Bloomsbury Art & Design
18 February – 21 September 2017
This special display explores the artistic and literary creativity of early 20th-century London, drawing from the Courtauld’s collection of work by Bloomsbury Group artists.
Meeting at the home of Virginia Woolf and her sister Vanessa Bell, the collective of artists, writers and intellectuals that became known as the Bloomsbury Group worked across a range of media, producing literature, paintings and applied arts. While the literary strand of the group is perhaps more famous, the artists – most prominently Bell, Roger Fry and Duncan Grant – have also had a lasting influence.
London’s Courtauld Gallery holds one of the most extensive collections of works by these artists and in this new display presents a wide-ranging selection of objects, many of them originally bequeathed by Fry in 1935.
With the aim of encouraging artists to create ‘objects for common life’, Fry had set up a studio and showroom called the Omega Workshops in 1913, where artists made household items such as rugs, ceramics and furniture – bringing an expressive touch to functional goods in opposition to the uniformity of mass production. Though the workshops closed in 1919, these six years perhaps represented the Bloomsbury Group’s most intense period of creativity, and many of these collaboratively produced works are on display here.
Vanessa Bell's painting, A Conversation (1913-16). What is being said in this picture, where three women speak earnestly, perhaps even conspiratorially to each other? Bell's sister Virginia Woolf praised this painting in a letter to her sibling, calling her 'a conveyer of impressions about human life: a short story writer of great wit'.