Vanessa Bell (1879–1961), Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Road, London SE21, until 4th June 2017
This exhibition celebrates the work of Vanessa Bell who, whilst regarded as a member of the Bloomsbury Group, was also very much a stand-alone artist in her own right.
The show traces her move from her earlier Impressionist-based training to her more radical approach featuring form, colour and abstraction. Often Bell gets somewhat overshadowed by the circle she lived in – Virginia Woolf (sister), Clive Bell (husband), and fellow artists Duncan Grant and Roger Fry. We see how she rejected Victorian concepts of motherhood and home-making to create a place of freedom as her work with the Omega Workshop reveals.
Sarah Milroy, the show’s curator, says: “Unconventional in her approach to both art and life, Bell’s art embodies many of the progressive ideas that we still are grappling with today, expressing new ideas about gender roles, sexuality, personal freedom, pacifism, social and class mores and the open embrace of non-British cultures. This is the perfect moment in which to re-evaluate Bloomsbury, and Bell’s legacy within it, and we look forward to affirming her importance to a contemporary audience.”
Alongside this exhibition is Legacy: Photographs by Vanessa Bell and Patti Smith (until 4th June 2017) which features photographs by the famous musician, writer and artist, Patti Smith alongside albums belonging to Vanessa Ball. In 2003 Smith had a residency at Charleston and her comments reflect her interest in the works of the Bloomsbury Group. – “Art was a part of everyday living. Their cups and saucers were designed by themselves, their utensils, the wallpaper, tapestries. When I first came here I found it just like home […] I felt a real longing to document this place in the same manner that I document my own home because it is very much how I live: books everywhere, things that seem very humble, very sacred, a simple wooden box, a shell, a paint tube – everything has significance.”