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Vanessa Bell usually painted still lifes and portraits of her family, but she experimented briefly with abstract art when encouraged by Roger Fry and Duncan Grant. The subject here is a professional model, and the picture was probably painted as an exercise when Bell returned seriously to painting after bringing up her daughter. She then visited Paris, where she admired the new paintings by Picasso of monumental nudes. Her still lifes always give a sense of the pleasure of touch, with warm earth colours, and these are also features of her appraisal of this plump young woman.
This painting was chosen by Wendy Cope.

August 2004