The Charleston Attic

Category: Art history

Charleston Attic Spotlight Talks

As our days in the attic draw to a close, so too does this significant project. Being the last in a series of Curatorial Interns over the past 3 years, we take a moment to reflect on the achievements of our residency. In six months we have completed cataloguing and archiving the final 3,600 objects, something which at the start of our tenure seemed like a daunting challenge. Having seen such a vast array of sketches, paintings and unfinished works, our own interests in the collection were bound in intrigue and a desire to know more.

With the end of our tenure comes a free spotlight talk, where we each discuss an area of research that has been inspired by the Angelica Garnett Gift.  Starting at 1pm on Thursday 28 September 2017, the event will take place in the large marquee at Charleston Farmhouse, Firle. The talks are free and open to all.

The Famous Women Dinner Service:  Fashion, Modernism and Identity – Vanessa Jones

Designed by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant in 1932 – 1934, the Famous Women Dinner Service re-appeared to the art market earlier this year. As the Angelica Garnett Gift holds nine preliminary sketches of the Famous Women, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to unravel some of the mysteries that go along with this bewildering representation of celebrated women. My research will focus on four of the preparatory sketches exploring their existence mediating between fashion and art history. I establish Bell and Grant as prolific modern artists and unravel the usefulness of using fashion as a tool to date and identify the character on the plate. I also explore the artistic approaches Bell and Grant use, from preliminary sketch to final design.

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CHA/P/1646, Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt for the Famous Women Dinner Service, c. 1933, pencil on card © Charleston Trust

 

Looking inside Vanessa Bell’s Studio – Diana Wilkins

I will be exploring the history of Vanessa Bell’s attic studio. For the last six months the attic studio has been our working space for cataloguing the Angelica Garnett Gift of paintings and drawings by Bell and Duncan Grant. It has been a privilege to work in this unique space which bears tangible traces of Bell’s past presence. I will use photographs and documents from Charleston’s archive to explain why the attic studio was created in 1939, how it was constructed and the influence of the studio environment on Bell’s work in the later stages of her career. I will look at the scope for returning the room to its previous condition once our archiving project has come to an end.

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Vanessa Bell, 1952, The Artist in her Studio, private collection,
© Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy Henrietta Grant

 

 

Many thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, Elizabeth Keyser Foundation, Michael Marks and the Paul Mellon Centre for supporting this project.

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From Patterned to Plain: A Visit to the Courtauld Gallery Exhibition on Omega Workshops

We visited the Courtauld Gallery’s display of items from the Omega Workshops. The Workshops operated in London between 1913 and 1919 under the directorship of Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. The Courtauld is fortunate to be able to draw on its extensive collection of Bloomsbury art and design, much of which was bequeathed to it by Fry.

The current exhibition is small, but it successfully demonstrates the willingness of the Omega artists to apply their decorative ideas in many forms, from fine art, to rugs, screens and tableware. The exhibition even includes a musical instrument, a type of harpsichord known as a virginal. This was extravagantly decorated by Fry, somewhat to the dismay of Arnold Dolmetsch who made it.  

The exhibition was effective in teasing out different aesthetic ideas within the group by placing highly patterned work alongside deceptively simple ceramics. We were thrilled to see Duncan Grant’s Lily Pond Design, familiar from the table at Charleston, applied in a dramatically different context on a large folding screen (pattern has been photographed below). Grant’s work made an interesting contrast with a selection of Fry’s monotone tableware, in which Fry pursued his interest in form and the imperfections left by the artist’s touch.

Lily Pond design on screen

Duncan Grant, 1913-14, oil on wood, screen with Lily Pond design, © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

Jug

Roger Fry, 1913, white coffee pot, , tin-glazed earthenware © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

The exhibition also touched on the Omega artists’ receptiveness to the influence of other cultures.  For example, Grant is said to have borrowed ‘liberally from African textiles’ for a rug design (see below).[i] This is perhaps not surprising as African designs featured in Fry’s lectures and the Omega Workshops sold textiles produced for the African market.  Moreover, the Omega Workshops’ active period followed a period of heightened interest in African art, especially among artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Fry, some of whom owned African sculptures.  Further signs that Grant shared their interest can also be found in the Angelica Garnett Gift, which includes sketches of African dance masks.

Rug

Duncan Grant, 1913, rug, hand-knotted wool with a jute or hemp warp, © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

 

Dance mask

CHA/P/3316, Duncan Grant, drawing, Bapende dance mask, colour wash and charcoal, © Charleston Trust

Dance mask

CHA/P/3323, Duncan Grant, Ibibio dance mask, charcoal on paper, © Charleston Trust

 

The shape and colour of Fry’s ceramics echo those of the Chinese Song dynasty (960-1279) and include his 20th century take on a traditional rice bowl and a turquoise tureen with a bison, or Chinese lion, on the lid.

Bowl

Roger Fry, c. 1916, black-glazed bowl, glazed earthenware, © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

Tureen

Roger Fry, 1915, blue-glazed cover tureen, glazed earthenware, mould made © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

Previous posts on the blog describe how Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell shared Fry’s interest in China, especially after Julian Bell’s move to Wuhan in central China to teach English. This is also reflected in the Angelica Garnett Gift, where we have re-discovered tourist souvenirs from China and sketches of figures wearing traditional dress known as ‘Han Fu’.

Chinese tourist souvenir

CHA/P/4029, Chinese souvenir of floral design and traditional poem, ink on Chinese paper, © Charleston Trust

Chinese child

CHA/P/4024, Vanessa Bell/Duncan Grant, Chinese child, pencil on tracing paper, © Charleston Trust

The exhibition ‘Bloomsbury Art and Design’ continues until 21 September 2017. For further details click here to visit their website.

 

 

 

[i] Courtauld Gallery London, Bloomsbury Art and Design, London: Courtauld Gallery, 2017.

An Unexpected Frieze

A beautiful frieze was re-discovered today! Under a magnifying lens we identified that the frieze was hand painted with a chalk based paint, applied onto plaster. Dating from around 1800, it is possible that a technique called fresco was used, which means the artist painted directly onto wet plaster. The frieze could have been used for a number of different decorative purposes: a mural, the edging of a frame or it could have been applied directly onto the wall. The frieze was not created by one of our Bloomsbury heroes however it was evidently a source of inspiration given that it has been carefully wrapped in brown paper.

Frieze

CHA/P/3766, wallcovering frieze stuck onto squared paper wrapped in brown parcel paper with hand written annotation ‘Frise’, chalk based paint on plaster, c. 1800.
Photograph
© The Charleston Trust.

Unfortunately only one of the two frieze examples survives. With only a small amount of debris left, the first almost non-existent frieze is decorated with shades of duck egg green. Much more intact, the other frieze is of an acanthus leaf which is painted in shades of brown with a delicate gold finish.

The frieze was in the middle of a sketchbook with ‘SENS’ written on the cover. It is likely that the sketchbook belonged to Duncan Grant as the book bears his name on the back page. As well as this, letters and postcards stored in the Tate’s Archive were sent from Sens, France by Grant to Vanessa Bell in December
1924.[1]

Front [22 December 1924] by Duncan Grant 1885-1978
Postcard written by Duncan Grant to Vanessa Bell sent from Sens, 24 December 1924. Photograph © Tate Archives.

The paper ephemera contains Grant’s excitement after visiting Sens and Dijon Cathedrals, explaining how they make ‘a lovely drawing’.[2] Several pages in the sketchbook are of murals and biblical scenes that have probably been inspired by these Cathedrals.

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CHA/P/3766, biblical scene with hand written annotation ‘Sens’, pencil on paper, c. 1924. Photograph © The Charleston Trust.

On one of Grant’s many trips to France, this frieze has probably been removed from a building of some significance given the fine workmanship of the object. Could the frieze have come from one of these magnificent buildings Grant visited on his travels? There are many mysteries that surround this frieze, but what an excellent thing to re-discover in the middle of a sketchbook.

 

[1] In two letters to Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant speaks of his fondness of the cathedrals. Letters can be found at the Tate Archive: www.tate.org.uk/art/archive/tga-8010-5-1338/, www.tate.org.uk/art/archive/tga-8010-5-1337/

[2] Tate Archive, Postcard from Duncan Grant to Vanessa Bell, 24 December 1924, Online access: www.tate.org.uk/art/archive/tga-8010-5-1339

New Faces at Charleston visit Tate Britain’s Queer British Art

Bathing 1911 by Duncan Grant 1885-1978Duncan Grant, Bathing, 1911. Oil paint on canvas. Photograph © Tate.

We have just joined Charleston as interns to finish cataloguing the Angelica Garnett Gift of paintings and drawings by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.

By way of introduction, we visited Tate Britain’s exhibition Queer British Art: 1861-1967 which runs until 1 October.  The exhibition ‘explores connections between art and a wide range of sexualities and gender identities’ during the century before the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967.[1]

Diana says ‘On entering the exhibition the initial impression is of a conventional Victorian display of classical sculpture and paintings in a somewhat gloomy setting.  Then as my eyes adjusted I could see that the curators have selected the artworks with an eye to a queer aesthetic.  The muscular male nude ‘The Sluggard’ (1885) by the highly successful Lord Leighton, contrasts with the delicate drawings of Simeon Solomon, whose life ended in poverty after a criminal prosecution.  For me, the exhibits raised the question of what could and could not be shown in public.  By-and-large, the focus is on what was displayed during the artists’ lifetimes.’

‘Leaving the dark Victorian galleries, it came as something of a relief to enter a much lighter room focusing on ‘Bloomsbury and Beyond’.  Duncan Grant’s ‘Bathing’ (1911) dominates this room and is accompanied by Grant’s private drawings from the Angelica Garnett Gift which were lent by Charleston.  Grant’s work is complemented by portraits of people linked to the Bloomsbury Group, such as Paul Roche, which look out boldly into the room.  In these pictures, straightforward contemporary settings replace the classical allusions which had made earlier works acceptable to the public.

‘The scope for different identities is examined in the next room on ‘Defying Convention’.  A highlight here is Laura Knight’s wryly-titled ‘Self Portrait’ (1913) where the artist shows herself fully clothed and painting a female nude, prompting the audience to consider whose sexuality is on display.’

Vanessa adds ‘Something that struck me in the exhibition was the attention given to clothing, the dressed and undressed body, and the influence this had in signifying or subverting ideas of queerness.  Symbolising the importance of clothing in the exhibition was Roger Fry’s portrait ‘Edward Carpenter’ (1894).  Painted with a proud stance Carpenter’s long dark coat is referred to as a ‘very anarchist overcoat’.  His coat is no longer merely a thing to keep him dry, it is a thing that represents his socialist ideas, reflecting his activism for the rights of homosexuality.’

‘A personal highlight from the exhibition was William Strang’s ‘Lady with a Red Hat’ (1918).  In this portrait Vita Sackville-West wears an incredible red hat and is posed rather elegantly.  We learn of her dismissal of modern conventions as she often wears men’s clothing and has a male persona named ‘Julian’.  This portrait acts as a binary into Sackville-West’s life.  On the one hand she is shown as a fashionable woman of the time, on the other we see how she hides her male persona behind the very clothes she wears, subverting the perception of the viewer away from the ‘Julian’ and hinting at her complex sexuality.

‘Charles Buchel’s portrait of lesbian writer ‘Radclyffe Hall’ (1918) further suggests how dress can reflect identity.  Encapsulating women’s fashionable clothing of this period, Hall wears a skirt and jacket.  Predominantly worn by men, the addition of a cravat to her ensemble blurs the boundaries between what women and men should and should not wear embodying and embracing ideas of gender fluidity.  In addition, room 3 specifically looks at theatre and performance.  The performative nature of fashion and clothing is evident here.  We see ‘Soldiers in Skirts’ poster from 1945 and several 1920s photographs taken by Cecil Beaton where both men and women are dressed in women’s clothing and heavily made-up, often making it difficult to distinguish between male and female subjects.’

Queer British Art: 1861-1967 highlights the importance of fashion in queer art. Whether alleviating oppressions, dressing up, highlighting gender fluidity or questioning convention.’

‘We both really enjoyed the exhibition and it was ideal for giving us the wider context to life at Charleston.’

This is an exciting time for Charleston which has lent works by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell to the Sussex Modernism exhibition at Two Temple Place, London, which runs until 23 April 2017, and to the Vanessa Bell: 1879-1961 solo exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, which is on until 4 June 2017.  Later this summer, Clare Barlow will be speaking at Charleston’s A Gay Outing – further details will be announced on  Charleston’s website.

Diana Wilkins and Vanessa Jones

 

[1] Tate Britain, ‘Queer British Art: 1861-1967’, Tate Britain (London), 2017

Berwick Church murals – preliminary sketches by Duncan Grant

Prompted by a collection of drawings and sketches found inside a thin blue cardboard folder labelled ‘Berwick Church’ (CHA/P/603), this week’s blog article examines some of Duncan Grant’s preliminary studies for the painted wall murals created for Berwick Church in Sussex between 1941 and 1944.

On the 10 October 1943 a dedication service was held at St Michael and All Angels Church in Berwick Village in honour of the completion of a collection of new wall murals designed and painted by local Bloomsbury artists’, Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and her son Quentin.

Although they had been commissioned in 1940 by Brighton-based, Bishop Bell, the designs were not fully approved by Berwick’s Parish Church Council until a year later. It was recommended that the murals be painted on plasterboard panels which were constructed in a barn at Charleston.[1] The first set of murals entitled The Annunciation and The Nativity by Vanessa Bell, Christ in Glory by Duncan Grant and The Wise and Foolish Virgins by Quentin Bell were largely finished by January 1943 and raised into position by spring that year.[2]

The first few sketches in the folder are connected with Bishop Bell himself, besides a full portrait study of him kneeling, there is a detailed study of his mitre and his crook. These were preliminary sketches for the figure of Bishop Bell as represented in the group of church officials to the right hand side of the arch in Christ in Glory.

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CHA/P/603/9, Duncan Grant, Dr. Bell kneeling, c. 1943. © The Estate of Duncan Grant. Photograph © The Charleston Trust.

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Berwick Church murals, Duncan Grant, detail of Bishop Bell kneeling, c. 1942. © of the Estate of Vanessa Bell 1961 and the Estate of Duncan Grant 1978, courtesy of Henrietta Garnett. Photograph: berwickchurch.org.uk/bloomsbury.

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CHA/P/603/4, Duncan Grant, The Bishop’s Crook. © The Estate of Duncan Grant. Photograph © The Charleston Trust.

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CHA/P/603/3, Dr. Bell’s Mitre, c. 1943, © The Estate of Duncan Grant. Photograph © The Charleston Trust.

For Grant, Bishop Bell was

 ‘a most obliging sitter, going down on his knees so that Duncan could draw him in the position he wanted and lending him his elaborate crosier, robes and mitre so that work could continue in his absence’.[3]

However, work on the church decorations did not end with the dedication service. In April 1944 a new Faculty was granted for decorations to the chancel screen and pulpit, a crucifixion on the west wall and an altar picture.

The last two sketches in the blue folder (CHA/P/603/14 and CHA/P/603/11) appear to be preliminary designs for The Crucifixion or The Victory of Calvary, a mural of Christ on the cross completed by Duncan Grant in 1944.

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Duncan Grant, The Crucifixion or The Victory of Calvary, Berwick Church mural, 1944, © of the Estate of Vanessa Bell 1961 and the Estate of Duncan Grant 1978, courtesy of Henrietta Garnett. Photograph: berwickchurch.org.uk/bloomsbury.

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CHA/P/603/13, Duncan Grant, preliminary sketch for The Crucifixion, c.1943, pencil on paper, Berwick Church murals. © The Estate of Duncan Grant. Photograph © The Charleston Trust.

Likely to be experimenting with ideas for the composition of Christ, Duncan Grant was clearly influenced by his admiration of early Italian Renaissance art in this pencil sketch. He had visited Florence some forty years earlier in 1904 with his mother Ethel and spent every day at the Uffizi copying works by artists such as Piero della Francesca and Masaccio.[4] It is also likely that he visited Basilica di Santa Croce, the main Franciscan church in Florence where he would have seen Crucifix, 1287–1288 a work by Cimabue which probably provided inspiration for his later pencil study.

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Cimabue, Crucifix, 1287–1288. Distemper on wood panel, 448 cm × 390 cm. Basilica di Santa Croce. Photograph: The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei.

Grant particularly favoured the work of Michelangelo, in the autumn of 1910 he was copying Entombment c. 1500-01 at the National Gallery in London.[5] In his sketch for The Crucifixion mural Christ’s head is depicted in a bowed position, slightly crooked to one side echoing the pose of Christ’s head in Michelangelo’s painting.

entombment_michelangelo

Michelangelo, Entombment, c. 1500-01, tempura on panel, National Gallery, Photograph: National Gallery.

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Duncan Grant, preliminary sketch for The Crucifixion or The Victory of Calvary, Berwick Church mural, 1944, © of the Estate of Vanessa Bell 1961 and the Estate of Duncan Grant 1978, courtesy of Henrietta Garnett. Photograph: berwickchurch.org.uk/bloomsbury.

In the preliminary sketch by Grant for The Crucifixion shown on the Berwick Church website, Christ is drawn in more detail; the head is still in the same position as in CHA/603/13 but the loin cloth is draped differently. In the coloured version of the drawing, the head is straighter and the cloth is tied and more full rather than draped. However, Christ’s torso in Grant’s coloured study CHA/P/603/11 is similar in shape and composition to that in Cimabue’s work.

cha-p-603-11-c

CHA/P/603/11, Duncan Grant, preliminary drawing for The Crucifixion, Berwick Church mural, c. 1943, gouache on paper. © The Estate of Duncan Grant. Photograph © The Charleston Trust.

Edward Le Bas, a close friend of Duncan Grant modelled for the figure of Christ in The Crucifixion mural.[6] When compared with the sketches detailed above, two other  studies CHA/P/2543 and CHA/P/2544 in the Angelica Garnett gift catalogue certainly seem to indicate that Grant was sketching from a life model, especially considering the detail depicted in muscle definition and proportion. Moreover, the head position, raised and looking upward to the right side is also nearer to that of the finished mural. 

cha-p-2543-r

CHA/P/2543 (above) and (below) CHA/P/ 2544, Duncan Grant, preliminary study for The Crucifixion, Berwick Church mural, c. 1943, pencil on paper, © The Estate of Duncan Grant. Photograph © The Charleston Trust.

cha-p-2544-r

It was in 1943, at the time that Grant was working on the church murals that Edward Le Bas first visited Charleston. He recalled his visit in a letter to Grant dated 2 July 1943:

‘I did enjoy the weekend, you’ve no idea how much: to see again how life can really be lived [….] The church paintings grow in my mind in calmness and power.’[7]

References:

[1] Frances Spalding, Duncan Grant: A biography, Pimlico, London (1998), p. 382.

[2] http://www.berwickchurch.org.uk/bloomsbury%20at%20berwick%20home.html

[3] Frances Spalding, Duncan Grant: A biography, p.384.

[4] Ibid., p.33.

[5] Ibid., p.97.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., p.397.

 

 

 

 

 

Book illustrations and jacket designs by Duncan Grant

As Charleston looks forward to a weekend of Centenary celebrations, ‘The Attic’ is being specially prepared to open its doors for visitors this Sunday 16 October. Rarely on show to the public, the space, accessed by narrow, steep stairs at the top of the farmhouse was once Vanessa Bells’ studio and now stores Charleston’s extensive archive collection and works of art.  

My first blog post as Charleston’s ‘Attic intern’ showcases some of Duncan Grant’s book illustrations and book jacket designs from the 1960s. Newly catalogued from the Angelica Garnett Gift is a collection of Duncan Grant’s correspondence regarding his illustrations for a previously undiscovered short story by Virginia Woolf featuring ‘Nurse Lugton’ and a book jacket design for a novel by Margaret Lane called A smell of burning.  

Nurse Lugton’s Curtain.

A letter dated 18 May 1865 written to Duncan Grant by John Willett of The Times Literary Supplement [TLS] discussed available space in the supplement for the ‘story and illustrations’:  

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CHA/E/253, ‘Letter to Duncan Grant from John Willett deputy editor of The Times Literary Supplement’, 18 May 1965. © The Estate of Duncan Grant. Photograph © The Charleston Trust.

Further research has revealed that ‘the story’ referred to in the letter was a children’s tale written by Virginia Woolf featuring a character named ‘Nurse Lugton’. It had been newly discovered in 1965 by children’s fiction author, Wallace Hildick (1925-2001). According to an article written by Hildick published in TLS of the 17 June 1965, this story had been found in the second volume of the Mrs Dalloway manuscript acquired by the British Museum in 1963. Hildick edited the story and it was framed with illustrations drawn by Duncan Grant and published alongside the newspaper article. [1]

 

woolf-tls

‘Children’s Books, The ….. by Virginia Woolf’, The Times Literary Supplement, Thursday, June 17, 1965; pg. 496; Issue 3303. © News International Associated Services Limited Gale Document Number: EX1200337421.

Also in the archives from the Angelica Garnett Gift are two manila envelopes which refer to Virginia Woolf’s story; item CHA/E/252 once contained an illustration and item CHA/E/251 is inscribed by Duncan Grant with a handwritten list of illustrations, such as ‘1. Nurse Lugton asleep’ which probably refers to the illustration of Nurse Lugton in the Times article.  

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CHA/E/252, verso, manila envelope, © The Estate of Duncan Grant: Photograph © The Charleston Trust.

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CHA/E/251, verso, manila envelope with inscription, © The Estate of Duncan Grant: Photograph © The Charleston Trust.

The Virginia Woolf Collection at the E.J. Pratt Library at the Victoria University in the University of Toronto holds a Duncan Grant drawing entitled Nurse Lugton was asleep with handwritten notes by Duncan Grant of the opening passage of the story, first published in 1965 in a collection as Nurse Lugton’s Curtain. In this version of the drawing Nurse Lugton looks somewhat different to her Times Literary Supplement counterpart.

nurse-lugton

Duncan Grant (1885-1978), Nurse Lugton was asleep, study for a page of Nurse Lugton’s Curtain by Virginia Woolf PR6045.O72 N8 1991 VUWO. Photograph: Victoria University in the University of Toronto.

A smell of burning

A letter from Roger Machell of Hamish Hamilton to Duncan Grant dated 10 August 1965 refers to Grants interest in designing a jacket for a novel by Margaret Lane (1907-1994) called A smell of burning.

a-smell-of-burning

Margaret Lane, A smell of burning, 1965, Hardcover, 1st Edition. Published 1965 by Hamish Hamilton. Image: Goodreads.com. Cover design by Duncan Grant.

The letter contains two sketches, one by Margaret Lane’s husband, Lord Huntingdon and the other by Margaret Lane herself ‘showing the kind of window that might make a suitable basis for a design’.[2]

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CHA/P/ 3122, Lord Huntingdon, Drawing (1), ideas for jacket design for A smell of burning, 1965. © The Estate of Duncan Grant. Photograph © The Charleston Trust.

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CHA/P/ 3121, Margaret Lane, Drawing (2), ideas for jacket design for A smell of burning, 1965. © The Estate of Duncan Grant. Photograph © The Charleston Trust.

Author and critic Margaret Lane was the former wife of Brian Wallace, son of writer, Edgar Wallace. She was the second wife of Lord Huntington whom she married in 1944. The couple lived at Black Bridge House in Beaulieu where her artistic talents were expressed  ‘Bloomsbury’ style: according to Elizabeth Jenkins writing Margaret’s obituary for the Independent,  her ‘creative faculty found expression in decorating surfaces [….] and in her later life the hobby of covering screens, pasted with a collage of scraps, wonderfully collected, each of them a work of art’.[3]

margaret-lane

Godfrey Argent, Margaret Lane (Lady Huntingdon), bromide print, 28 July 1969, Photographs Collection National Portrait Gallery x165942. © National Portrait Gallery, London.

[1] Wallace Hildick, ‘Virginia Woolf for Children?’, The Times Literary Supplement (London, England), Thursday, June 17, 1965; pg. 496; Issue 3303.

 [2] CHA/E/255, ‘designing a jacket for A smell of burning’, Letter from Roger Machell (editorial director) of Hamish Hamilton (publishers) to Duncan Grant, 10 August 1965, The Charleston Trust Archives. 

[3] Elizabeth Jenkins, ‘Obituary Margaret Lane’, Independent, Thursday 17 February 1994, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-margaret-lane-1394635.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duncan Grant and Henri Matisse

In August, the curatorial team began cataloguing the larger works on paper and canvas of the Angelica Garnett Gift. The discovery of a dynamic pencil drawing depicting four frantically moving figures encircling a fifth immediately bring Matisse’s famous work Dance to mind.

The rough sketch is undated and unsigned, and like so many of the quick ephemeral drawings by Grant in the Gift, it is in perfect condition. Was this sketch a design for a larger, more detailed work on canvas, perhaps? Had Grant directly been inspired by Matisse’s Dance?

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CHA/P/3004 Recto. Artist Unknown (Likely to be by Duncan Grant), study of moving figures in a circle, pencil on paper. Photograph © The Charleston Trust.

 

We have found several items in the archives that indicate an interest on the part of Bloomsbury in Matisse and his career. There are two records of Matisse exhibitions; one, a card for ‘The Exhibition of Contemporary French Painting’ (undated), and the other, a poster advertising a show at the Musee Matisse in 1955. We also found a commercial print of the work ‘Nu Bleu’, bought by Duncan Grant in 1968 after visiting the ‘Matisse 1869-1954’ Retrospective Exhibition at the Hayward Gallery by the Arts Council.

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CHA/E/222 Recto. Exhibition advertisement card, for Henri Matisse exhibition, date and place of exhibition unknown. Card © The Estate of Duncan Grant. . Photograph © The Charleston Trust.

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CHA/P/83 Recto. Print,  of Henri Matisse’s work ‘Nu Bleu’, purchased by Duncan Grant in 1968. Print © The Estate of Duncan Grant. . Photograph © The Charleston Trust.

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CHA/P/317  Recto. Poster, for Henri Matisse exhibition in Nice, France, in 1955. Poster © The Estate of Duncan Grant. Photograph © The Charleston Trust.

Nasturtiums, or Nasturtiums with the Painting ‘Dance’ I, as it was later named, features a memorable motif from the most well-known early modernist work by Matisse, ‘Dance’. In both works, the nude figures depicted form a circle, linked by their hands’ their bodies bowed in the joyful movement of dance. The scene is a celebratory one: the figures have shed their clothes with gay abandon, and are embracing all that is natural within and around themselves.

‘Here was a possible path,’ wrote Vanessa Bell of the first Post-Impressionist exhibition in 1910 in which Matisse’s work featured. ‘A sudden liberation and encouragement to feel for oneself, which were absolutely overwhelming.’[1] The desire to paint, then, matches the desire of Matisse’s nude figures to dance.

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Duncan Grant, ‘Dancers’, 1910, oil paint on canvas. Photograph © Tate.

Looking at Duncan Grant’s 1910 work Dancers , one can see straight away how Grant had been inspired by the bright colours, and the bold and dynamic figures caught in flowing movement that Matisse depicted in his Dance series. ‘It is as if Duncan had suddenly learnt to diminish the emphasis on materiality, on textures, light and shade, in order to allow for a more vibrant use of line, interval, structure and movement,’ writes Frances Spalding of Grant’s work. ‘Matisse helped liberate him from the tyranny of appearances.’

[1]Frances Spalding, Vanessa Bell, p.101

 

PS. It may be of interest to regular readers that we will shortly be bidding a sad farewell to the Charleston Attic. What a rewarding 6 months working as Curatorial Interns it has been- from the fascinating discoveries we have made to the in-depth research carried out, not forgetting our involvement with the Festival.

We would like to welcome our new Intern, Dr. Anne Stutchbury, to the Attic, and wish her the best of luck with her work.

A big thank you to our followers- your readership has been greatly appreciated! Keep following The Charleston Attic Blog for new and exciting archival discoveries and research insights…

 

Philippa Bougeard and Emily Hill

VBCHA-P-78

This week a team from Dulwich Picture Gallery visited Charleston for the day in order to photograph objects and interiors for the upcoming exhibition ‘Vanessa Bell 1876-1961’.

Europa and the Bull in ‘The Arts’

 

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Duncan Grant, illustration for ‘Europa and the Bull’ poem by W Rodgers, ‘The Arts’ journal, 1946.

This week in the Gift, we look at a series of objects that reveal a more commercial side to Duncan Grant’s work. In 1946 a commission by ‘The Arts’ a modern art journal, under the editorial supervision of Herbert Read, Edward Sackville-West, and Desmond Shawe-Taylor, provided a public platform for a new artistic collaboration. Grant’s contribution to the magazine was a painting and illustrated poem of ‘Europa and the Bull’ by W. R. Rodgers.

The Arts 17

‘The Arts’ Issues One and Two, Lund Humphries & Co Ltd; London.

‘The Arts’ was interdisciplinary in nature, covering a range of artistic forms and practices within each issue. The first two issues feature in detail painting, sculpture, architecture, theatre, film, music, poetry and philosophy. The journals were designed to be aesthetically stimulating, presenting cover work and illustrative interpretations of poems and prose by contemporary artists alongside high quality colour lithograph plate representations of more prominent works.

The utilization of a variety of paper and print techniques emphasize the depth and detail in the featured images; the subsequent quality of the images were evidently realized by the editorial board. Content was also held in high regard as the journal features many esteemed writers such as Clive Bell (this was most likely the connection that secured Grant his commission), Edward Sackville-West, Robert Medley, Sir Kenneth Clark, Benedict Nicolson and Raymond Mortimer amongst others. At ten shillings a book the high quality was quite matched by the price, and readership would have most probably been limited to the educated middle classes. With only two issues published, Issue One in 1946 and Two in 1947, information regarding the journal is unfortunately limited.

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 CHA/P/2705 Recto. Duncan Grant, design for ‘Europa and the Bull’ poem by W Rodgers, pen on paper. Photograph © The Charleston Trust

Duncan Grant’s works in the gift includes studies for the illustrated poem as well as the final piece used. Gaining inspiration from ‘Europa and the Bull’, Grant’s form emulates classical mythology as well as the natural world. The cross-hatching of black penned lines against the text blurs the poem into the piece, mirroring the imperfect lines of language. Impressionistic in line, the inscribed pen strokes add texture and tone to the image.

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‘The Arts’ Issue One, Lund Humphries & Co Ltd; London.

The opening page of the poem and thus Grants illustrated segment (this original was not found in the AG gift), is strikingly juxtaposed with a large photograph. An abstracted female form seated pronounces a smooth modernist sculpture by Henry Moore, which sits opposite the contrasting classical design. A black pen illustration envelopes the poems text, showing seated female nudes frolicking in the textured grass. This work somewhat mirrors the panels Grant produced for the Cunnard Commission, a design for interior decorative panels to be exhibited on RMS Queen Mary (although these were later rejected).

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‘The Arts’ Issue One, Lund Humphries & Co Ltd; London.

 The feature comes to a close with a lucid and bright painting by Grant. A matte paper displays the colours in block form and in an array of fresh pastels we are finally introduced to Europa. She lays nude on the back of the Bull, one arm above her head gesturing playfully with a red scarf, the bull moves steadily through the water, expressive of a unity between them.

Two images within the gift show studies for this final print, evidencing differing concepts for the composition of the piece. Grants inspiration from the myth of Europa is clear; where Zeus captures her in the form of white bull and their sexual relationship legitimises Europa’s powerful son, King Minos of Crete.

CHA/P/2626 & CHA/P/2627 Recto. Duncan Grant, designs for ‘Europa and the Bull’ poem by W Rodgers, pencil on paper. Photograph © The Charleston Trust

The piece below is a design that did not make the final print, though it could have been inspiration for the final image used as the same colour palette is evident.

CHA/P/2704 Recto & Verso. Duncan Grant, design for ‘Europa and the Bull’ poem by W Rodgers, inscription “Design for ‘Europa and the Bull’ poem by W Rogers, (sic) c1945”, pencil and gouache on paper. Photograph © The Charleston Trust

This set of images were not Grants only work produced for the journal; also linked is a study for a front cover of ‘the Arts’ in his usual bold style full of form and movement. Figures appear to be dancing across the pages, acrobatics with circular instruments create motifs repeated throughout the piece displayed in the curves of the male physique and reflected in the text form. We do not know if this was an early study for one of the initial two journals or a suggestion for the next, nevertheless production for ‘the Arts’ was unfortunately discontinued in 1948.

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CHA/P/1803 Recto. Duncan Grant, cover design of ‘The Arts’ journal, never produced, watercolour on paper. Photograph © The Charleston Trust

 

 

On Vanessa Bell’s Birthday: 30th May 1879

Vanessa Bell née Stephen was born on this day in 1879. A key member in the creation of the Bloomsbury aesthetic, Vanessa was a prolific worker and over the course of her life produced vast quantities of paintings, drawings, interior design and furniture decorations, woodcuts, book covers, textile and crockery designs. There is a large portion of her work in the AG Gift, spanning from her earliest days at Charleston to her death in 1961.

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CHA/P/606 Vanessa Bell. Sketchbook. Photograph © The Charleston Trust.

Today, on the day of Vanessa Bells birthday, we are sharing works found in Charleston archives, that celebrate the legacy she left here.

 

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CHA/P/174 Recto. Vanessa Bell, The Kitchen,  c.1943,  painting.  Photograph © The Charleston Trust.

Painted from inside Charleston this image shows a young Grace Higgins, Charleston’s housekeeper (1920-70), in the kitchen  preparing a meal. A basket of fresh vegetables from the garden lay in the foreground these would have been an important part of supplementing rations during wartime. With the help of Grace, Vanessa ran an orderly and welcoming household and Grace’ work meant that Vanessa could paint full time.

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 CHA/P/2501 Recto. Vanessa Bell, print of classical scene in Rome, ink on paper. Photograph © The Charleston Trust.

Vanessa’s travels are well documented in the gift and she explored France, Italy and England often in the summertime. Painted during a trip to Rome this image shows a picturesque scene of a church with sculptures that stand on plinths in front of its facade. Vanessa was inspired by both the classical architecture and art of these destinations. Many classical figures and studies are featured within sketchbooks in the gift.

 

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CHA/DEC/3 Vanessa Bell, Fireplace early 19th Century, painted 1925-30, marble. Photograph © The Charleston Trust

This colourful and modern fireplace painted between 1925 and 1930 shows Vanessa’s skill in abstracted domestic design. Proudly displaying her cross hatching and circular motif this playful piece is perhaps a quinessential example of Bloomsbury design aesthetic. Situated in Clive Bell’s study this is one of the first objects visitors view when visiting Charleston today.

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