The Art of Vanessa Bell

Bell, Vanessa; Still Life; Bradford Museums and Galleries; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/still-life-22985

Every now and again I like to share with you a painting or an artist I love.  Vanessa Bell is one such artist.  I was fortunate enough to visit the recent exhibition of her work at The Dulwich Picture Gallery.  It was such a treat, and easily one of my favourite exhibitions in recent years.  If you haven’t come across Vanessa Bell or her work, she was a modernist painter,  a central figure of the Bloomsbury Group, and of course sister to Virginia Woolf.  She created paintings, still life, abstracts and landscapes, created ceramics and beautiful fabrics.

I was first introduced to Vanessa Bells art by a  friend who took me to Charleston.  Charleston was the former home of Bell and Duncan Grant and a hub of creative and intellectual activity during the early 20th century.  I immediately fell in love with both Charleston and Vanessa Bells work.  The colours, the patterns, and often the homeliness of the paintings.  So many of Bells paintings of domestic scenes are scenes I would like to step into.  Vases of flowers, patterned fabrics and contrasting colours, the like of which appeal to my ascetic tendancies.

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A detail from The Other Room (late 1930s,) by Vanessa Bell. Photograph: © The Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy of Henrietta Garnett

A painting I have only recently seen, as it was on display at the exhibition in Dulwich is this one called ‘On The Steps of Santa Maria Salute’ in Venice.  The mellowness and calm of the light apricot coloured building against the pale blue sky is beautiful.  It portrays a warmth and gentle side of Venice without the myriad of gondolas or tourists which so often litter Venice scenes.

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On the Steps of Santa Maria Salute, Venice, 1948. Images © The Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy of Henrietta Garnett.

‘Oranges and Lemons’ below has become a recent favourite.  I recently bought the print and it is now framed and hanging on my sitting room wall for me to gaze on whenever I want!

Oranges and Lemons

Oranges and Lemons 1914

If you want to see Vanessa Bells work in its original setting then might I suggest a trip to Charleston, the former home of Bell and Duncan Grant.  You can read more about Charleston here.

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