The Charleston Attic Spotlight Lectures

by charlestonattic

Over the coming weeks we will be giving free public talks about our research at Charleston which focus upon items uncovered in the Angelica Garnett Gift. These papers mark the end of our residency at the Trust, as it will soon be time to hand over the Attic torch to Charleston’s two new interns and depart for pastures new. These talks are the culmination of our individual research projects, and will – we hope – offer new insights into the lives and work of Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell through largely unseen objects and artworks.

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Alice and Samantha in the Attic at Charleston, with Vanessa Bell’s study of Angelica Garnett as the Virgin Mary for the Berwick Church murals. Photograph © The Charleston Trust 

The Creative Consequences of the War: The 1940 Venice Biennale

On Thursday 10th September Alice Purkiss will be presenting her research on Duncan Grant’s involvement with the 1940 Venice Biennale. Having received the invitation in 1939, Grant had set about selecting paintings for display, however, only months before the works were due to travel to Italy, the British Council withdrew from the show. Although the official reason given was due to the risk of sending valuable artworks abroad in wartime circumstances, political forces were also at play. Inspired by Grant’s own invitation to the show that was found within the boxes of the Angelica Garnett Gift in the Attic Studio, Alice’s talk will explore a significant moment in both British art history and Grant’s career at the beginning of the Second World War.


CHA-E-159. Invitation sent to Duncan Grant for the 1940 Venice Biennale. Photograph © The Charleston Trust

The Maternal Paradox: The Private Portraiture of Vanessa Bell

On Thursday 17th September Samantha Wilson will be presenting her work on Vanessa Bell’s dichotomous role as artist and mother. Samantha’s talk is focussed upon a sketchbook dated 1908 which contains drawings made by Bell of her son, Julian, as a child. As a deeply personal and private object, the sketchbook demonstrates both the love and pride of a mother and the artistic desire to explore a constantly changing subject. In her talk, Samantha considers the uneasy relationship between the eye of the mother and that of the artist, and how the emotional attachment of one can cause conflict with the practical detachment of the other.


CHA-P-621-73. Vanessa Bell, drawing of the artist’s son Julian, 1908. Sketchbook. Photograph © The Charleston Trust

Both talks will be held at Charleston, at 1pm on the specified days, and will last roughly 30 minutes. The talks are free to attend and do not require booking. Charleston is open for guided tours on the days of the talks, as are the garden, café and shop. House tours can be booked online here.