The Bloomsbury group was an influential group of artists, writers, intellectuals and philosophers, the best known members of which included Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.
This loose collective of friends and relatives lived, worked or studied together near Bloomsbury, in London, during the first half of the 20th century. Their works and outlook deeply influenced literature, aesthetics, criticism, and economics, as well as modern attitudes towards feminism, pacifism, and sexuality.
Most of the male members of the Bloomsbury Group were educated at Cambridge (at either Trinity or King’s College), where they first met. At Trinity, in 1899, Lytton Strachey, Leonard Woolf, Saxon Sydney-Turner and Clive Bell became good friends with Thoby Stephen; and it was through Thoby and Adrian Stephen that the men met the Stephen’s sisters, Vanessa and Virginia, who would later become the women of Bloomsbury.
In 1905 Vanessa began the “Friday Club” and Thoby ran “Thursday Evenings”, which became the basis for the Bloomsbury group, which to some was really “Cambridge in London”. Thoby’s premature death in 1906 would bring them even more firmly together and they became what is now known as the “Old Bloomsbury” group.
The Bloomsbury group, mostly from upper middle-class professional families, formed part of “an intellectual aristocracy”, an informal network of an influential group of artists, art critics, writers and an economist. An interesting feature of these friends and relations is that their close relationships all pre-dated their fame as writers, artists, and thinkers.
She married Clive Bell, also a member of the Bloomsbury group, in 1907 and they had two sons, Julian and Quentin. The couple had an open marriage, both taking lovers throughout their lives. Vanessa had affairs with art critic Roger Fry and with the painter Duncan Grant, with whom she had a daughter, Angelica, in 1918, whom Clive Bell raised as his own child.
Vanessa, Clive, Duncan Grant and Duncan’s lover David Garnett moved to the Sussex countryside shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, and settled at Charleston Farmhouse near Firle, East Sussex, where she and Grant painted and worked on commissions for the Omega Workshops, established by Roger Fry.
Some of Vanessa Bell’s works were related to her personal life. For instance, her illustration for To the Lighthouse, the book by her sister Virginia Woolf, relates to a beach with a lighthouse that was a part of Bell’s and Woolf’s childhood in St Ives, Cornwall.
Bell is one of the most celebrated painters of the Bloomsbury group. She exhibited in London and Paris during her lifetime, and has been praised for innovative works during her early maturity and for her contributions to design.
Duncan Grant was a British painter and designer of textiles, pottery, theatre sets and costumes.
Between 1900-1906, Grant lived with his aunt and uncle, Sir Richard and Lady Strachey and their children. When Grant was still a child, he accompanied Lady Strachey to “picture Sunday” which gave him the opportunity to meet with eminent painters. Lady Strachey was able to persuade Grant’s parents that he should be allowed to pursue an education in art. In 1902 Grant was enrolled by his aunt at Westminster School of Art, which he attended for the next three years. While at Westminster, Grant was encouraged in his studies by Simon Bussy, a French painter and lifelong friend of Matisse.
Grant was introduced to Vanessa Bell (then Vanessa Stephen) by Pippa Strachey at the “Friday Club” in the autumn of 1905.