Archive for the ‘Roger Fry’ Category

King’s College, Cambridge

It’s day two of the Literature Cambridge course Virginia Woolf’s Gardens, and we spent two hours touring the gardens of King’s College, Cambridge. Then came the best part of all. We saw the window of a room that was the setting for a scene in Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own.

Not a room of her own

That important part of our tour came at the end, as we got a look at the second floor window of the room overlooking the college green where, our guide told us, Woolf wrote the first chapter of A Room of One’s Own (1929). Later, Trudi Tate, director of Literature Cambridge, corrected that statement. Instead, she told us, the room was the setting for the well-appointed lunch Woolf describes in the first chapter of Room.

The room, of course, was not her own, but was the quarters of Dadie Rylands. Women were not admitted to King’s until 1972, so they obtained their degrees at the University of Cambridge’s two women’s colleges, Newnham, founded in 1869, and Girton, founded in 1871.

We were not able to visit the actual room that helped inspire Woolf, as it is now the accounting office for the college. Ironically, it was off limits to Woolf pilgrims, we who revere her feminist polemic about the ways the patriarchy limits women. I do admit that our group of more than two dozen would have crowded such small quarters.

Bloomsbury paintings in the hundreds

However, after viewing the Provost’s Garden, we were taken inside the nearby Provost’s Lodge. There, we were shown two first-floor rooms hung with original paintings by Bloomsbury artists Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Roger Fry, and Dora Carrington.

I took plenty of photos of the paintings we saw, but publication of them — even on the internet — is not permitted without permission, and we did not want to trouble our gracious guide to obtain that.

As it turns out, hundreds of paintings by Grant and Bell are hung around the college, many of them donated by Maynard Keynes. A catalogue of the Bloomsbury art is in the works, but it will be several years before it is ready. We were told that it may be available in digital format.

Corrected and updated: 17 July 2019

Dadie Rylands’ room at King’s College, Cambridge, which was behind the second floor window shown here, was the setting for the well-appointed lunch Woolf describes in the first chapter of A Room of One’s Own.

This was part of the view Woolf would have seen from Dadie Rylands’ room at King’s College, Cambridge, which inspired the first chapter of A Room of One’s Own. As our guide told us, the buildings, the lawn, and the gardens have changed little since Woolf’s day.

Woolf mentions undergraduates punting on the river in “A Room of One’s Own.” They, and tourists, still do that today on the River Cam located just beyond the lawn pictured above.

In the Provost’s Garden at King’s College, Cambridge, a private place we viewed on our tour.

A flower bed in the Provost’s Garden, with a pot of colorful sweet peas growing up a trellis.

Giant magnolias from the U.S. frame a doorway in the Provost’s Garden.

Sun-kissed floral closeup in the Provost’s Garden.

The Wine Room in the Provost’s Lodge is filled with paintings by members of the Bloomsbury Group. It is often used now as a seminar room. The 23 students in our group snapped lots of photos of the art.

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A recent article from English Studies is now available free on the Taylor and Francis untitledwebsite to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Virginia Woolf’s death.

The article, by Martin Ferguson Smith, is titled Virginia Woolf and “the Hermaphrodite”: A Feminist Fan of Orlando and Critic of Roger Fry, and will be free for any reader until 31 July 2016. The article can be found at http://bit.ly/Woolf_Smith.

Here’s the abstract for the article, which is available for download as a PDF.

After Virginia Woolf’s biography of Roger Fry was published in 1940, she received a letter from Mary Louisa Gordon strongly critical of her portrayal of Roger’s wife, the artist Helen Coombe, and even more critical of Roger’s character and conduct. Mary and Helen had been friends before the latter married in 1896 and went on to develop severe mental health problems. In 1936 the Woolfs had published Mary’s historical novel, Chase of the Wild Goose, about the Ladies of Llangollen. The article is in four sections. Section 1 is introductory. Section 2 is about Mary. It discusses Chase of the Wild Goose, its relationship to Orlando, and Virginia’s comments on it and its author, whom, in letters to Ethel Smyth, she calls “the Hermaphrodite”. It goes on to describe Mary’s life and career as medical doctor, suffragist, first female Inspector of Prisons in England and Wales, and scathing critic of the prison system. Section 3 presents Mary’s letter to Virginia, with significant corrections of the text published by Beth Rigel Daugherty. Section 4 focuses on Helen, and on Mary’s assessments of her and Roger.

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A couple of Woolf hunters have offered a recently discovered painting by Roger Fry for sale.


A newly discovered landscape by Roger Fry (circa 1913-1919) is now being offered for sale by Jon S. Richardson Rare Books.

Known as “Scene,” this untitled impressionist rendering of a farmhouse alongside a river was discovered to be a work of Fry when the painting was cleaned and repaired by a professional art restoration firm, according to an email the seller, Jon S Richardson Rare Books of Concord, Mass., sent Blogging Woolf.

About the Fry painting

The oil on canvas measures 20 inches by 24 inches, is circa 1913 to 1919 and has an original label from the Omega Workshops, 33 Fitzroy Square, on its reverse side. Dominant colors, which are mainly subdued, are green with brown-orange and blue-grey clouds. Fry’s signature appears in the lower left corner.

Research done by Richardson Rare Books includes the following facts to help date and locate the painting:

  • in 1916 Roger Fry was writing Vanessa Bell that he had returned to landscapes free of “the impressionism you infected me with.” (RF Letters #381- Spalding, Roger Fry .., p. 186)
  • In May, 1916, Fry was at Bo Peep Farm in Alciston (now a B&B near Berwick) painting landscapes (RF Letters #378), evidence that the painting is a Sussex scene and quite possibly a farmstead along the Cuckmere River.

About the painting’s history

The painting’s acquisition by the rare books company led it “to the informed speculation that the painting was one sold in New York City by Sunwise Turn, the Manhattan bookshop which dealt in Omega goods,” according to Richardson.

“While originally Sunwise was thought to deal in textiles only, from a photograph we handled several years ago advertising an Omega screen, it is clear they dealt in other Omega goods as well; any purchaser from Sunwise would have encountered the 1929 stock market crash followed by the Great Depression which no doubt caused the painting to be dispersed into the used goods market and lost in obscurity,” Richardson wrote.

“The signature, even on cleaning, is only visible with sharp light tightly focused, thus it does not show in a photograph with general flash nor upon routine visible inspection. Only upon cleaning did the signature achieve any visibility. Any Roger Fry oil painting from the Omega Period is rare and, with the Omega provenance, this is perhaps unique.”

About the Woolf hunters

According to “Woolf Hunters,” a 2010 article in the Harvard Magazine, Richardson founders Jon and harbor books screenshotMargaret Richardson have made hunting down the works of Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group their mission since opening York Harbor Books in Maine more than 20 years ago.

Their focus has been successful, Jon Richardson explains in the article, “because Woolf and her companions are `still taught, still collected, and many of the people who study the group end up as collectors.’” So successful that the shop publishes a major printed catalog each summer.

To contact Jon S. Richardson Rare Books, email Yorkharborbooks@aol.com.

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Wearing Woolf on your neck

woolf pendant

Always on the lookout for all things Woolfian, I found this pendant at the Made in Ohio Craft Festival at Hale Farm in Bath last weekend.

The image of Woolf is affixed to a domino and sealed with a glossy substance. It is from a Roger Fry painting of Woolf, circa 1917.

Of course, this Woolf necklace is not the only one out there. A quick Google search turns up quite a few for sale on ebay, etsy, etc. Some feature Woolf’s face, others her words.

There’s also a Bloomsbury necklace with portraits of key members of the group. And a Woolf Whistle necklace. Not sure about that one.

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If you live in the Midwest, as I do, January might be the time to take a trip to the Chicago area. Why? The Bloomsburries are coming.

The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University will host the exhibition A Room of Their Own: The Bloomsbury Artists in American Collections.

The exhibit, which focuses on the work of Vanessa Bell, Roger Fry, Duncan Grant and Dora Carrington, will be on display at the Evanston, Ill., museum’s main and Alsdorf galleries from Jan. 15 to March 14. Admission is free and open to the public.

Get the details about the exhibition. View digital images of works from the exhibition online.

The museum and other Northwestern entitities have also scheduled a variety of related events and programs, many of which are free. They include:

  • Docent-led tours of the exhibition at 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from Jan. 16 to March 14.
  • A four-part Saturday matinee series at Block Cinema that begins at 2 p.m. Jan. 16 and runs through Feb. 20. Two of the four films are free. Admission for the other two is $6 for the general public and $4 for Northwestern faculty, staff and students.
  • A three-part Bloomsbury lecture series starting at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23, that includes discussions of Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster and John Maynard Keynes.
  • A 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7, performance of Eileen Atkin’s play “Vita & Virginia,” which is adapted from correspondence between Woolf and Vita Sackville-West.
  • The Arts of Crafts” hands-on workshop at 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21, for families with children ages 6 to 10.
  • A 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, book club discussion on Woolf’s classic feminist polemic, A Room of One’s Own.
  • A day-long academic symposium, “New Looks: The Social Life of Art and Design in Bloomsbury,” scheduled for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27. It will present fresh and diverse scholarship on Bloomsbury art and design, covering topics ranging from the decorative arts, fashion and social dancing to literary responses to architecture and painting, according to the museum Web site.
  • A companion exhibition, “Only Connect — Bloomsbury Family and Friends,” will run from Jan. 14 to April 30 at Northwestern University Library of Special Collections, 1970 Campus Dr. It will explore the Bloomsbury group as a network of friends and families.
  • The Alumnae of Northwestern University will present a 10-week continuing education course, “The Bloomsbury Era Revisited,” Jan. 7 to March 11.  The non-credit afternoon course is open to the public. It will be taught by Northwestern faculty at Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Dr. More information is available online.
  • A 6 p.m. Thursday, March 11, gallery talk on the exhibition by Block Museum curator Corinne Granof.

If you want to bone up on the main figures of the Bloomsbury group, you can read “Ten Characters In Search of a Group: A Sketch of Bloomsbury,” written by One-Soon Her, here.

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