Calendar designed by Vanessa Bell
A Calendar designed by Vanessa Bell, Tate Archive.

Today I’ve got something seasonal to show you from the Archive. Artists have a bit of an advantage when it comes to interesting Christmas presents - this is a calendar, hand-painted by Vanessa Bell, from the papers of Helen Anrep and Roger Fry. Bell and Fry were both members of the Bloomsbury Group, the loose circle of artists and intellectuals living in this area of central London. Vanessa Bell was an artist, Roger Fry was both an artist and a critic, as well as being the man who introduced Post-Impressionist art to England. As well as their influence on art and writing, the Bloomsbury set are also very well known for their entangled personal lives. Vanessa, the sister of Virginia Woolf, was married to Clive Bell, had briefly had an affair with Roger Fry in the 1910s, but had then transferred her affections to Duncan Grant, with whom she lived for the rest of her life. Fry met Helen Anrep in 1924, and she left her husband (the Russian mosaicist Boris Anrep) to live with him until his death in 1934. The Bloomsbury artists were also well known for their interest in the decorative arts. Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant founded the Omega Workshops in 1913, which employed a wide range of artists to design and decorate ‘furniture, textiles, hand-dyed dress materials, trays, fans and other objects suitable for Christmas presents’. The enterprise struggled financially and closed in 1919 after 6 years, but the principles that drove it continued to inspire its founders. Grant and Bell in particular continued to do house decorations (including their own home in Sussex, Charleston), murals and stage designs as well as illustrating books - in particular for Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press. Their archives are scattered with small items like this which they made for each other - Christmas cards, Valentines, and so on - and which to me really help bring to life the Bloomsbury Group’s way of life. Have you ever made Christmas presents yourself? Written by Emily Down


Rosemary Derwent

Gosh was it that long ago....We really enjoyed it, well i did then i think we had a table booked in the Restaurant upstairs and looked at the Night outside GREAT but the plates were'nt as good as the Bloomsbury sets...I like the staged sets too, they weren't so hot at painting, their fabrics and home Interiors were the best...Please look at mine, mine last and are nOT ewashed away like theirs....Apparently their technique was NOT very good why the thing failed really.

Jessica McFarland

For my mother once I decorated six glass baubles with coloured tissue paper and bits of photos of key events in our lives, held together with decoupage. (I was in my twenties and poor.) The effect isn't as tidy as I would have liked, but they still go on the tree every year!

jenny gutcher

I also feel it was so crowded couldnt really enjoy. It was difficult to really appreciate the pictures and read the write-ups. To be honest I enjoyed the wood carvings and sculptures more than the paintings. The best part of the day was walking out onto the balcony when we had finished at 6pm and seeing London all lit up in front of us - absolutely magical!