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Vanessa Bell: Portrait of the Bloomsbury Artist

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A biography of Vanessa Bell- the artist at the heart of the Bloomsbury Set of the early part of this century. She was also a complex woman of great loyalties who managed to remain friendly with husband, ex-lover & lover and keep them friendly with each other.


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A biography of Vanessa Bell- the artist at the heart of the Bloomsbury Set of the early part of this century. She was also a complex woman of great loyalties who managed to remain friendly with husband, ex-lover & lover and keep them friendly with each other.

30 review for Vanessa Bell: Portrait of the Bloomsbury Artist

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Very good biography of a central figure in the Bloomsbury Group. Not an easy read as there is great detail and a lot of information. Vanessa Bell was Virginia Woolf's sister; her talent lay in art rather than writing. She married Clive Bell and for many years continued an affair with Roger Fry. She also had a very close relationship with Duncan Grant. Her unorthodox life and its effect on those around her is well documented. Her relationship with her daughter in later life is interesting as she Very good biography of a central figure in the Bloomsbury Group. Not an easy read as there is great detail and a lot of information. Vanessa Bell was Virginia Woolf's sister; her talent lay in art rather than writing. She married Clive Bell and for many years continued an affair with Roger Fry. She also had a very close relationship with Duncan Grant. Her unorthodox life and its effect on those around her is well documented. Her relationship with her daughter in later life is interesting as she reacted against her mother's way of life. I have always been fascinated with Bloomsbury and this book provides a solid introduction

  2. 4 out of 5

    Beth Bonini

    A few personal notes, to give context to my reading of this book: I purchased my copy of Spalding's biography during my visit to Charleston on May 4, 2016. Initially published in 1983, Spalding's study of Vanessa Bell's life and work was the first to be totally devoted to this hitherto "silent" member of the original Bloomsbury Group. Spalding does an admirable job of demonstrating that VB's personality and domestic gifts and strong individualistic sense was at the very core of the Bloomsbury Gro A few personal notes, to give context to my reading of this book: I purchased my copy of Spalding's biography during my visit to Charleston on May 4, 2016. Initially published in 1983, Spalding's study of Vanessa Bell's life and work was the first to be totally devoted to this hitherto "silent" member of the original Bloomsbury Group. Spalding does an admirable job of demonstrating that VB's personality and domestic gifts and strong individualistic sense was at the very core of the Bloomsbury Group. She was also perhaps the single most influential person in her sister Virginia Woolf's life, and a talented artist in her own right. This biography was reissued in 2016 - featuring Duncan Grant's Portrait of Vanessa Bell, painted in 1918, the year that VB gave birth to Angelica (Bell, later Garnett). In her preface to the new edition, Spalding refers to the interest in Bloomsbury (and specifically Vanessa Bell) generated by the BBC series "Life in Squares" - which aired in 2015. My daughter Camille and I watched this series in January of 2016, and I will happily acknowledge that it did reignite an interest in the Stephen sisters (VB and VW) which I've had for nearly 30 years. Prior to visiting Charleston, I reread Angelica Garnett's memoir Deceived with Kindness. I also read Jane Dunn's biography titled Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf: A Very Close Conspiracy alongside this book. Dunn's study focuses tightly on the relationship between the sisters, and how much of their personalities, choices and interests were influenced by their roles within their family. From the beginning, Vanessa was cast as a maternal figure. She was the eldest of the four children belonging to her mother and father, and after the early deaths of her mother and older step-sister, Vanessa had to take over the organisational reins of the household. All accounts of her life emphasise her talents in making a congenial home and binding people together. She had three significant romantic relationships in her life - Clive Bell (her husband), Roger Fry (an influential art critic and her lover for several years) and Duncan Grant (fellow artist and life partner). She somehow managed to maintain these relationships alongside each other, although Spalding (and indeed Dunn) emphasise that it was not without personal cost to herself. She also managed to run at least two homes and a variety of dependants while managing an art career. The first half of the book is far more interesting than the second, but in some ways I think that reflects the life itself. I did feel that the impact of World War II, VW's death in 1941 and the last 20 years of VB's life were given short shrift. The book could also get bogged down in details about travel, meetings with various people - you need a LOT of knowledge about Bloomsbury Group and their acquaintances to keep all of the players straight - and business negotiations. Unsurprisingly, as she is an art historian, Spalding gives a lot of attention to the art. If you are looking for more details about the Stephen sisters, I think it is illuminating to read Dunn's biography alongside - or even instead of this biography. However, if you are interested in this time period - particularly the time period between the two world wars - or female artists, or the Bloomsbury Group, then this biography is a must.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Duncan M Simpson

    Vanessa Bell was at the centre of the Bloomsbury group and more than any of the others lived in squares and loved in a triangle. She also lived at Charleston Farm at the foot of the South Downs and visiting there pushed me to pick up this book. I was left with an enigma, a stoical woman whose love was returned but in very different measures and whose art I had overlooked. Frances Spalding has written a classical biography, easy to read, measured and balanced its views and following the chronology Vanessa Bell was at the centre of the Bloomsbury group and more than any of the others lived in squares and loved in a triangle. She also lived at Charleston Farm at the foot of the South Downs and visiting there pushed me to pick up this book. I was left with an enigma, a stoical woman whose love was returned but in very different measures and whose art I had overlooked. Frances Spalding has written a classical biography, easy to read, measured and balanced its views and following the chronology of the subject's life. If you want to know more about one of the central figures of British art and a woman who deserves greater recognition this book cannot be beaten.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Robert Dodds

    I have rarely enjoyed a biography as much as this one. Vanessa Bell and the other Bloomsbury-ites were evidently prolific letter writers, and so Frances Spalding had a wealth of material to draw upon. The result is an intimate portrait of Bell's life in both its professional and personal aspects - the latter being the more fascinating of course! My interest in the Bloomsbury group came via literature rather than painting - the works of Bell's sister Virginia Woolf obviously, but also E.M. Forste I have rarely enjoyed a biography as much as this one. Vanessa Bell and the other Bloomsbury-ites were evidently prolific letter writers, and so Frances Spalding had a wealth of material to draw upon. The result is an intimate portrait of Bell's life in both its professional and personal aspects - the latter being the more fascinating of course! My interest in the Bloomsbury group came via literature rather than painting - the works of Bell's sister Virginia Woolf obviously, but also E.M. Forster and T.S.Eliot. This book came to me via a friend after I had visited Charleston, the home of Vanessa and Duncan Bell, and enjoyed a guided tour around its quirkily decorated rooms. It has sent me off online to look at the paintings of both, and also those of Vanessa Bell's close friend Roger Fry, and to seek out photos of the various Bloomsbury folk (Lytton Strachey, Maynard Keynes, etc) who were their intimates. My only quibble with the edition I read is that more photos and reproductions - colour reproductions - would have enhanced it greatly. However, it's still a five star read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nicola Pierce

    Oh but I did not want to finish this but was unable to stop turning the pages as fast as I could. A wonderful, engaging read in every way. Spalding had a tremendous subject in Vanessa Bell and her research and delivery is impeccable. And now I sit here bereft and unsure as to what to read next. Also, I absolutely have to visit Charleston House and garden at some stage!

  6. 5 out of 5

    teresa

    A little on the dry side but Bell is an interesting enough person that you keep reading. Virginia Woolf's sister she married Clive Bell and had two kids and she had affairs and spent most of her life with the love of her life (whom she also had a child with who went on to marry one of her father's former lovers...), the gay artist Duncan Grant, while never divorcing her husband. A little on the dry side but Bell is an interesting enough person that you keep reading. Virginia Woolf's sister she married Clive Bell and had two kids and she had affairs and spent most of her life with the love of her life (whom she also had a child with who went on to marry one of her father's former lovers...), the gay artist Duncan Grant, while never divorcing her husband.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alexa.elam

    I have read and re-read this portrait of Vanessa Bell. It is a fascinating study of Bell's family, including her sister Virginia Woolf, of the Bloomsbury group, and of the wonderful work done by the Omega Workshop-- the Arts and Crafts collective founded by Bell and her cohorts. I have read and re-read this portrait of Vanessa Bell. It is a fascinating study of Bell's family, including her sister Virginia Woolf, of the Bloomsbury group, and of the wonderful work done by the Omega Workshop-- the Arts and Crafts collective founded by Bell and her cohorts.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Linda Mason Hunter

    Fascinating glimpse into the life of one of the most famous Bloomsbury artists, Virginia Woolf's sister, Fascinating glimpse into the life of one of the most famous Bloomsbury artists, Virginia Woolf's sister,

  9. 5 out of 5

    Antonella

    It is biography at his best, full of details and deeply (and also emotionally, sorta) involved in the long life of a passionate woman and artist.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rita

    Boring!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

  12. 5 out of 5

    Meokmeok

  13. 4 out of 5

    Trish Crowe

  14. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Saleeba

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mary Warnement

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alice

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Caithness

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michel Vuillemin

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lelia

  21. 4 out of 5

    Steve J.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence Windrush

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Lowe

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bianca Forté

  27. 4 out of 5

    Heather

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joe

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Allen

  30. 5 out of 5

    Valentina

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