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Vanessa BellRoger FryDuncan Grant
Growing up

Vanessa Stephen (later Bell) was born in May 1879 in Hyde Park Gate, the eldest of four children of the eminent Victorian scholar and writer Leslie Stephen, and his second wife Julia Duckworth. Vanessa and her brothers and sister Thoby, Adrian, and Virginia (later Virginia Woolf) were largely educated at home, and were encouraged to develop their individual talents. Vanessa started having drawing lessons and was accepted into the Royal Academy Schools in 1899.

After her mother's death in 1895, Vanessa took on the role of housekeeper for her demanding father and family, and was forced to balance this domestic role with trying to develop her artistic interests. However, her father's death in 1904 released her from this responsibility, the family home was sold and the Stephen siblings moved to a new life at 46 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury.
Vanessa and Thoby Stephen
Vanessa and Thoby Stephen
  © Tate Archive, 2003

The move to their new house enabled Vanessa and her sister and brothers to entertain their own friends, rather than their father's. On Thursday nights Thoby invited his literary friends from university to the house, and to balance this, Vanessa started the 'Friday Club', a club for artists which met on Fridays. From these two meetings, artists and writers, developed the 'Bloomsbury Group'.