Vanessa Bell and the Bloomsbury Group
Vanessa Bell, born in England in 1879, was the eldest daughter of Sir Leslie Stephen and Julia Prinsep Duckworth. Vanessa Bell embraced a life filled with creativity, collaboration, and personal freedom. Growing up in Westminster, London, she was surrounded by a large family, including her sister Virginia Woolf, who would later become an acclaimed writer. Vanessa's education took place at home, where she studied languages, mathematics, art and history. Her passion for art started quite early. Evolving from her lessons at home, she joined Arthur Cope's art school in 1896 and later the renowned Royal Academy in 1901,under the tutelage of the accomplished painter John Singer Sargent.
Following the death of her father in 1904, Vanessa and her siblings relocated to London's trendy Bloomsbury neighborhood. She reveled in the freedom of her new surroundings, stating that it was "exhilarating" to leave behind their former gloomy home for a place filled with light, airiness, and independence. And so began the famous Bloomsbury Group – comprising family members and artistic friends – who held weekly Thursday evening gatherings that fostered creativity.
Together with her sister Virginia Woolf, critic Roger Fry, and artist Duncan Grant among others, Vanessa focused on breaking down barriers between fine and applied arts while embracing avant-garde styles from continental Europe. By 1913, they founded Omega Workshop: a creative hub offering paintings, ceramics, fabrics, furniture and stained-glass designs based on Post-Impressionist principles. In 1916 Bell's art thrived when she and her unconventional family relocated to the Sussex countryside to a farmhouse called Charleston where she interpreted the farm as a “kingdom of paint”, as described by her sister Virginia Woolf. Charleston became a canvas for her art as she made many design changes to the home including painting works on walls and furniture and artistically designing the gardens as well as continuing to paint landscapes, portraits, and still life's.
After the war, Bell traveled often to Europe visiting museums and the artist studios of Picasso and Matisse in Paris. Her paintings took on a new dimension and were influenced by the places she visited and the people she met. Bell and the “Bloomsbury” style has had a lasting influence, major fashion houses and interior designs.
Bell embraced Fauvism and Cubism, making her paintings some of the most radical Britain had seen, however her continued source of inspiration was from her domestic life and led historians and critics to downplay her importance in the development of modern art. This has changed with the resurgence in popularity of her art and designs in the 21st century.
Inspired by Vanessa Bell and
Bloomsbury designs, the classes
designed furnishings and textiles,
choosing their own colors and
patterns. They were created using
oil pastels for their designs.
Wednesday's class learned about
surface design and they created
a template to create a repetitive
It was quite a process that involved
background colors, designing a pattern
and then adding optional additional
designs. We used markers
and chalk pastels that resulted in
very individual interpretations.