National Portrait Gallery, London - 10th July to 26th October 2014
George Charles Beresford, Virginia Woolf, 1902, platinum print, 15.2 x 10.8 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London. Source
As an art historian, I’ve been familiar with the lives of Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Roger Fry for quite sometime. The other members of the Bloomsbury Group are a bit of a mystery to me, however. Obviously I know the basics of Virginia Woolf’s life - sister of Vanessa, River Ouse suicide etc - but I’m less aware of the details surrounding her work and inspirations. The National Portrait Gallery’s latest exhibition therefore seemed like an unmissable opportunity to find out more about the elegant but troubled author.
Beginning with George Charles Beresford’s portraits of Woolf, taken when she was just 20 years old, the exhibition guides the viewer from the writer’s youth to old age, addressing both her public persona and private life with her friends and family. Visual material is rife in quantity and variety, with portraiture - painted and photographic - sculpture, books, letters, diary entries, leaflets and exhibition catalogues being used to illustrate the highs and lows of Woolf’s life. Visitors are completely immersed in her vision, style and state of mind, and it’s a beautiful thing. Her tragic death is handled well, and the exhibition ends on a high with a look at Woolf’s later curatorial work and her overall legacy. Seeing someone’s entire life condensed into a few small rooms is quite a sad concept when you really think about it, but putting these fantastic objects together in one place is inspiring. It makes me want to watch The Hours again!
Monday or Tuesday by Virginia Woolf, cover by Vanessa Bell, published by Hogarth Press, 1921. Source
Roger Fry, Virginia Woolf, 1911-12, oil on board, [no dimensions], Private Collection. Source
Duncan Grant, Virginia Woolf, 1911, oil on masonite, 55.9 x 40.6 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Source