Bloomsbury Revisited

 

At the turn of the last century, a group of writers and artists began to gather together in Bloomsbury, near the British Museum and a number of colleges and universities, that was becoming London’s Bohemian center. This small group of sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, lovers, and friends known collectively as the Bloomsbury Group, included the Stephen sisters Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, Leonard Woolf, Duncan Grant, E. M. Forster, John Maynard Keynes, Lytton Strachey, Roger Fry and Clive Bell. They met regularly to discuss literature, aesthetics, economics and issues such as feminism, pacifism and sexuality. Their art, novels, publications, and exhibitions delighted some and disturbed others. Ultimately they would exert a disproportionate influence upon the art and ideas of the modern age.

Now, more than a century later, Bloomsbury Revisited enabled a small group to spend a week following in their footsteps, visiting the places in London where they lived, exhibited and held their meetings.

In London there were visits to the Tate Store to see works not on display, to the Drawing Center at the Courtauld as well behind the scenes at the National Portrait Gallery and an examination of the Boris Anrep floor mosaics in the National Gallery.

Many of the ideas they advanced were percolated at Cambridge where a recreation was offered of the lavish lunch at King’s College that Virginia Woolf contrasts in A Room of One’s Own with a meager meal in an unnamed female academy.

Several days were spend in the Home Counties visiting the homes and places where, escaping city life, they continued to explore their innovative ways of thinking, working and living. The group went to Sissinghurst which was bought by Harold Nicholson and Vita Sackville West, and to the Charleston Farmhouse home of Vanessa and Clive Bell which became the gathering place for the group. Nearby was Monk’s house where Virginia and Leonard lived.

And further along is the Berwick Church, which dates back to the 12th Century but is of particular interest as it was nearly completely redecorated by Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Quentin Bell. Many of the murals show local people, often in period clothes, set in Biblical scenes.