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Artist, critic and tastemaker Roger Fry is one of the most influential figures in British art history. His Post-Impressionist exhibitions in London introduced a British audience to a new artistic frisson of European modernism and his keen eye for the Avant-guard positioned him as the leading champion of modern art.

Fry was instrumental in the success of Charleston Farmhouse as a home and studio to the bloomsbury artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Fry helped design the studio at Charleston and redesigned the famed walled garden. This bucolic scene was likely painted on a visit to Charleston in the summer of 1919, when Fry camped nearby with his two children, Julian and Pamela. His daughter, Pamela, is thought to be the figure strolling freely in the foreground, fluently coalesced into the scene through Fry’s assured strokes. The geometric forms of the surrounding farm buildings contrast the natural irregularity and chaotic British landscape as the earth rumbles haphazardly and the birds...

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Artist, critic and tastemaker Roger Fry is one of the most influential figures in British art history. His Post-Impressionist exhibitions in London introduced a British audience to a new artistic frisson of European modernism and his keen eye for the Avant-guard positioned him as the leading champion of modern art.

Fry was instrumental in the success of Charleston Farmhouse as a home and studio to the bloomsbury artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Fry helped design the studio at Charleston and redesigned the famed walled garden. This bucolic scene was likely painted on a visit to Charleston in the summer of 1919, when Fry camped nearby with his two children, Julian and Pamela. His daughter, Pamela, is thought to be the figure strolling freely in the foreground, fluently coalesced into the scene through Fry’s assured strokes. The geometric forms of the surrounding farm buildings contrast the natural irregularity and chaotic British landscape as the earth rumbles haphazardly and the birds sweep overhead, further animated through Fry’s impasto application of paint.

Despite Britain’s tumultuous post-war landscape, Fry has captured an overwhelming sense of peace. Charleston acted as an oasis for the Bloomsbury Group during the war-torn periods and Fry captures the sense of safety and the charm of life at Charleston. Prior to the arrival of the ‘unconventional family’ which consisted of Bell, her children, Grant, and David Garnett, Charleston was a working farmhouse – a history which Fry heeds in this image, palpably expressing the groups attachment to their homestead. [1] Following Fry’s death, Bell’s sister, Virginia Woolf, wrote of his character, ‘gentle yet fantastically obstinate, intolerant yet absolutely open minded, and burning with the conviction that something very important was happening.’[2]

[1] Clarke, C. (2021) ‘Charleston as Muse’ in Charleston: The Bloomsbury Muse. London: Paul Holberton Publishers, p.11.

[2] Woolf, V. (1940) Roger Fry: A Biography 1940.

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500 Years of British Art