Place made
Brandon, near Thetford, England
oil on board
37.5 x 52.4 cm
Credit line
James and Diana Ramsay Fund 2020
Accession number
Signature and date
not signed. dated verso.
Paul Roche, long-term companion of Duncan Grant, from whom bought by previous owner; Christies Modern British Art Sale 20 November 2018, lot 180, bought by Philip Mould Galleries, London; from whom acquired December 2020.
Media category
Collection area
British paintings
© Estate of Vanessa Bell courtesy of Henrietta Garnett
  • This bold geometric and abstracted painting is one of a small number of works painted by Vanessa Bell in August 1913 at a summer camp at Brandon on the Norfolk-Suffolk border near Thetford. The camp lasted twelve days and there were several tents, all pitched at the edge of a field bordered by trees. There was an impressive turnout and attendees included Brynhild, Margery, Noel and Daphne – daughters of Sir Sydney Olivier, Adrian Stephens, Molly MacCarthy, Ka Cox and Gerald Shove as well as several key members of the Bloomsbury Group – a collective of like-minded intellectuals, artists, writers and philosophers united in their belief in art and its relevance in modern life. Vanessa Bell was joined by her husband Clive along with Maynard Keynes, Duncan Grant and Roger Fry.

    Seated figure represents Bell at the height of her artistic experimentation and confidence. Her bold application of paint leaves great swathes of empty canvas imbuing the work with a dynamic sketchy quality. Painted just prior to the establishment of the Omega workshops, this work is the predecessor to a major Omega workshops screen, Bathers in a landscape, which is now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum London; further highlighting the importance of this work within Bell’s oeuvre.

    Members of the Bloomsbury Group were notorious for their complex interpersonal relationships and bohemian lifestyles, to the extent that the value of their artistic achievements was on occasions overshadowed by the scandals generated by their personal liaisons and intrigues. Early twentieth century British painting is often overlooked and perceived as more conservative than that of their Parisian colleagues, yet the work of Bell and other members of this group undeniably highlight the avant garde nature of artistic expression in Britain in the first half of the twentieth century.