Close up from one of the photograph albums by Vanessa Bell
Close up from one of the photograph albums by Vanessa Bell

One of the most prized items that we hold in our collection, and the piece I have chosen to talk about, are a set of photograph albums from the Vanessa Bell collection. Vanessa Bell was an English painter and interior designer, Virginia Woolf’s sister and a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Bell was also an avid photographer, and many of the photographs in our collection of Bell albums are snapshots taken by her of her family and friends, dating from 1900 to the late 1940s. They provide a unique visual record of the Bloomsbury Group in relaxed and informal situations. I have chosen this particular album because it contains images of the artist slightly later in life and in a variety of places and contexts, namely Cassis in France, the Charleston farmhouse, Berwick Church and FitzRoy Street. The snaps of Cassis show people working in nearby vineyards and informal shots of Angelica Bell and Duncan Grant outside in their dressing-gowns. Of more artistic interest are the snaps from Berwick, which show Charlotte (‘Charlie’) Salaman and Vanessa Bell posing as angels for religious murals being painted by Grant. The album also shows images of the finished murals ‘Christ in Glory’ and “Wise and Foolish Virgins”. As the artist’s son Quentin Bell observed: “She gives us a record of family and friends and in fact uses the camera as most people use it if they are not professional photographers. The family album becomes an expression of sentiment and, to a very large extent, an expression of family affection”. “What sort of photographic record of your own family do you have?”

TGA 9020/10

Written by David Pilling 



Very interesting and informative reading.I'm always happy to keep my date with "TATE"!