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Posts Tagged ‘Vanessa Bell’

This Christmas day, I unwrapped a present from my landlady and, completely unexpectedly, a small purple hardback book with gold lettering and a beautiful portrait of Virginia Woolf fell onto my lap. I was delighted, and proceeded to read it cover to cover amidst wrapping paper and ended up holding back tears to prevent myself being utterly embarrassed in front of my in-laws.

virginia woolf life portraits

© Zena Alkayat and Nina Cosford

Virginia Woolf (Life Portraits) by Zena Alkayat and Nina Cosford poetically weaves the story of Woolf’s life with Alkayat’s considered text and Cosford’s illustrations, a fresh response to the Bloomsbury aesthetic. It opens with the following quote from Mrs Dalloway:

She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was on the outside, looking on.

This liminality, both the relation between work and life and Woolf’s psychological flux, is represented thoughtfully throughout the biography.

street haunting in life portrait

© Zena Alkayat and Nina Cosford

Alkayat focuses on the personal details of life: how Vanessa Bell’s sheepdog Gurth accompanied her “street haunting”, how Leonard and Virginia Woolf spent nights during the First World War in their coal cellar sitting on boxes, and that they later named their car “the umbrella”. She also puts us on a first name basis with Virginia, Vanessa and Duncan, et al. – a choice which made me feel closer to their world.

charleston in woolf life portrait

© Nina Cosford

Cosford’s illustrations are both sensitive to the Bloomsbury style and offer a fresh perspective. Her bold lines and patterns used to illustrate the pages about Vanessa Bell’s cover designs for Virginia Woolf’s novels, for example, are edged with mark-making in the mode of Bell. Her use of colour also seems emotive, following the waves of high and low that punctuate the narrative. Her illustrations capture the paraphernalia of every-day life, from the objects atop Woolf’s writing desk – diary, hair grips, photo of Julia, sweets – to the plants in the garden at Monks House, bringing Virginia’s life closer to home.

monks house plants

© Nina Cosford

Illustration and text come together beautifully in this miniature autobiography and would provide any reader with a poetic and surprising escape into the life of Virginia Woolf.

 

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Amongst a box filled with stretched canvas and paintings on wood, we re-discovered these fantastic landscapes of the local area. Both painted by Vanessa Bell, the first is of the old Coach Road looking towards Firle Tower on the right. The leaves on the trees appear to be blowing in the wind, the farmland and coach road painted lightly in pinks and purples to represent the human touch on the landscape…

Source: Local Landscapes of Firle | The Charleston Attic

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Woolfians who can travel to Cornwall in September may be interested in these two events with Sarah Latham Phillips, author of Virginia Woolf as a ‘Cubist’ Writer, available from Cecil Woolf Publishers.

Cornwall

St. Ives September Festival, Virginia Woolf & Vanessa Bell

When: Friday 15 September 2017, 10:30 a.m.
Where: Porthmeor Studio, Back Road West, St Ives, Cornwall, TR26 1NG

What: Two artistic sisters: Virginia Woolf & Vanessa Bell, who spent part of their childhood in St Ives. Sarah will discuss its influence on their art and writing and their own relationship and ambitions.

Cost: Tickets £5.50
Reservations: at http://www.crbo.co.uk/events.php?evGrp=195

Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse

Godrevy Lighthouse, St. Ives, Cornwall

When: Monday 18 September 2017, 10:30 a.m. – 4:15 p.m.
Where: Red Store, Riverside, Lerryn, Nr Lostwithiel, Cornwall,
PL22 OPZ

What: Study day on To the Lighthouse
Cost: Tickets are £25 for the day and include coffee, tea and biscuits. Bring your
own lunch.
Reservations: Please contact Sarah at phillipsfamily1234@yahoo.co.uk for further details.

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First, there was the conference. Then came the party. In London. With the Woolfs.

On the Monday evening following days one, two, three, and four of the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson hosted a party in London for their visiting Woolfian friends who remained in town.

I was happy to be among them. But I was chagrined to arrive on their doorstep 20 minutes early due to lightning fast service by my Uber driver.

Cecil and Jean, however, didn’t blink when they answered my too-early knock. They ushered me in and escorted me up the stairs, past stacks of books from their Bloomsbury Heritage Series and a smattering of hats from Jean’s famous collection.

Cecil poured me a glass of wine and settled me in their persimmon-colored sitting room that is casually decorated with original Bloomsbury art by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. It was magical.

Cecil and Jean are tremendous hosts who know how to make each guest feel specially welcome, no matter when they arrive. They created a wonderful evening full of camaraderie, good food, and drink, while introducing us to their daughter Emma Woolf, author of numerous books and a regular BBC contributor.

Afterward, when thinking about the evening, a quote came to mind that perfectly captures the mood and magic of the evening.

No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself. – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1929)

Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson hosted a post-conference party at their London home, which also houses Cecil Woolf Publishers.

This side table decorated by Duncan Grant held appetizers, as well as my little Virginia. #travelswithvirginiawoolf

Cecil Woolf and daughter Emma Woolf at the party.

Louise Higham, Suzanne Bellamy, John McCoy, and Eleanor McNees (far right) were among the party guests.

A firescreen painted by Duncan Grant.

Bloomsbury art above the fireplace, along with a piece by Suzanne Bellamy and a photo of Jean.

Judith Allen and her husband Steve.

More Bloomsbury art.

 

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The Vanessa Bell exhibit at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the first to feature Bell in a solo exhibit, is in its final days. But you can still get a look at it, whether you live in London or not.

Via the gallery

If you can, book your tickets before the exhibit ends June 4. However, if you can’t be there in person, you can visit the exhibit several ways.

Via the video

First, watch all or some of the series of videos on the exhibit. In this final Vanessa Bell video, co-curators Ian Dejardin and Sarah Milroy plant themselves in the last room of the exhibition to discuss the significance of Bell’s depiction of womanhood and reflect on one of her last self-portraits.

Via the catalogue

Second, buy the exhibit catalogue. I assure you it is breathtaking. When I first opened my full-color paperback version, I thoughtlessly wondered, “Which of these gorgeous paintings are Vanessa’s?” I quickly realized — all of them are. In the exhibit, as in the catalogue, Vanessa is permitted “to speak entirely for herself,” which Dulwich director and exhibit co-curator Dejardin notes in the catalogue preface that she has never before been allowed to do.

The catalogue’s 202 pages, along with the flyleafs and front and back covers, are filled with Bell’s art, along with photographs of the artist and Charleston, the Sussex home on which she lavished so much love and art. Many of her paintings — from her portraits to her abstracts — are reproduced in full-page format.

Besides Dejardin’s preface, it also includes background on Charleston and its artists. Author and exhibit co-curator Sarah Milroy discusses Bell as artist, mother, and feminist and puts the entirety of Bell’s life in an historical context. Hana Leaper expands upon that with her chapter, “Between London and Paris.” And Frances Spalding adds Virginia Woolf to the mix with her chapter on “Vanessa, Virginia and the Modern Portrait.”

Speaking of Spalding, a new edition of her biography of Woolf was released last year. The book was first published in 1983 and offers a fascinating and well-researched look at Bell, as well as other members of the Bloomsbury group. But one would expect nothing less from Spalding.

Via the shop

You can also shop the look, as I did. I went online and ordered some lovely items that promised to add the Bell look to my home. But whether they keep their promise or not, they are beautiful, they were shipped across the pond promptly, and I am enjoying them. Some of the items are sold out, but there are still a few available.

I was also excited to hear from Cecil Woolf that Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell and the Great War, Seeing Peace Through an Open Window: Art, Domesticity & the Great War, my monograph on the two sisters that he published last year as part of his Bloomsbury Heritage series, is for sale at the Dulwich exhibit.

Items I purchased online from the Dulwich Picture Gallery Vanessa Bell exhibit.

 

 

 

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Literature Cambridge is offering a Reading Bloomsbury summer course, 23-28 July 2017, in Cambridge, England

This one-week immersion in the art of Vanessa Bell alongside Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, the sexual politics of Lytton Strachey and E.M. Forster, and the political ideas of J.M. Keynes, Leonard Woolf, Clive Bell, and others. The course takes an exciting new look at these interesting thinkers and their work.

Lecturers include Frances Spalding, Alison Hennegan, Claire Nicholson, Claudia Tobin and Peter Jones.

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Inspired by previous Blogging Woolf post Tea at the Morton, here’s what it’s like to spend the night at the Morton Hotel in London’s Bloomsbury.

themorton

Opposite leafy Russell Square the Morton Hotel curves around the corner of Woburn Place. Ideally placed to explore Bloomsbury, this hotel manages to embrace the iconic Bloomsbury group style without becoming a caricature. The fluid touches of Vanessa Bell inspired textiles and prints add style and idiosyncrasy to the classic greys and dark wooden furniture. Indeed, as many homes of the Bloomsbury group mixed classic family heirlooms with bright fresh colour palettes, so too does this newly renovated hotel blend the Bloomsbury aesthetic with classic and comfortable chic.

themorton2

From the Library to Bedrooms, the hotel is adorned with Omega Workshops prints, Woolf’s book cover designs by Vanessa Bell and collages of black and white Bloomsbury photographs.

the-morton-3

Each bedroom is named after a key Bloomsbury figure – Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, E. M. Forster, Roger Fry, Lytton Strachey and, our room, Lady Ottoline Morrell. The doors of the rooms are identified with portrait silhouettes, a motif which is subtly repeated within the room pulling the individual scheme together.

themorton4

Against the neutral colours and simple shapes our wallpaper was the stand out feature. Echoing Duncan Grant’s design Arion Riding a Dolphin for the chest in his bedroom at Charleston House, our wallpaper reinterpreted this myth in soft grey and vibrant orange. A bedside notepad was also printed in the same design.

themorton5

The bed itself was very comfy and extremely spacious and the bathroom had some deliciously botanical bergamot and neroli toiletries by Woods of Windsor. The room had all the tech you might want but it was unobtrusive so that the bedroom remained a calm oasis away from the bustle of Russell Square Tube Station – a minute’s walk from the front door.

themorton6

Finally, breakfast was warm crisp pastries, a selection of cheese and cold meats, juice, fresh fruit and hot tea and coffee in the Library.

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