Woman in Shawl (Vanessa Bell) (1957)
This sensitive portrait is a study for the mural painting in the Russell Chantry in Lincoln Cathedral.
This portrait shows Vanessa Bell at the age of 77 by her long-standing companion, whom she posed for on many occasions. Contrasting sharply with the vitality and colour of the mural scenes in the Russell Chantry, here the figure of Vanessa is sensitive and subdued. She has an air of sadness and isolation, her downcast gaze is distracted and a heavy shawl covers her head. Vanessa suffered many losses in her life, her son in the Spanish Civil War, and the premature deaths of her friends Roger Fry and Lytton Strachey and that of her sister were serious blows. This painting can be seen as more than a study for the larger mural, it is a perceptive portrait of Vanessa in old age, by an artist with whom she had lived and worked for most of her life.
About the Artist
Duncan Grant (1885-1978)
Duncan Grant was born in Inverness and attended Westminster and the Slade Schools of Art and studied under Jaques-Emile Blanche in Paris. In 1909 he settled in Fitzroy Square, London and his friendships with Clive and Vanessa Bell and other members of the Bloomsbury Group date from this period. He was highly influenced by Post-Impressionism and the Parisian avant-garde and from 1913-19 was a co-founder of the Omega Workshops with Roger Fry and Vanessa Bell. His reputation as leading British artist became established between the Wars and he exhibited widely in England and abroad. In addition to painting, he worked in various media including fabric designs, ceramics, book illustration and decorative mural schemes.