By the time this still-life was painted, Vanessa Bell’s children had grown-up and she was entertaining her grandchildren at Charleston. As seen in this work, she had become a true colourist

Vanessa Bell’s fascination with colour and design, simple shapes and geometric patterns is magnified in this modern interpretation of a traditional still-life subject. Her use of bold and vibrant colours, a flurry of bright pinks, blues, purples and greens, captures the simple and natural beauty of the vase of flowers placed in front of a patterned fabric. The swathe of pink and green cloth encloses the vase creating a composition that allows the eyes to dance around the canvas. Painted in her early seventies, the work is an homage to an artistic career dedicated to the use of bold colours and patterns.

The older sister of Virginia Woolf, Bell was one of the key members of the Bloomsbury Group, a collective of artistic individuals who lived and worked together, embracing an unrestricted and bohemian lifestyle. In 1912, Bell’s work was included in the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition, organised by critic Roger Fry, which was a hallmark event for the...

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Vanessa Bell’s fascination with colour and design, simple shapes and geometric patterns is magnified in this modern interpretation of a traditional still-life subject. Her use of bold and vibrant colours, a flurry of bright pinks, blues, purples and greens, captures the simple and natural beauty of the vase of flowers placed in front of a patterned fabric. The swathe of pink and green cloth encloses the vase creating a composition that allows the eyes to dance around the canvas. Painted in her early seventies, the work is an homage to an artistic career dedicated to the use of bold colours and patterns. 

The older sister of Virginia Woolf, Bell was one of the key members of the Bloomsbury Group, a collective of artistic individuals who lived and worked together, embracing an unrestricted and bohemian lifestyle. In 1912, Bell’s work was included in the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition, organised by critic Roger Fry, which was a hallmark event for the development of modern art in Britain. A year later, along with Fry and fellow painter Duncan Grant, Bell founded the Omega Workshops, a cooperative for the decorative arts which emphasised bold colours and simple designs for textiles, pottery, clothing and furniture. Bell was particularly gifted in textile design and soon became known for her interior designs. 

At the height of war and with the introduction of conscription in March 1916, Bell moved to Charleston House near Lewes, East Sussex with her partner Duncan Grant and his lover, David Garnett. Charleston became a hub of artistic and literary creativity for the Bloomsbury circle. Bell and Grant created elaborate interiors at Charleston. They painted frescoes on the walls and doors, hung their own paintings and drawings throughout the house, and brought Omega textiles and pottery into their home. Visiting the house today makes it clear what a place of colour and creativity it was whilst Bell was living there. 

By the time this still-life was painted, Vanessa Bell’s children had grown-up and she was entertaining her grandchildren at Charleston. As seen in this work, she had become a true colourist, playfully using contrasting colours and abstract forms whilst retaining her commitment to representational modes of expression. An embodiment of a lifetime dedicated to colour, design and pattern, this still life is an exceptional work in Bell’s oeuvre.

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500 Years of British Art