Artist biography

English painter and decorative artist. She trained at the Slade School of Fine Art in London where she met John Nash, who aroused her interest in wood-engraving, and Mark Gertler, whose powerful figure paintings influenced her own approach to portraiture. She rejected Gertler as a lover and set up home with the homosexual essayist and biographer Lytton Strachey (1880–1932), first at Tidmarsh Mill then at Ham Spray, between Newbury and Hungerford, Berks. In 1921 she married Ralph Partridge, living with him and Strachey in a ménage à trois, surrounded mainly by literary friends and receiving little encouragement to exhibit. She turned instead to decorative work, emulating Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant but in a style more native in inspiration and more naive. She designed tiles and inn signs, experimented with painting on glass and tinfoil, decorated furniture and designed the library at Ham Spray. Emotional relationships further diversified her interests and much of her creative energy went into her letters which, with their mongrel prose, inimitable spelling and spontaneous illustrations, provide an exceptional insight into her life and character. As a painter she is uneven, at times awkward, at others bringing poetic vehemence to her well-constructed image. She is aligned more with her Slade contemporaries than with Bloomsbury. Often she is more Pre-Raphaelite than Post-Impressionist. The ‘preternatural acuteness' that Julia Strachey observed in her view of others sharpens the fun in her letters and can give a startling intensity to her portraits and landscapes.

Bibliography
M. Holroyd: Lytton Strachey: A Critical Biography, 2 vols (London, 1967–8)
Dora Carrington: Paintings and Drawings (exh. cat., Oxford, Christ Church Pict. Gal., 1978)
N. Carrington: Carrington: Paintings, Drawings and Decorations (Oxford, 1978)
G. H. Gerzina: Carrington: Another Look at Bloomsbury (Ann Arbor, 1985)
J. Hill: The Art of Dora Carrington (London, 1994)

FRANCES SPALDING

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