The show is curated in partnership with Richard Shone, author of Bloomsbury Portraits, 1993 and curator of ‘The Art of Bloomsbury’ at Tate, 1999. It explores the unique creative relationship of Vanessa Bell (1879-1961) and Duncan Grant (1885-1978) through works drawn from private and public collections.
As a result of recent related exhibitions (‘Vanessa Bell’, Dulwich Picture Gallery, 2017; ‘Bloomsbury: Art and Design’, Courtauld Gallery, 2017), several pieces not seen in public for many years have come to light. To accompany these works, a selection of rarely lent paintings and ceramics from Charleston, the artists’ home in Sussex, will also be on display. Particular emphasis will be placed on their decorative designs, inviting visitors to enter Bell and Grant’s world, providing new insights to their domestic environment and their shared creative vision. Much print and even film has been devoted to their unusual personal relationship – her love for him, their child, his gay preferences, which only intensified the artistic rapport that spurred them on.
Highlights include some of the radical paintings Bell and Grant produced during their association with Roger Fry’s highly influential Omega Workshops between 1913 and 1919. They went on to collaborate on interior schemes such as that for John Maynard Keynes’s rooms in King’s College, Cambridge. Studies for these wall panels have resurfaced in recent years having not been exhibited publicly for three decades. One of Bell and Grant’s most spectacular collaborations came in 1933 when the art historian and director of the National Gallery, Kenneth Clark and his wife Jane, commissioned a large painted dinner service. The fifty plates, shown in the exhibition, were decorated with images of famous women through the ages, from Sappho to Greta Garbo. Its whereabouts unknown, even to scholars, for many years, this unique service forms an impressive testament to Bell and Grant’s close working partnership. Major oils from their post-impressionist years to the height of Charleston’s glory in the thirties will also be shown.