Now reading the refreshing and unpredictable Quentin Bell as he remembers his early life in Bloomsbury Recalled (published just 6 months before his death 1996).
Quentin was born in London in 1910 and began his life in the family home at 46 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury with his mother, Vanessa Bell and older brother during the flowering of the Bloomsbury Group. Vanessa was the sister of Virginia Woolf, married to the art critic Clive Bell from Trinity College Cambridge where Vanessa’s brother Thoby had met Clive and formed friendships with him, Leonard Woolf, Lytton Strachey, David Garnett, Duncan Grant, John Maynard Keynes and others who then began to meet regularly on ‘Thursday evenings’ for discussions of literature, art and philosophy in Gordon Square, in Bloomsbury, Loindon.
It was within this cultural milieu that Quentin began his life, along with his brother Julian. Their half-sister Angelica would not be born for another 8 years by which time their father Clive had left home and was replaced by the painter Duncan Grant who fathered Angelica.
Clive, who himself had a reputation for unhidden multiple affairs, did not divorce Vanessa; he accepted the romantic relationship between Vanessa and Duncan and even agreed for Angelica to use the Bell name.
Duncan, her new painting partner and the father of Angelica, was bisexual. Earlier he had had a romantic relationship with Lytton Strachey and was involved in a long term relationship with the Cambridge economist, John Maynard Keynes. Both Strachey and Keynes were active members of the Bloomsbury Group. Keynes later surprised everyone when he developed an interest in women and married a Russian ballerina named Lydia Lopokova at age 38.
Quentin remarks on the emotional difficulties he experienced growing up in what he termed “a multi-parent family.”
Duncan Grant painted subjects varying from still life interior arrangements to rustic outdoor scenes in England, France, Italy and Spain. He received critical acclaim for his paintings and for his contributions to early 20th Century English Post-impressionistic painting.
Below is an abstract rendering of rooms which he painted in the interior of the Gordon Square home where he and Vanessa lived.
The portrait of his daughter Angelica below was painted much later in 1940.
Vanessa enjoyed decorating the rooms of whatever house she lived in, as shown by the photograph and painting below. The photo is of a room that she and Duncan used as their atelier in Charleston. Below this is an oil painting by Duncan of another decorated room, very different in style from his painting of rooms in Gordon Square shown above.
Interior by Duncan Grant:
Looking forward to reading Quentin Bell’s other books.