This was Bell’s own mantelpiece at her home at 46 Gordon Square in London, one of the central meeting places for the Bloomsbury Group of artists and writers. She painted this piece at the same time that her lover Duncan Grant painted his work on the same subject Mantlepiece
, the two works highlighting their differences in approach and technique. Grant’s painting employs collage techniques, and Bell chooses to paint from a lower viewpoint, using bright colours and fractured forms for the objects on the mantelpiece in an exploration of Cubist and Fauvist techniques.
Still Life on Corner of a Mantelpiece
Date of work
Original: Oil paint on canvas 55.9 x 45.7 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.