“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, March, 1921, Charleston Farmhouse, East Sussex, England

Vanessa Bell, 41, painting at her country home, Charleston, is pleased to have her work in an exhibit, “Some Contemporary English Artists,” on now at the Independent Gallery, in Grafton Street in the posh Mayfair section of London.

Chrysanthemums by Vanessa Bell, 1920

Also included in the exhibit is work by her partner, Duncan Grant, 36.

Self-portrait in a Mirror by Duncan Grant, 1920

Last month her brother Adrian Stephen, 37, and his wife Karin, 32, both psychologists, commissioned Vanessa and Duncan to decorate their rooms at 40 Gordon Square, the same part of Bloomsbury where Vanessa has lived since her father died in 1904.

And the two painters are still working on a big commission from their Bloomsbury friend, economist John Maynard Keynes, 37, to create new murals for his rooms at King’s College, Cambridge. Since last summer they have been producing eight allegorical figures, alternating male and female, to fill almost a whole wall, representing Science, Political Economics, Music, Classics, Law, Mathematics, Philosophy and History as well as advising Maynard on every detail of the interior decoration of the sitting room, right down to the color of the curtains.

Drawings for Vanessa and Duncan’s murals for Maynard’s Cambridge sitting room

So they are busy. Together.  They work well as a team and have received recognition. But Vanessa is worried that her painting is becoming too much like Duncan’s.

What Vanessa really wants is to have a solo exhibit of her own work. As Duncan did last year.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I, covering 1920, is available on Amazon in both print and e-book formats. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This summer I will be talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

At the Cambridge, England, railway station, January, 1910…

…art critic Roger Fry, 43, is waiting for the train to London. The past few months have not gone well.

He’s had to leave a job that he initially loved—Curator of Paintings for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Fry felt as though he had been turned into a personal buyer for the Met’s influential trustee, banker J P Morgan, 72, and they are not getting along. Fry had applied for a prestigious teaching position at Oxford, but didn’t get it.

Roger Fry, c. 1910

Roger Fry, c. 1910

In addition, the mental state of his wife of 13 years, Helen Coombe Fry, 45, has gotten consistently worse. Fry’s frequent travel for the Met job hasn’t helped, but now he is going to have to have her committed to an institution. His sister will help him take care of the children, but Fry knows it’s not going to be easy.

Across the platform, he sees a couple who look familiar. Of course! Painter Vanessa Bell, 30, and her husband, art critic Clive Bell, 28. Fry had met them at a party a few years ago in London. Maybe he should go over and chat. It would be good to have some new friends in London.

Cambridge railway station today

Cambridge railway station today

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

If you were able to watch the BBC Two drama Life in Squares about the Bloomsbury group, let us know what you think.                                                                                                                       
To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap.