As one of the first British artists to adopt abstraction as a technique, this early example of Bell’s abstract work is now considered to be a key piece in the history of British modernism. She had been influenced by a series of exhibitions curated by Roger Fry, showing works by Cézanne, Gauguin, Picasso and Matisse for the first time in London. At the time of painting, Bell showed this work only to her Bloomsbury Group friends, and did not exhibit it publicly.
Date of work
Original: Oil paint on canvas 44 x 38.7 cm © Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy Henrietta Garnett
Vanessa Bell (1879 – 1961) was a founding member of the Bloomsbury Group, and the sister of Virginia Woolf. She studied at Sir Arthur Cope’s art school and the Royal Academy. In 1907 she married the art critic Clive Bell and had three children. The couple had an open marriage, and Bell had several affairs, most notably with the painter Duncan Grant, who fathered one of her children, and whom she is buried near in the Firle Parish Churchyard. She was one of the first British artists to experiment with abstraction, and was also a talented interior designer.