VANESSA BELL (1879-1961)

The Bird Cage

Country of Origin England
Dated 1920
Medium Oil on original canvas
Signed/Dated Signed lower right
Dimensions 26.00inch wide (66.04 cm wide)
20.00inch high (50.80 cm high)
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VANESSA BELL (1879-1961) Biography

Vanessa Bell was the daughter of Sir Leslie Stephen, the sister of Virginia Woolf and the wife of the art historian Clive Bell. She started her training with the Royal Academician Sir Arthur Cope, and continued it at the Royal Academy of Art under the direction of the American portrait painter John Singer Sargent between 1900 and 1904.
 
In the spring of 1904, after the death of her father, she undertook a study trip to Italy, and then set up home with her sister and their two brothers in the Bloomsbury district of London. They became accustomed to receiving artist and writer friends like Giles Lytton Strachey, the economist John Maynard Keynes and the ballerina Sokolowa. They thus formed the Bloomsbury Group, over which Virginia was to preside. The Group was to play an important part in English intellectual life before and after World War I. Vanessa Bell took part with four canvases in the second showing in London of Post-Impressionist paintings organised by Roger Fry. This event also featured the painter Duncan Grant, who was soon to share her life. From 1928 to 1939 she spent several periods of time in France, at Cassis. In 1938 she became a lecturer at the Euston Road School. Their 18th-century house in Sussex, at Charleston, was turned into a museum devoted to the two artists in 1980.
 
Vanessa Bell's style, at first naturalist, was influenced by Cézanne and Matisse, and became more and more abstract from 1914 onwards. This evolution has been seen as a consequence of her participation in the research carried out in the studios of Roger Fry in the field of the decorative arts. In fact she worked for the Omega Workshops founded in London in 1913, decorating pieces of furniture, designing wallpapers and dust covers, book covers and stage sets. She also illustrated with woodcuts several works by Virginia Woolf. Vanessa Bell continued in the 1920s to take an interest in the decorative arts, and notably designed furnishing fabrics. In regard to painting, she returned to a more figurative approach to reality with portraits and interiors.
 
Group Exhibitions
 
1997, Bloomsbury: Books, Art and Design, Victoria University Library, Toronto
1999, The Art of Bloomsbury: Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, Tate Gallery, London
2004, The Edwardians: Secrets and Desires, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (travelling exhibition)
2006, From Victorian to Modern: Innovation and Tradition in the Work of Vanessa Bell, Gwen John and Laura Knight, Djanogly Art Gallery, Nottingham (travelling exhibition)
2007, Omega Lives: The Omega Workshops and the Hogarth Press, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts
Solo Exhibitions
 
1964, Arts Council of Great Britain, London
Museum and Gallery Holdings
 
Aberdeen (AG): Still-life by the Studio Window (c. 1950)
Bolton (Mus. and AG): View into a Garden (1926)
Cambridge (Fitzwilliam Mus.): Portrait of Mrs M. (1919, oil on canvas)
Cheltenham (AG & Mus.): Window Still-life (c. 1915, oil on canvas); Landscape with a Pond and Water Lilies (c. 1915, on the back of 'Window Still-life')
Eastbourne (Towner AG): No. 8 Fitzroy Street (c. 1920s, oil on canvas)
Firle (Charleston Farmhouse): house decorated by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant and large collection of works
Leeds (University Art Collection): Triple Alliance (c. 1915, oil, pastel and papier collé)
London (National Portrait Gal.): Virginia Woolf (née Stephen) (1912, oil/panel); two other portraits
London (Tate Collection): Pheasants (1931, oil on canvas); Frederick and Jessie Etchells Painting (1912, oil/wood); Studland Beach. Verso: Group of Male Nudes by Duncan Grant (c. 1912, oil on canvas, on the back: 'Group of Male Nudes', by Duncan Grant); Nude (1922-1923, oil on canvas); Still-life on Corner of a Mantelpiece (1914, oil on canvas); Abstract Painting (c. 1914, oil on canvas); Mrs St John Hutchinson (1915, oil/panel); The Tub (1917, oil and gouache/canvas); Chrysanthemums (1920, oil on canvas); Interior with a Table (1921, oil on canvas)
London (Victoria and Albert Mus.): Bathers in a Landscape (1913-1914)
Manchester (City AG): Red-Hot Pokers (1921, oil on canvas); Still Life with Flowers (1923, oil on canvas)
New York (MoMA): Composition (c. 1914, oil, gouache and papier collé); Duncan Grant Painting in a Mirror (c. 1915-1916, oil on board)
Sheffield (City AG): Charleston Pond (c. 1919)
Toronto (Victoria University Library): Study for the Portrait of Leonard Woolf (1938, oil on paper, studies for Hogarth Press book covers)


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