The opening of the “Nameless Exhibition” here, sponsored by The Burlington Magazine, has caused a bit of controversy.
Poster for Nameless Exhibition by Roger Fry
The organizers, including Burlington founder and former editor Roger Fry, 54, and Professor of Fine Art at the Slade School Henry Tonks, 59, decided to make a brave move and hang a whole exhibit of paintings with no artists’ names attached. Not on the walls; not in the catalogue. They want to strike a blow against the cult of personality which has gathered around some artists.
Included are works by three of Roger’s Bloomsbury friends, his former lover Vanessa Bell, about to turn 42, her partner Duncan Grant, 36, and Slade School grad, Dora Carrington, 28.
Roger Fry by Vanessa Bell, 1912
Fry can’t wait to tell Vanessa that Tonks has hung one of her works, Visit, quite prominently, unaware that it is by a woman. Tonks goes on incessantly about how women painters are always imitating men.
Even though this is one of Carrington’s first important exhibits, all she is thinking about is her wedding tomorrow.
Carrington has spent the past four years living with and in love with Bloomsbury writer Lytton Strachey, 41, at Mill House in Tidmarsh, Berkshire. Carrington is well aware that Lytton is openly gay, but he is fond of her and is providing her the literary education she lacked. In exchange she paints and runs the household.
About three years ago, into this lovely arrangement walked big, strong, Ralph Partridge, 27, an Oxford friend of Carrington’s younger brother. He’s fallen in love with Carrington and moved into Tidmarsh. And Lytton is interested in him.
Dora Carrington, Ralph Partridge and Lytton Strachey
Now that Ralph has gainful employment—working as an assistant at the Hogarth Press operated by Bloomsbury regulars Virginia Woolf, 39, and her husband Leonard, 40—he can afford to take a wife. Although Lytton is paying for the wedding.
Lytton has spent the past two months convincing Carrington to take the plunge. And the Woolfs approve also.
So Carrington has now agreed. She cries each night and writes Lytton long love letters. Ralph knows she’s not in love with him. Carrington feels this is the way to keep the three together.
Lytton is already in Venice. The newlyweds are going to meet up with him there in a few weeks on their honeymoon.
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s. Volume 1 covering 1920 is available in print and e-book formats on Amazon. For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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, 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 e-book versions.