Blooming of a square set

Art Made Modern - The Art of Bloomsbury - Roger Fry - Omega and After - The Bloomsbury Artists
November 26, 1999

Will the fascination with Bloomsbury survive the century? Tom Rosenthal thinks it should.
 
No, Not Bloomsbury was Malcolm Bradbury's title for a volume of his occasional pieces. The title essay was about the comic fiction of Kingsley Amis and the epigraph came from Lucky Jim : "While he explained, he pronounced the names to himself: Bayswater, Knightsbridge, Notting Hill Gate, Pimlico, Belgrave Square, Wapping, Bloomsbury. No, not Bloomsbury." Would Belgrave Square or Knightsbridge have resounded around the world with quite such an impact?

Almost certainly not. And one can see why Amis's comic hero, Jim Dickson, and indeed Amis, would want to have nothing to do with Bloomsbury. All that high thinking and plain living would not appeal to them.

Bloomsbury, the dernier cri of academe and publishing in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, particularly in America, seems to have become less popular. Would we today put up with the exquisite irony that Michael Holroyd's two-volume life of Lytton Strachey was devoted to a man who wrote, in Eminent Victorians , four miniature biographical masterpieces in the space of about half of one of Holroyd's justly praised volumes?

Have we perhaps lost interest in Bloomsbury because of the overkill of squirrel-scholars producing the laundry lists of minor figures and analyses of the railway timetables that linked London, Cambridge and Charleston when the denizens of this high-minded world had their endless and varied philosophical and sexual congress? It was, after all, only a group of like-minded people. It was not in any sense a movement, nor did its principal members see themselves at the time as anything other than an extraordinary coterie of friends. The American writer and historian Henry Adams once said of Boston that it was not a place but a state of mind. The same applies to Bloomsbury.

Yet Bloomsbury has indubitably become much less fashionable, which is unjust. This autumn and winter sees an explosion of Bloomsbury exhibitions and publications that should restore it to a level that not even Amis would be able to jest about.

I shall never forget, while an undergraduate at Cambridge, the contemptuous tones of F. R. Leavis in the lecture hall as he dismissed Virginia Woolf: "a slender talent"; and he did not have much time for T. S. Eliot either - never a fully paid-up member, but certainly on the periphery of the circle.

You do not need to be one of those earnest American feminist idolaters and victim seekers to see Woolf as a far from slender talent. Not, of course, up to the standard of her fellow Bloomsberry E. M. Forster, but still a most considerable novelist.

In fact, it is difficult, particularly with the current artistic and literary hive of activity, to see how anyone can see Bloomsbury whole and plain and not be impressed. Certainly there should be no sneers as one takes stock of what they left us: Virginia Woolf and Forster, author of perhaps the best English novel of this century, A Passage to India ; Leonard Woolf himself as publisher and diarist; not only the savagely iconoclastic Lytton Strachey but his more stolid brother James (with James's wife Alix), without whose translations we would not have the readily accessible entire corpus of Sigmund Freud, which some of us persist in regarding as probably the most profoundly influential body of intellectual work produced by one man in our century. Where would our academic economists and our Treasury mandarins be without John Maynard Keynes's The Economic Consequences of the Peace and the books that followed? Where indeed would so many impecunious artists, musicians and writers be, had Keynes not invented and set up the Arts Council? And then we have the artists whose work we can now examine so fully at the Tate Gallery: Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Roger Fry. And, a mile or so closer into the centre of London, there is the Courtauld Gallery exhibition devoted to Fry as polymath. A few of his paintings are there, but we are able to see and read about his rather more significant work as the great catalytic figure in British art in the first half of the century. Both exhibitions are accompanied by the massive, scholarly books here under review. Their contribution to our understanding and appreciation of Bloomsbury is worth a hundred dull PhD theses.

So many people read Virginia Woolf, Forster, Keynes et al . that it is a great bonus to have so strong a display of the purely visual arts. Inevitably, given the social cohesiveness of the group, the art shows up vividly what they looked like and how they lived. That, to this observer at least, is the principal virtue of the exhibition. If one were to compose a pantheon of British artists in this century, it would be hard to include Bell, Fry and Grant in it. All three are highly competent, at times charming, and all have absorbed, largely because of Fry's entrepreneurial and critical activities, the all-pervasive lessons of Cezanne and Matisse. Yet, overall, there is something over-derivative and eclectic, even anaemic, about their painting.

One wonders whether, without the rich associations conjured up by the Bloomsbury label, this exhibition could have been mounted with the lavishness of Prudential sponsorship, or the full benefits of the erudition of Richard Shone and his co-authors.

With the exception of the striking Abstract Composition of 1915, Grant's abstract work is thin stuff. Fry is often little more than a master of Cezanne pastiche. Vanessa Bell nicely fills out her sister Virginia's phrase "a room of one's own", but it is all very low key; she is no Bonnard.

And yet it is still an exhibition and book of abiding fascination because of the associative grandeur of the portraits. Even the minor additional artists included add to the pleasure. Dora Carrington's painting of E. M. Forster is a finely observed view of this wonderfully liberated and liberating writer and so deeply repressed human being. It is one of those rare portraits that is both a close physical likeness and an acute analytical examination of character. So, in its very different way, is Simon Bussy's oil caricature of Lady Ottoline Morrell. She has always been someone difficult to take seriously, and Bussy does not in any way ease that task. Duncan Grant also caricatures her in his own more substantial painting of the chatelaine of Garsington but he does, even with that preposterous hat, give her both intelligence and dignity.

Fry, too, can be a sensitive portrait painter, and those used to the harshness of Wyndham Lewis would do well to contemplate Fry's Edith Sitwell, the only picture of her I have seen that is not all fragility and hauteur but endows her with a quizzical sensitivity.

There are other portrait treasures; Grant painted most of his lovers and there are excellent records of Keynes and David Garnett and a marvellous one of Vanessa Bell pregnant (with Grant's child), in which she looks oddly like her sister Virginia. The diligent Richard Shone points out that behind her head is, probably, Grant's hanging signboard of the Omega Workshop and that Bell's yellow waistcoat is probably the one made for her by Kate Lechmere. I doubt that there is a better representation of the long-suffering Leonard Woolf than that by Henry Lamb, who once called his subject "an unfinished sketch of a great passionate character". Ironically, the most striking and distinguished portrait is Grant's James Strachey, a bravura work that would almost do credit to Fry's bete noire, John Singer Sargent.

It is no reflection on Shone that both the exhibition and the book devoted to Art Made Modern are somewhat more rewarding than what we see and read at the Tate. Fry might be the least interesting of the three painters, but in all other respects he is a most commanding figure.

From his days at King's College, Cambridge (when there were only 60 undergraduates), he shone. An Apostle, he was dearly loved by Goldsworthy Lowes Dickenson but, being heterosexual, could not reciprocate. As an art historian and critic, he occupied a position in the art world as a kind of amalgam of Kenneth Clark and Herbert Read. A prime mover in the foundation, creation and stimulation of The Burlington Magazine and the Courtauld Institute as the fine arts department of the University of London, Fry had a profound academic influence. As art critic for The Atheneum and The Nation, he also strongly affected public taste in contemporary art. His staging in London in 1910 of the three-month exhibition "Manet and the Post-Impressionists" was a seminal event in the history of art in these islands. His books, such as Vision and Design and Transformations, were as widely read and discussed as those of Clark and Read several decades later. Fry excelled at everything he undertook, with the possible exception of his attributions of the Old Masters. John Pope-Hennessy sniffily remarked that his achievements in this area had not been universally admired.

For some time before the first world war,Fry was a brilliant curator at the Metropolitan Museum in New York but was always too outspoken and sure of himself to get on with the all-powerful and wildly rich president of the museum, J. P. Morgan, so his contract was not renewed. Yet Fry was so well thought of that he was offered the directorship of the National Gallery in London, but turned it down. It would have too severely limited his multifarious activities, all of which are brought to life by the far-ranging selection of works by him, owned by him and bequeathed to the Courtauld, or simply studied, written about and admired by him and which now adorn the walls of the galleries and illuminate the pages of Christopher Green's book. There are essays by Green himself and by Richard Cork, Elizabeth Prettejohn, Judith Collins and others devoted to the various strands in his career. One of the most interesting, and even endearing, is Anna Gruetzner Robins's "Fathers and sons", on Fry's relationship with Walter Sickert. The older man by seven years, Sickert, aged 32 and on and off president of the New English Art Club, welcomed Fry at 25 as a member. They made an odd couple but their relationship always struck the intellectual sparks that kept both men so active for so long. Sickert encapsulated the relationship in a lecture in 1924 when he quoted Fry as saying to him: "You and I both live in the firm belief that one or other of us is destined to do one of us in, and, that being the only thing that keeps us both alive, we should not do it as we should both have lost our motive for living." A splendidly warm and un-Bloomsbury-like utterance.

Green's book should be taken in conjunction with the welcome re-issue of the revised, re-set and re-designed edition (with additional colour plates) of Frances Spalding's admirably succinct - at only 292 pages - biography of Fry. Originally published in 1981, it is a brave book in that its author had to face comparison with Fry's first biographer, none other than Virginia Woolf herself. Woolf wrote her life of Fry just before she committed suicide in 1941 and must have found it hard to cope with the inevitable difficulty of writing objectively of the man whose greatest passion had been her sister Vanessa Bell. Spalding, without those restraints, gives us an excellent account of the interwoven professional and personal lives of a man touched by both passion and domestic tragedy, whose extraordinary versatility - he really was a master of all trades - made him the intellectually dominant figure of the British art world. Page after page illuminates Fry and the Bloomsbury of which he was such a vital component. Spalding quotes Vanessa Bell in 1931: "I really think it is time someone pointed out that Bloomsbury was killed by the War."

Bell's assessment is surely correct in general, and particularly apt if one considers the fate of the Omega Workshop. It is sensible and timely of Thames and Hudson to re-

issue Omega and after. Isabelle Anscombe gives a clear, concise account of the six years from 1913 to 1919 when Fry, with Bell and Grant as co-directors, set up a limited company called The Omega Workshops Ltd as the selling arm for a group of like-minded artists and craftsmen. While inevitably dominated by its three directors, it displayed and sold the work of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Mark Gertler, Frederick Etchells, McKnight Kauffer and even that fiery enemy of Bloomsbury and all it stood for, Wyndham Lewis. It was a brave experiment that left a strong mark on fabric, ceramic and furniture design in Britain and, as Howard Grey's photographs make clear, its bright, Post-Impressionist influenced inventiveness, its strong and eclectic, flamboyant design and unconventional colour sense. were immediately attractive. Yet, for all the talent and skill poured into it, it was in a cooperative business sense, a gallant failure - Fry deciding to shut up shop with a closing-down sale in June 1919. Yet it is impossible, considering that four of its six years were so blighted (as Vanessa Bell pointed out) by the war, to see Omega as anything like a total failure. There are wonderful pieces reproduced in the book and Anscombe carefully traces, as her title indicates, the many influences and legacies as Omega's principal artists further developed, without the formality of an actual shop, the experiments they had executed and turned, in the 1920s and 1930s, into a tradition.

Anscombe quotes Virginia Woolf: "So the Omega workshops closed down. The shades of the Post-Impressionists have gone to join the other shades; no trace of them is now to be seen in Fitzroy Square. The giant ladies have been dismounted from the doorway and the rooms have other occupants." Although the tone is valedictory, one need only look at the section of the Tate show devoted to Omega and the Omega section of the Shone book to see how vibrant all of it still looks. The Anscombe book and the later volume by Judith Collins, The Omega Workshops, plus Shone's own section on this topic, combine to give Omega a well-deserved elevation in the critical estimation of an extraordinarily fecund experiment.

The Bloomsbury Artists by Tony Bradshaw is a modest but elegantly made book that, as they say, fills a gap. Lengthily introduced by James Beechey, the biographer of Clive Bell, and author of the interesting essay on Bell and Fry in Shone's Tate volume, it is, in essence, a catalogue, neatly illustrated, of the graphic works of (Vanessa) Bell, Grant, Fry and Dora Carrington. It is a godsend to any book collector specialising in Bloomsburiana since so many of the authors and their friends' books had bindings and jackets designed by the foursome.

The book is full of strange treasures. The back of the jacket for Holroyd's volume on Lytton Strachey has a specially commissioned (by Holroyd) drawing of the subject by Strachey's former lover, Duncan Grant. Towards the back there is a poster design by Fry that reads, in its entirety: "Mr Roger Fry / will give a lecture on / WATTEAU & CHARDIN / In the / HALL of UNIVERSITY COLLEGE / on Monday / JAN 18th / at / 8:30 P.M. / Sir MICHAEL SADLER / has kindly consented to take the / chair." Not all of the beautiful book jackets encase pure gold, No, Not Bloomsbury was Malcolm Bradbury's title for a volume of his occasional pieces. The title essay was about the comic fiction of Kingsley Amis and the epigraph came from Lucky Jim: "While he explained, he pronounced the names to himself: Bayswater, Knightsbridge, Notting Hill Gate, Pimlico, Belgrave Square, Wapping, Bloomsbury. No, not Bloomsbury." Would Belgrave Square or Knightsbridge have resounded around the world with quite such an impact?

Almost certainly not. And one can see why Amis's comic hero, Jim Dickson, and indeed Amis, would want to have nothing to do with Bloomsbury. All that high thinking and plain living would not appeal to them.

Bloomsbury, the dernier cri of academe and publishing in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, particularly in America, seems to have become less popular. Would we today put up with the exquisite irony that Michael Holroyd's two-volume life of Lytton Strachey was devoted to a man who wrote, in Eminent Victorians, four miniature biographical masterpieces in the space of about half of one of Holroyd's justly praised volumes?

Have we perhaps lost interest in Bloomsbury because of the overkill of squirrel-scholars producing the laundry lists of minor figures and analyses of the railway timetables that linked London, Cambridge and Charleston when the denizens of this high-minded world had their endless and varied philosophical and sexual congress? It was, after all, only a group of like-minded people. It was not in any sense a movement, nor did its principal members see themselves at the time as anything other than an extraordinary coterie of friends. The American writer and historian Henry Adams once said of Boston that it was not a place but a state of mind. The same applies to Bloomsbury.

Yet Bloomsbury has indubitably become much less fashionable, which is unjust. This autumn and winter sees an explosion of Bloomsbury exhibitions and publications that should restore it to a level that not even Amis would be able to jest about.

I shall never forget, while an undergraduate at Cambridge, the contemptuous tones of F. R. Leavis in the lecture hall as he dismissed Virginia Woolf: "a slender talent"; and he did not have much time for T. S. Eliot either - never a fully paid-up member, but certainly on the periphery of the circle.

You do not need to be one of those earnest American feminist idolaters and victim seekers to see Woolf as a far from slender talent. Not, of course, up to the standard of her fellow Bloomsberry E. M. Forster, but still a most considerable novelist.

In fact, it is difficult, particularly with the current artistic and literary hive of activity, to see how anyone can see Bloomsbury whole and plain and not be impressed. Certainly there should be no sneers as one takes stock of what they left us: Virginia Woolf and Forster, author of perhaps the best English novel of this century, A Passage to India; Leonard Woolf himself as publisher and diarist; not only the savagely iconoclastic Lytton Strachey but his more stolid brother James (with James's wife Alix), without whose translations we would not have the readily accessible entire corpus of Sigmund Freud, which some of us persist in regarding as probably the most profoundly influential body of intellectual work produced by one man in our century. Where would our academic economists and our Treasury mandarins be without John Maynard Keynes's The Economic Consequences of the Peace and the books that followed? Where indeed would so many impecunious artists, musicians and writers be, had Keynes not invented and set up the Arts Council? And then we have the artists whose work we can now examine so fully at the Tate Gallery: Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Roger Fry. And, a mile or so closer into the centre of London, there is the Courtauld Gallery exhibition devoted to Fry as polymath. A few of his paintings are there, but we are able to see and read about his rather more significant work as the great catalytic figure in British art in the first half of the century. Both exhibitions are accompanied by the massive, scholarly books here under review. Their contribution to our understanding and appreciation of Bloomsbury is worth a hundred dull PhD theses.

So many people read Virginia Woolf, Forster, Keynes et al. that it is a great bonus to have so strong a display of the purely visual arts. Inevitably, given the social cohesiveness of the group, the art shows up vividly what they looked like and how they lived. That, to this observer at least, is the principal virtue of the exhibition. If one were to compose a pantheon of British artists in this century, it would be hard to include Bell, Fry and Grant in it. All three are highly competent, at times charming, and all have absorbed, largely because of Fry's entrepreneurial and critical activities, the all-pervasive lessons of Cezanne and Matisse. Yet, overall, there is something over-derivative and eclectic, even anaemic, about their painting.

One wonders whether, without the rich associations conjured up by the Bloomsbury label, this exhibition could have been mounted with the lavishness of Prudential sponsorship, or the full benefits of the erudition of Richard Shone and his co-authors.

With the exception of the striking Abstract Composition of 1915, Grant's abstract work is thin stuff. Fry is often little more than a master of Cezanne pastiche. Vanessa Bell nicely fills out her sister Virginia's phrase "a room of one's own", but it is all very low key; she is no Bonnard.

And yet it is still an exhibition and book of abiding fascination because of the associative grandeur of the portraits. Even the minor additional artists included add to the pleasure. Dora Carrington's painting of E. M. Forster is a finely observed view of this wonderfully liberated and liberating writer and so deeply repressed human being. It is one of those rare portraits that is both a close physical likeness and an acute analytical examination of character. So, in its very different way, is Simon Bussy's oil caricature of Lady Ottoline Morrell. She has always been someone difficult to take seriously, and Bussy does not in any way ease that task. Duncan Grant also caricatures her in his own more substantial painting of the chatelaine of Garsington but he does, even with that preposterous hat, give her both intelligence and dignity.

Fry, too, can be a sensitive portrait painter, and those used to the harshness of Wyndham Lewis would do well to contemplate Fry's Edith Sitwell , the only picture of her I have seen that is not all fragility and hauteur but endows her with a quizzical sensitivity.

There are other portrait treasures; Grant painted most of his lovers and there are excellent records of Keynes and David Garnett and a marvellous one of Vanessa Bell pregnant (with Grant's child), in which she looks oddly like her sister Virginia. The diligent Richard Shone points out that behind her head is, probably, Grant's hanging signboard of the Omega Workshop and that Bell's yellow waistcoat is probably the one made for her by Kate Lechmere. I doubt that there is a better representation of the long-suffering Leonard Woolf than that by Henry Lamb, who once called his subject "an unfinished sketch of a great passionate character". Ironically, the most striking and distinguished portrait is Grant's James Strachey , a bravura work that would almost do credit to Fry's bête noire , John Singer Sargent.

It is no reflection on Shone that both the exhibition and the book devoted to Art Made Modern are somewhat more rewarding than what we see and read at the Tate. Fry might be the least interesting of the three painters, but in all other respects he is a most commanding figure.

From his days at King's College, Cambridge (when there were only 60 undergraduates), he shone. An Apostle, he was dearly loved by Goldsworthy Lowes Dickenson but, being heterosexual, could not reciprocate. As an art historian and critic, he occupied a position in the art world as a kind of amalgam of Kenneth Clark and Herbert Read. A prime mover in the foundation, creation and stimulation of The Burlington Magazine and the Courtauld Institute as the fine arts department of the University of London, Fry had a profound academic influence. As art critic for The Atheneum and The Nation , he also strongly affected public taste in contemporary art. His staging in London in 1910 of the three-month exhibition "Manet and the Post-Impressionists" was a seminal event in the history of art in these islands. His books, such as Vision and Design and Transformations , were as widely read and discussed as those of Clark and Read several decades later. Fry excelled at everything he undertook, with the possible exception of his attributions of the Old Masters. John Pope-Hennessy sniffily remarked that his achievements in this area had not been universally admired.

For some time before the first world war,Fry was a brilliant curator at the Metropolitan Museum in New York but was always too outspoken and sure of himself to get on with the all-powerful and wildly rich president of the museum, J. P. Morgan, so his contract was not renewed. Yet Fry was so well thought of that he was offered the directorship of the National Gallery in London, but turned it down. It would have too severely limited his multifarious activities, all of which are brought to life by the far-ranging selection of works by him, owned by him and bequeathed to the Courtauld, or simply studied, written about and admired by him and which now adorn the walls of the galleries and illuminate the pages of Christopher Green's book. There are essays by Green himself and by Richard Cork, Elizabeth Prettejohn, Judith Collins and others devoted to the various strands in his career. One of the most interesting, and even endearing, is Anna Gruetzner Robins's "Fathers and sons", on Fry's relationship with Walter Sickert. The older man by seven years, Sickert, aged 32 and on and off president of the New English Art Club, welcomed Fry at 25 as a member. They made an odd couple but their relationship always struck the intellectual sparks that kept both men so active for so long. Sickert encapsulated the relationship in a lecture in 1924 when he quoted Fry as saying to him: "You and I both live in the firm belief that one or other of us is destined to do one of us in, and, that being the only thing that keeps us both alive, we should not do it as we should both have lost our motive for living." A splendidly warm and un-Bloomsbury-like utterance.

Green's book should be taken in conjunction with the welcome re-issue of the revised, re-set and re-designed edition (with additional colour plates) of Frances Spalding's admirably succinct - at only 292 pages - biography of Fry. Originally published in 1981, it is a brave book in that its author had to face comparison with Fry's first biographer, none other than Virginia Woolf herself. Woolf wrote her life of Fry just before she committed suicide in 1941 and must have found it hard to cope with the inevitable difficulty of writing objectively of the man whose greatest passion had been her sister Vanessa Bell. Spalding, without those restraints, gives us an excellent account of the interwoven professional and personal lives of a man touched by both passion and domestic tragedy, whose extraordinary versatility - he really was a master of all trades - made him the intellectually dominant figure of the British art world. Page after page illuminates Fry and the Bloomsbury of which he was such a vital component. Spalding quotes Vanessa Bell in 1931: "I really think it is time someone pointed out that Bloomsbury was killed by the War."

Bell's assessment is surely correct in general, and particularly apt if one considers the fate of the Omega Workshop. It is sensible and timely of Thames and Hudson to re-

issue Omega and after . Isabelle Anscombe gives a clear, concise account of the six years from 1913 to 1919 when Fry, with Bell and Grant as co-directors, set up a limited company called The Omega Workshops Ltd as the selling arm for a group of like-minded artists and craftsmen. While inevitably dominated by its three directors, it displayed and sold the work of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Mark Gertler, Frederick Etchells, McKnight Kauffer and even that fiery enemy of Bloomsbury and all it stood for, Wyndham Lewis. It was a brave experiment that left a strong mark on fabric, ceramic and furniture design in Britain and, as Howard Grey's photographs make clear, its bright, Post-Impressionist-influenced inventiveness, its strong and eclectic, flamboyant design and unconventional colour sense. were immediately attractive. Yet, for all the talent and skill poured into it, it was in a cooperative business sense, a gallant failure - Fry deciding to shut up shop with a closing-down sale in June 1919. Yet it is impossible, considering that four of its six years were so blighted (as Vanessa Bell pointed out) by the war, to see Omega as anything like a total failure. There are wonderful pieces reproduced in the book and Anscombe carefully traces, as her title indicates, the many influences and legacies as Omega's principal artists further developed, without the formality of an actual shop, the experiments they had executed and turned, in the 1920s and 1930s, into a tradition.

Anscombe quotes Virginia Woolf: "So the Omega workshops closed down. The shades of the Post-Impressionists have gone to join the other shades; no trace of them is now to be seen in Fitzroy Square. The giant ladies have been dismounted from the doorway and the rooms have other occupants." Although the tone is valedictory, one need only look at the section of the Tate show devoted to Omega and the Omega section of the Shone book to see how vibrant all of it still looks. The Anscombe book and the later volume by Judith Collins, The Omega Workshops , plus Shone's own section on this topic, combine to give Omega a well-deserved elevation in the critical estimation of an extraordinarily fecund experiment.

The Bloomsbury Artists by Tony Bradshaw is a modest but elegantly made book that, as they say, fills a gap. Lengthily introduced by James Beechey, the biographer of Clive Bell, and author of the interesting essay on Bell and Fry in Shone's Tate volume, it is, in essence, a catalogue, neatly illustrated, of the graphic works of (Vanessa) Bell, Grant, Fry and Dora Carrington. It is a godsend to any book collector specialising in Bloomsburiana since so many of the authors and their friends' books had bindings and jackets designed by the foursome.

The book is full of strange treasures. The back of the jacket for Holroyd's volume on Lytton Strachey has a specially commissioned (by Holroyd) drawing of the subject by Strachey's former lover, Duncan Grant. Towards the back there is a poster design by Fry that reads, in its entirety: "Mr Roger Fry / will give a lecture on / WATTEAU & CHARDIN / In the / HALL of UNIVERSITY COLLEGE / on Monday / JAN 18th / at / 8:30 P.M. / Sir MICHAEL SADLER / has kindly consented to take the / chair." Not all of the beautiful book jackets encase pure gold, however. As with any publishing house the Hogarth Press published some dross. Vanessa Bell's jacket for Susan Buchan's The Funeral March of a Marionette is, with its background sketch of Florence, charming enough. But whatever happened to Buchan? Or Joan Adeney Easdale, the author of Amber Innocent ? Only a thousand copies were printed in 1939 while, even during the paper-rationed war, Woolf's Between the Acts sold nearly 13,000 copies in 1941 and The Death of the Moth and Other Essays 11,000 copies in 1942.

Not only is Bradshaw's book an instructive delight, full of unexpected serendipities, but it carries an enthusiastic foreword by Angelica Garnett, thus providing a poignant but finally illuminating link with the Bloomsberries of the past. Angelica is the daughter of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, who fathered her while having a simultaneous affair with the writer and publisher David Garnett. Vanessa's husband Clive fully recognised the baby and treated her, financially and legally, equally with his own two children. Garnett, on observing the infant Angelica, decided there and then to marry her. This, against the opposition of Vanessa and Duncan, he did when she was 18, and they in turn produced a child.

It is one of the more endearing aspects of this overall splendid Bloomsbury fest that an attractive and useful book should have an imprimatur from a scion of two of those unusually gifted families that were part of the "circle who lived in squares and loved in triangles". Both the Tate and Courtauld exhibitions and all these five books are full of intellectual treasure trove and the Woolfs, the Bells, the Garnetts et al would feel instantly at home with them.

Tom Rosenthal was until recently chairman, Institute of Contemporary Arts. He is writing a study of the Australian painter Sidney Nolan.

 

Art Made Modern: Roger Fry's Vision of Art

Editor - Christopher Green
ISBN - 1 85894 082 6
Publisher - Merrell Holberton/Courtauld Gallery
Price - £29.95
Pages - 224

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