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Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Reed’

Night and Day: Monk’s House, Rodmell (2011), an original cut paper collage by Amanda White that is part of her Writers' Houses series. See more at http://www.amandawhite-contemporarynaiveart.com.

Woolf and collage, anyone?

That was the question that came up on the VWoolf Listserv a few weeks ago. Other list members promptly and generously shared information on the topic of Woolf and modern collage.

Here are the highlights of that discussion, along with some details I have added:

  • Brenda Helt cited Woolf’s writing about the 1910 and 1912 Post-Impressionist Exhibitions and the Omega Workshop.  Specifically, she mentioned the
    sometimes snide and snarky commentary” in Volumes 1 and 2 of Woolf’s letters, indexed as “Post-impressionist Exhibition” and “Omega Workshop,” and “her later more complex and appreciative understanding” included in the chapters on Post-impressionism and the Omega in Woolf’s biography of Roger Fry.
  • Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and other post-impressionists worked with collage. Both used collage in objects sold at the Omega Workshops and in decorating furniture at Charleston Farmhouse and elsewhere.
  • Woolf knew of early Cubist collage, but would have been most familiar with applied arts such as collage through Bell’s and Grant’s work, as well as the work of other Bloomsbury artists.
  • Three examples of Bell’s and Grant’s collages from 1912, 1914 and 1915 are included in the exhibition catalog for A Room of Their Own: The Bloomsbury Artists in American Collections. You can read a post about the last stop on that exhibit’s 2010 cross-country tour here. Collage examples in the exhibition catalogue include:
    • Bell’s Composition (1914), oil and gouache on cut-and-pasted paper, Page 124
    • Grant’s In Memoriam: Rupert Brooke (1915), oil and collage on panel, Page 176
    • Grant’s Design for a Fire Screen (1912), watercolor, gouache and collage, Page 220
  • Christopher Reed, associate professor of English and visual culture at Penn State, discusses and shows examples of others in Bloomsbury Rooms: Modernism, Subculture, Domesticity. They include:
    • Grant’s On the Mantelpiece, 46 Gordon Square (1914), oil and collage on board, Page 149.
    • Roger Fry’s Essay in Abstract Design (1915), oil and collaged bus tickets, Page 155.
    • Grant’s Abstract Kinetic Collage Painting with Sound (1914), gouache, watercolor and collage on paper, Page 156
    • Grant’s Abstract (1914-5), paint, fabric and collaged paper on board, Page 158
    • Grant’s Interior at 46 Gordon Square (1914-5), collaged paper on board, Page 159
  • In Bloomsbury Rooms, Reed discusses Grant’s use of a piece of foil from a cigarette pack liner in In Memoriam as its only collaged element and says it is echoed in Woolf’s review of Edward Marsh’s 1918 memoir on Brooke (161). He also mentions that reviewers unanimously dismissed Grant’s abstract collages in the 1915 Vorticist exhibition, calling them a foreign joke (162).
  • Other important research sources on this topic include:
    • Frances Spalding’s biographies of Bell and of Grant
    • Simon Watney’s The Art of Duncan Grant
    • Douglas Turnbaugh’s Duncan Grant and the Bloomsbury Group
    • Richard Shone’s The Art of Bloomsbury
    • Bell and Nicholson’s Charleston

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Tomorrow, you can decorate your own Bloomsbury plate. Yesterday I heard a lecture on Bloomsbury artists.

These are some of the final activities during the final days of the final stop on the cross-country tour of the traveling exhibit, A Room of Their Own: The Bloomsbury Artists in American Collections.

The exhibit will be at the Palmer Museum of Art at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa., through Sept. 26. After that, all the artwork, books, fabric and furniture will be carefully packed and returned to their owners. Artist Jasper Johns, for example, will be reunited with his Omega Workshop pottery.

When Benjamin Harvey, associate professor of art history at Mississippi State University,  reviewed the exhibit for Blogging Woolf nearly one year ago, he recommended that Bloomsbury afficionados “make every effort to see it.”

Riders on the storm

Early Thursday evening, I took his advice, setting off from Ohio to Pennsylvania in a violent rainstorm — the one that brought tornadoes to the East Coast — with the expectation that we would view the Bloomsbury exhibit the next day. We did, despite the unfortunate weather that kept us on the edge of our car seat the entire way.

It was worth the trip.

I have been to Charleston Farmhouse and Monk’s House, so I have seen many original works of Bloomsbury art. But this exhibit was different. It displays a large collection of Bloomsbury art together in a gallery setting, which gave me the chance to step back and appreciate it one piece at a time without feeling overwhelmed or rushed by tour guides.

As a result, I felt a new appreciation for the artistry of Vanessa Bell. I clearly saw that her artwork stands on its own rather than in the shadow of Duncan Grant.

Giant canvas greeting

© 2010 by Nasher Museum Blogs

Visitors to the Penn State exhibit are initially greeted by a giant Duncan Grant painting that depicts an exuberant male nude holding cymbals. Although it dwarfs even the tallest art lover, the painting is just one part of the 1937 original oil on canvas, which was commissioned to hang over the massive fireplace in the first-class lounge of the Queen Mary, according to Christopher Reed, associate professor of English and visual culture at Penn State and co-curator for the exhibit.

Along with other commissioned designs, such as upholstery fabric of cotton velveteen patterned with an obviously Bloomsbury design, and carpeting, it was never used on the ship. Cunard, the ship’s owner, changed course and decided to use an art deco look for the first-class quarters instead.

Grant’s massive painting featuring the nude cymbal player and other elements was discovered years later in the barn of Kenneth Clark, English art historian. It was covered with pigeon droppings, so had to undergo extensive restoration before it was fit for exhibition, Reed explained.

Drawn into Bloomsbury

A multi-media display greets visitors to the Bloomsbury exhibit.

A multi-media display introduces visitors to the actual exhibit, and it draws them into the Bloomsbury scene with its life-size graphics of a Charleston Farmhouse bedroom. Just below the window ledge is  a video screen where a slide presentation shows scenes from the early 20th-century era, photographs of Bloomsbury Group members, examples of their art and quotes that help illuminate their thinking.

Even the display tables that hold important artifacts are decorated in Bloomsbury style. They were loaned to the Penn State exhibit by Cornell. Inside the glass cases resting on the decorated display tables are letters from Leonard and Virginia Woolf, Roger Fry and others, as well as numerous volumes published by the Hogarth Press. These included Virginia’s novels with dust jackets decorated by Vanessa Bell, along with the English translations of the works of Sigmund Freud.

Influence of Bloomsbury artists

Joyce Robinson and Christopher Reed, co-curators of the Bloomsbury exhibit at Penn State

In his noon lecture, Christopher Reed, associate professor of English and visual culture at Penn State and co-curator for the exhibit, discussed the influence of Bloomsbury artists on early twentieth-century thinking about art and the art of home decoration.

He also noted their appreciation for the unique imperfections of handmade art – from Omega Workshop pottery to the utilitarian shutters painted by Vanessa Bell.

While some items that were included in earlier installations were not part of the Palmer exhibit — such as Woolf’s writing desk decorated by Quentin Bell — three paintings that did not appear in earlier exhibits are part of this one. All three were loaned by an individual who viewed an earlier exhibit and noted that he had several paintings by the same artist at home.

The three turned out to be the work of Duncan Grant. They are:

  • “Hatbox”
  • “Still Life with Jug”
  • “Paul Roche in the Bath”

Joyce Robinson, curator at the Palmer, gave visitors insight into how Vanessa and Virginia worked together. She quoted Woolf as saying the sisters had the same eyes but wore different spectacles.

Palmer's Bloomsbury bookmark

In particular, she cited the edition of Kew Gardens decorated by Vanessa Bell. Robinson said Vanessa and Virginia worked on the layout together, making sure that Vanessa’s decorations and Virginia’s hand-set type complimented each other both visually and symbolically.

More on Woolf and knitting

Another interesting item from the exhibit, in light of the ongoing discussion on the VWoolf Listserv regarding Woolf and knitting,  is a pencil drawing by Roger Fry depicting his daughter, titled “Pamela Knitting and Reading.”

Reed, author of Bloomsbury Rooms: Modernism, Subculture, and Domesticity, said some argue that paintings depicting Virginia knitting really show her engaged in book binding.

Welcome commodification at the museums

Bloomsbury 2010 tattoo

To view more artwork from the exhibit visit the Nasher Museum exhibit page. The Duke University museum was the first stop on the tour. You can also purchase the exhibit catalogue from Cornell.

However, unless you make a trip to the Palmer soon, you will have no chance to get the freebies they gave out: an exhibit bookmark and a Bloomsbury 2010 temporary tattoo that features Woolf. I can’t wait to apply mine.

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