The Art of Bloomsbury : Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell, and Duncan Grant, Paperback

The Art of Bloomsbury : Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell, and Duncan Grant Paperback

5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


The word Bloomsbury most often summons the novels of Virginia Woolf and E.

M. Forster or images of artists and intellectuals debating the hot parlor topics of 1910s and 1920s London: literary aesthetics, agnosticism, defining truth and goodness, and the ideas of Bertrand Russell, A.

N. Whitehead, and G. E. Moore. But the Bloomsbury Group also played a prominent role in the development of modernist painting in Britain.

The work of artists Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Roger Fry, and their colleagues was often audacious and experimental, and proved to be one of the key influences on twentieth-century British art and design.

This catalogue, published to accompany a major international exhibition of the Bloomsbury painters originating at the Tate Gallery in London and traveling to the Yale Center for British Art and the Huntington Art Gallery, provides a new look at the visual side of a movement that is more generally known for its literary production.

It traces the artists' development over several decades and assesses their contribution to modernism. Catalogue entries on two hundred works, all illustrated in color, bring out the chief characteristics of Bloomsbury painting--domestic, contemplative, sensuous, and essentially pacific.

These are seen in landscapes, portraits, and still lifes set in London, Sussex, and the South of France, as well as in the abstract painting and applied art that placed these artists at the forefront of the avant-garde before the First World War.

Portraits of family and friends--from Virginia Woolf and Maynard Keynes to Aldous Huxley and Edith Sitwell--highlight the cultural and social setting of the group.

Essays by leading scholars provide further insights into the works and the changing critical reaction to them, exploring friendships and relationships both within and outside of Bloomsbury, as well as the movement's wider social, economic, and political background.

With beautiful illustrations and a highly accessible text, this catalogue represents a unique look at this fascinating artistic enclave.

In addition to the editor, the contributors are James Beechey and Richard Morphet. Exhibition Schedule: The Tate Gallery, London November 4, 1999-January 30, 2000 The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens San Marino, California The Yale Center for British Art New Haven, Connecticut May 20-September 2, 2000


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 296 pages, 200 color plates 70 halftones
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Geography
  • ISBN: 9780691095141



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Three essays follow the foreword: “The Artists of Bloomsbury: Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant” by Richard Shone; “Image and Theme in Bloomsbury Art” by Richard Morphet; and “Defining Modernism: Roger Fry and Vanessa Bell in the 1920s” by James Beechey. In his essay Richard Shone, Associate Editor of The Burlington Magazine and author of several Art books, challenges previously held views and assumptions regarding the Bloomsbury Group, and reminds us that the tag ‘Bloomsbury’ was not a name they themselves used, nor did they think of themselves as special group as such. He also considers the influence Duncan Grant in particular exerted. Similarly Richard Morphet directly confronts commonly held views and frequent criticisms of the Bloomsbury painters and also considers the aims of the group. James Beechey discusses the roll, positive of otherwise, Vanessa Bell and Roger Fry played in the art world on the 1920s. Each of the essays makes for most interesting reading, not only for the discussions of the work of the artists, but also for the accounts of the unconventional life stories of the members of the group as a whole. Even by today’s standards their close-knit private lives might raise a few eyebrows. The main part of the book contains the catalogue of the works in the exhibition. Each work is illustrated in colour, and each is accompanied by a sometimes lengthy commentary. These commentaries themselves make fascinating reading containing as they often do, in addition to a critical appraisal of the work in question, yet more details further embellishing the colourful lives of the artists. In addition to Fry, Bell and Grant, the catalogue includes a few examples of the work of several other of the painters associated with the Bloomsbury Group: Walter Sickert, Max Beerbohm and Henry Lamb among others, and also the work of the Omega Workshops.The book is superbly illustrated; in addition to the 200 colour plates are a further 70 monochromes, the latter including preliminary sketches, woodcuts and period photographs. Many of the colour plates are full or half page size. The book includes an illustrated chronology for each of the three main artists. The book includes a bibliography and an index. The Art of Bloomsbury is a sumptuous volume; for me the work of Duncan Grant stands out particularly, it is interesting to see his work change over the years. It is clear too to see the influence of earlier artists in his work, as well as detect where his work either influenced of predicted the work of subsequent artists. 11.75” x 9.25” (29.2 cm x 23.6 cm) 296 pages. ISBN 0691095140 Paperback. ISBN 0691049939. First published 1999, reprinted 2002.

Review by

Careful, thorough and thoughtful discussion and criticism of each painting shown. Only easel paintings were covered, and the wall and furniture decorations and Omega workshop designs were omitted. The beautiful reproductions are large and mostly in color. This book is altogether a joy, and gives Roger Fry and Vanessa Bell equal treatment with Duncan Grant who overshadowed them in life. A treasure.

Also by Richard Shone