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14 September - 10 November 2021


The Bloomsbury Muse


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.

Duncan grant's painting of a cat hanging on stencilled wall at Charleston house behind hand painted table and bowls
The Telegraph

★★★★ - "emphatic sense of Charleston"

Lucy Davies, The Daily Telegraph
Lucy Davies, … Read more
Installation Views
Charleston: The Bloomsbury Muse
£ 20.00
Portrait of Vanessa Bell by Duncan Grant. Photographed in The Studio at Charleston house.

“…an insightful exhibition, which does justice to both artists…” Melanie McDonagh, Evening Standard.

Duncan Grant, Portrait of Vanessa Bell, c. 1915-16, Charleston
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Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, the studies for the muses of Arts and Sciences, the murals of which are in Maynard Keynes bedroom at Cambridge.

'...inspiring new show...' Will Hodgkinson, The Times

Charleston: The Bloomsbury Muse, featured in The Times as exhibition of the week.
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    500 Years of British Art