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The pond at Charleston farmhouse offered endless inspiration for Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell’s artistic ingenuity. It was one of the first outdoor spaces painted by Vanessa on arriving at Charleston in 1916. The changes of season, and how this patch of still water responded, became a transforming natural muse. When the outbreak of the Second World War seemed imminent, they let their London studios to friends, packed their canvasses and furniture into trucks and moved to Charleston permanently. They were joined by Clive Bell, who had his own study and library in Vanessa’s old bedroom that housed his vast collection of books.[1] In between moments of panic and wartime anxieties, life was relatively relaxed at Charleston at this time, with each resident contributing to its upkeep; ‘Everything here is calm and luxurious,’ Angelica wrote to David Garnett in July 1940.[2] Conditions at Charleston were less pleasant in the winter months, however, and despite the recent installation of modern radiators...

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The pond at Charleston farmhouse offered endless inspiration for Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell’s artistic ingenuity. It was one of the first outdoor spaces painted by Vanessa on arriving at Charleston in 1916. The changes of season, and how this patch of still water responded, became a transforming natural muse. When the outbreak of the Second World War seemed imminent, they let their London studios to friends, packed their canvasses and furniture into trucks and moved to Charleston permanently. They were joined by Clive Bell, who had his own study and library in Vanessa’s old bedroom that housed his vast collection of books.[1] In between moments of panic and wartime anxieties, life was relatively relaxed at Charleston at this time, with each resident contributing to its upkeep; ‘Everything here is calm and luxurious,’ Angelica wrote to David Garnett in July 1940.[2] Conditions at Charleston were less pleasant in the winter months, however, and despite the recent installation of modern radiators and electricity, the house was cold and uncomfortable. Snow, wind and rain frequently battered the house during the wartime years, with one notable fatality being the gazebo on the pond, which had been constructed by Duncan in the mid-1930s. Vigorously painted using a combination of brush and a palette knife on a prepared panel, it indicates an awareness of Claude Monet’s outdoor studies. [1] Spalding, F. (1998) Duncan Grant: A Biography. London: Pimlico, p. 368 [2] Bell, A. (1940) Letter to David Garnett, 27 July 1940, quoted in Spalding, F. (1998) Duncan Grant: A Biography. London: Pimlico, p. 370

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500 Years of British Art