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Mrs Webb and Mrs Woolf

Michael Holroyd, 7 November 1985

... has since become. The reputation of E.M. Forster was in decline. The paintings of Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell were not privately collected and had been demoted to the cellars of many public galleries. The art criticism of Roger Fry and Clive Bell was no longer considered significant, and few people knew the name of ...

Forster in Cambridge

Richard Shone, 30 July 2020

... years since Grant had last seen them: in 1920 they had been overlaid with panels by himself and Vanessa Bell. He was moved to see the original decorations of 1910-11 and remembered his despair at failing to finish them, throwing down his brush and bursting into tears, as he told us later. Forster delighted in this recollection: ‘Yes, with me it was ...

Lady Talky

Alison Light: Lydia Lopokova, 18 December 2008

Bloomsbury Ballerina: Lydia Lopokova, Imperial Dancer and Mrs John Maynard Keynes 
by Judith Mackrell.
Weidenfeld, 476 pp., £25, April 2008, 978 0 297 84908 7
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... young men and intense young women with bobbed hair – and leading intellectuals too. Clive Bell praised the absence of naturalism and the emptying out of the characters; T.S. Eliot argued that on stage Massine embodied all that was ‘most completely unhuman, impersonal, abstract’. No longer clogged by Romanticism, soaring or sinking into emotion, it ...

Bourgeois Reveries

Julian Bell: Farmer Eliot, 3 February 2011

Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper 
by Alexandra Harris.
Thames and Hudson, 320 pp., £19.95, October 2010, 978 0 500 25171 3
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... a historically meaningful term. As is her claim that the wartime murals done by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell in the Sussex church of Berwick, 30 years after their moment at London’s artistic forefront, somehow represent a ‘homecoming of modernism’: on the contrary, the artists were reverting to their Slade education in Italian fresco as if ...


Mary Ann Caws: Roland Penrose’s notebooks, 19 October 2006

Visiting Picasso: The Notebooks and Letters of Roland Penrose 
by Elizabeth Cowling.
Thames and Hudson, 408 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 500 51293 0
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... there from 1923, set up a studio with Yanko Varda, and became close friends with Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Virginia and Leonard Woolf, all of whom spent time in Cassis during those years. Through Max Ernst, a friend of Boué’s, he met the Surrealist poets and painters, and with Herbert Read and David Gascoyne, introduced Surrealism to ...

Vita Longa

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 1 December 1983

Vita: The Life of V. Sackville-West 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Weidenfeld, 430 pp., £12.50, September 1983, 0 297 78306 8
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... for the first time the previous evening. The Nicolsons were introduced into Bloomsbury by Clive Bell and generally considered a bad thing: ‘I mean,’ wrote Mrs Woolf, ‘we judged them both incurably stupid. He is bluff, but oh so obvious; she, Duncan thought, took the cue from him and had nothing free to say.’ Virginia never changed her mind about ...

Happy you!

Rosemary Dinnage, 21 July 1994

Intimate Letters: Leoš Janáček to Kamilá Stösslová 
edited and translated by John Tyrrell.
Faber, 397 pp., £25, January 1993, 0 571 14466 7
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Pirandello’s Love Letters to Marta Abba 
edited and translated by Benito Ortolani.
Princeton, 363 pp., £24.95, June 1994, 0 691 03499 0
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Significant Others: Creativity and Intimate Partnership 
edited by Whitney Chadwick and Isabelle de Courtivron.
Thames and Hudson, 256 pp., £14.95, June 1993, 9780500015667
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... father were still alive she could have written nothing: a significant other can be damaging. Of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, Lisa Tickner points out how Bell’s art flowered during her first years with Grant. It also declined thereafter; and the deep sadness picked up by the portraits and photos of ...

Make use of me

Jeremy Treglown: Olivia Manning, 9 February 2006

Olivia Manning: A Life 
by Neville Braybrooke and June Braybrooke.
Chatto, 301 pp., £20, November 2004, 0 7011 7749 7
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... a heroine of Manning’s teens. The Braybrookes tell us that ‘she used to have dreams in which Vanessa Bell and her sister Virginia came floating towards her like beautiful swans.’ An assiduous user of the public library, the young Olivia took out Jacob’s Room almost as soon as it arrived there. But her tastes were catholic: Rider Haggard’s Zulu ...

Strenuously Modern

Rosemary Hill: At Home with the Stracheys, 3 March 2005

Bombay to Bloomsbury: A Biography of the Strachey Family 
by Barbara Caine.
Oxford, 488 pp., £25, February 2005, 0 19 925034 0
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... he eventually divorced, married somebody else. Marjorie was heartbroken, much to the amusement of Vanessa Bell and Ottoline Morrell, who had set the whole thing up as a spiteful joke in the first place. Depending on the view one forms of the Stracheys, Marjorie, who seems to have been largely good-natured and high-spirited to the end, is either a sad ...

You better not tell me you forgot

Terry Castle: How to Spot Members of the Tribe, 27 September 2012

All We Know: Three Lives 
by Lisa Cohen.
Farrar Straus, 429 pp., £22.50, July 2012, 978 0 374 17649 5
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... in Bloomsbury and other bohemian redoubts. However fleetingly, Virginia Woolf, Rebecca West, Vanessa Bell, Raymond Mortimer, Roger Fry, Vita Sackville-West, Frederick Ashton and the like made Vogue, for a couple of seasons, a contemporary intellectual and artistic touchstone. Still, it ended in tears, perhaps not surprisingly, given Todd’s ...

Georgie came, Harry went

Frank Kermode, 25 April 1991

A Passionate Apprentice. The Early Journals of Virginia Woolf, 1897-1909 
edited by Mitchell Leaska.
Hogarth, 444 pp., £25, October 1990, 0 7012 0845 7
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A Very Close Conspiracy: Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf 
by Jane Dunn.
Cape, 338 pp., £16.99, October 1990, 0 224 02234 2
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... twenties Virginia was justifiably proud of earning some as a conscientious book reviewer. Clive Bell is said to have discovered in 1908 that Virginia had a future as a writer, but anybody who had seen the journals might have known it two or three years earlier. There is certainly plenty of evidence that ‘the instinct’ to write ‘wells like sap in a ...

Victorian Vocations

Frank Kermode, 6 December 1984

Frederic Harrison: The Vocations of a Positivist 
by Martha Vogeler.
Oxford, 493 pp., £27.50, September 1984, 0 19 824733 8
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Leslie Stephen: The Godless Victorian 
by Noël Annan.
Weidenfeld, 432 pp., £16.50, September 1984, 0 297 78369 6
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... historical work is likewise forgotten. But Stephen was also the father of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, the original of Mr Ramsay in To the Lighthouse, and a figure in many memoirs that happen to interest us because Bloomsbury interests us. We have a strong preconception of Stephen’s rich melancholic character, and it has been reinforced not ...

Terror on the Vineyard

Terry Castle: Boss Ladies, Watch Out!, 15 April 1999

A Likely Story: One Summer with Lillian Hellman 
by Rosemary Mahoney.
Doubleday, 273 pp., $23.95, November 1998, 9780385479318
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... with Kindness: A Bloomsbury Childhood (1984), with its quietly devastating portrait of her mother Vanessa Bell, is one of the more subtle; more tendentious is Maria Riva’s Marlene Dietrich (1992) – another mother-daughter horror story – or Bianca Lamblin’s 1993 Mémoires d’une jeune fille dérangée, translated into English in 1996 as A ...

Humph, He, Ha

Julian Barnes: Degas’s Achievement, 4 January 2018

Degas: A Passion for Perfection 
Fitzwilliam Museum/Cambridge, until 14 January 2018Show More
Degas Danse Dessin: Hommage à Degas avec Paul Valéry 
Musée d’Orsay/Paris, until 25 February 2018Show More
Drawn in Colour: Degas from the Burrell 
National Gallery, London, until 7 May 2018Show More
Degas and His Model 
by Alice Michel, translated by Jeff Nagy.
David Zwirner, 88 pp., £8.95, June 2017, 978 1 941701 55 3
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... Credi metalpoint; or that the largest picture on view would be a frothy, larky double portrait by Vanessa Bell of Mr and Mrs Maynard Keynes. The show is densely hung, with ten sections crammed into three rooms; but this rather serves as a confirmation of the hurlyburlyness of art’s history, and of how the continuing clamour of the past acts as a ...

Doctors’ Orders

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 18 February 1982

‘All that summer she was mad’: Virginia Woolf and Her Doctors 
by Stephen Trombley.
Junction, 338 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 9780862450397
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... ones, that ‘the manner in which Virginia’s madness is discussed by Leonard Woolf, Quentin Bell or the editors of the Letters and Diary shows that their use of the term is at best uncritical, and at worst irresponsible,’ Trombley sets out to show that there is no ‘concrete evidence’ that Virginia Woolf was mad. Or, to quote an early and ringing ...

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