Charleston was the country home of the Bloomsbury Group and is one of England's most unique cultural institutions.

The entrance to the house is here rendered by Grant in light and impressionist brushstrokes. The vantage point shown here is from the approaching farm track, overlooking the blue and grey wooden boarded gate, into the garden. The magnificent cast urns which stand on the pillars, flanking the gate, were cast by Quentin Bell in 1952.[1] The view through the gate, to the right of the entrance, suggests the form and reflection of a pond. Writing in 1916, Vanessa Bell described the setting in a letter to Roger Fry;

The pond is most beautiful, with a willow at one side and a stone or flint wall edging it all round the garden par, and a little lawn sloping down to it, with formal bushes on it.[2]

When Vanessa first caught a glimpse of the pond, she declared it...

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Charleston was the country home of the Bloomsbury Group and is one of England's most unique cultural institutions.

The entrance to the house is here rendered by Grant in light and impressionist brushstrokes. The vantage point shown here is from the approaching farm track, overlooking the blue and grey wooden boarded gate, into the garden. The magnificent cast urns which stand on the pillars, flanking the gate, were cast by Quentin Bell in 1952.[1] The view through the gate, to the right of the entrance, suggests the form and reflection of a pond. Writing in 1916, Vanessa Bell described the setting in a letter to Roger Fry;

The pond is most beautiful, with a willow at one side and a stone or flint wall edging it all round the garden par, and a little lawn sloping down to it, with formal bushes on it.[2]

When Vanessa first caught a glimpse of the pond, she declared it to her eager children as a “huge lake”. However, after Quentin was first presented with the lake at Charleston, at four years old, he was disappointed to find it merely a “horse pond”.[3] Regardless, the pond became a source of inspiration for the artists who stayed and worked there. Scholar Susan Groag Bell befittingly describes the pond at Charleston; ‘It served as inspiration for paintings, as an amusement for children, and as a farming necessity, because horses and cows did indeed come to drink from it’.[4]


Granddaughter of Vanessa Bell and daughter of Quentin Bell, Virginia Nicholson, suggests that the garden and the flowers they planted at Charleston reflected Vanessa and Duncan’s love of colour, influenced by the likes of Pierre Bonnard and Henri Matisse. In 1930, Vanessa wrote to Fry; ‘The garden … is incredibly beautiful … I have of course begun by painting some flowers, it seems the inevitable way to begin here.’[5]

[1] Q. Bell, ‘A Vanished World’, Charleston: A Bloomsbury House & Garden (London: Frances Lincoln Limited, 1997) p.14.

[2] V. Bell quoted in Q. Bell, ‘A Vanished World’, Charleston: A Bloomsbury House & Garden (London: Frances Lincoln Limited, 1997) p.14.

[3] S. G. Bell, ‘Vanessa’s Garden’, Singular Continuities: Tradition, Nostalgia, and Identity in Modern British Culture (California: Stanford University Press, 2000) p.111.

[4] Ibid.

[5] V. Bell quoted in V. Nicholson, ‘The Garden’, Charleston: A Bloomsbury House & Garden (London: Frances Lincoln Limited, 1997) p.134.

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500 Years of British Art