8 February - 4 June 2017
Vanessa Bell, leading light of the Bloomsbury Group and New York punk icon Patti Smith might seem an unlikely pairing, but opening on February 8th, the Dulwich Picture Gallery will be showing concurrent exhibitions of works by these two fascinating, unconventional creative forces.
Vanessa Bell 1879-1961, the first major retrospective of her work, presents her as a pivotal 20th century British artist, rather than the lasting public preoccupation with her family life and romantic liaisons. Bell, the sister of Virginia Woolf and wife of art critic Clive Bell, rejected the repressive Victorian standards of her childhood and made a home at Charleston in East Sussex where nonconformity and unbridled creativity abounded. Trained in Impressionism but stimulated by her many visits to Paris in the 1910s, she developed a radical, experimental style, using bold colours and abstraction (in oil painting, photography and designs for fabrics and furnishings) which challenged traditional notions of the beautiful and placed her at the vanguard of progressive ideas in British art.
Legacy: Photographs by Vanessa Bell and Patti Smith is a display of prints by the poet, performer and political activist, and seven of Bell’s family photo albums. Smith has long been fascinated by the work and lives of the Bloomsbury Group, and has spent time at Charleston and Virginia Woolf’s home Monk’s House, finding inspiration and solace in the rural retreats of these influential artists, writers and thinkers. Her photos depict places abandoned to the forces of nature and are juxtaposed against Bell’s busy books brimming with lots of characters.