The Bloomsbury Muse
14th September - 10th November 2021
No appointment or ticket required
The Bloomsbury Group
The Bloomsbury Group were a liberal band of artists, writers and intellectuals, allied through their political ideals, love of fierce intellectual debate and stance on sexual freedom. Their artistic theories and experiments dramatically refashioned the landscape of British Modernism. Members included Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Virginia Woolf, Roger Fry, John Maynard Keynes and Clive Bell. During the early twentieth century, these spirited individuals moved in circles based predominantly in Bloomsbury, Central London.
The First World War changed this metropolitan lifestyle dramatically. Conscription was introduced for all single men under forty. Like many of his friends, artist Duncan Grant was a conscientious objector and needed to find work which was deemed of National Importance; this included farm labouring. Fellow painter, Vanessa Bell, set about finding a home which would accommodate this new lifestyle.
In 1916, Vanessa secured employment on a farm for Duncan and arranged to sublet Charleston.
Charleston is an old farmhouse that sits at the foot of the South Downs, East Sussex.
In October 1916, Vanessa and Duncan moved to Charleston along with Duncan's partner - David Garnett - Vanessa's two children - Julian and Quentin - the children's nurses, and an Irish lurcher called Henry. During both World Wars, Charleston was their permanent family home. Throughout the interwar years, it became a weekend and holiday retreat. Gradually, throughout the 20th Century, Charleston became a hub of artistic innovation for the Bloomsbury Group.
Vanessa and Duncan's enduring attachment to their home at Charleston, its idyllic surroundings, and constant flow of visitors can be witnessed through their art. Beginning with radical modern works influenced by European trends, this exhibition presents over thirty-five years of astonishing artistic productivity. Charleston was not just the Bloomsbury Group's country retreat, but an empowering muse for their collaborative, progressive social self-expression.