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COLLECTING GUIDES Bloomsbury Group artwork

Before long all three were regular visitors, along along with the couple’s two young children (Julian and Quentin) as well as the daughter Angelica which Bell and Grant had together.

This unconventional and creative coterie quickly welcomed other leading lights of the Bloomsbury Group to the new home for extended periods, with visitors including the art historian and critic, Roger Fry; influential economist, John Maynard Keynes and the writer and critic, Lytton Strachey (Grant’s former lover).

The writer and political theorist, Leonard Woolf; Thoby Stephens (Vanessa and Virginia’s brother) and Russian ballerina, Lydia Lopokova (Keynes’ wife) also stayed at the farmhouse.

Bell enthused about her new home in a letter to Fry. She wrote: “The pond is most beautiful with a willow at one side & a stone – or flint – wall edging it all round the garden part, & a little lawn sloping down to it, with formal bushes on it. Then there’s a small orchard & the walled garden…& another lawn or bit of field railed in beyond.

Escape to the COUNTRY

A new exhibition opening this month shines a light on the Bloomsbury Group’s rural retreat, Charleston Farmhouse in Sussex,

and the incredible work it inspired

With its bucolic setting in the rolling heart of the South Downs, where tumbledown barns sit amid the colour of a fecund English garden, it’s easy to see why

Charleston Farmhouse was a rural haven for the Bloomsbury Group in the early 20th century.

A new exhibition at Philip Mould Gallery in London’s St James’s showcases 32 artworks by the influential group, revealing how much of an inspiration the farmhouse was for more than half a century – even evoking comparison with Monet’s home in Giverny.

It was Leonard and Virginia Woolf who first discovered the property which, on the downs by Firle Beacon, was close to their own Sussex house.

She introduced it to her artist sister, Vanessa Bell (1879-1961), her husband Clive Bell (1881-1964) and her lover, the artist Duncan Grant (1885-1978) with Bell signing the lease in 1916.

Above The gardens at Charleston inspired the artistic residents. Photo Penelope Fewster

Right Vanessa Bell ((1879-1961) Interior with the Artist’s Daughter c.1935-6

LOVE LIFE Away from the confines of the capital, this artistic diaspora quickly turned the somewhat stolid and square farmhouse into a hub of creativity and a setting for alternative ways of living. As famously noted by the American satirist Dorothy Parker: “They lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles.”

Bell’s painting, The Pond, 1916, was, according to Grant, her first painting produced at Charleston and featured one of the main reasons she decided to move to the farmhouse. Grant’s own work The Hammock, Charleston (c. 1921-1922) shows Bell, her three young children and their tutor lounging on a summer’s day.

Two other notable family portraits feature Grant’s 1930 portrait of Julian Bell, his lover’s son who died seven years later in the Spanish Civil War aged just 29. The second is Vanessa Bell’s own work of her 18-yearold daughter Angelica in a book-filled interior. The tender moment pre-dates Angelica’s discovery she was, in fact, Grant’s not Clive Bell’s daughter, a revelation which caused a rift in the family.


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