In Focus

Abstract Kinetic Collage Painting with Sound 1914 by Duncan Grant

Through its combination of movement, light, colour and music, Duncan Grant’s Abstract Kinetic Collage Painting with Sound 1914 made a radical contribution to British modernism.

Abstract Kinetic Collage Painting with Sound (or the Scroll) was made by British artist Duncan Grant in 1914. Consisting of a long, narrow piece of canvas with coloured rectangles glued and painted on it in a rhythmic, abstract arrangement, it was designed to unfurl like a scroll before the viewer’s eyes, illuminated and accompanied by music from a gramophone. Although it is a key work in the aesthetic history of the Bloomsbury Group, the intimate and physical experience that Grant intended for the Scroll has, until now, been overlooked as a result of scholarly and curatorial misinterpretation of the work as a form of film.

This In Focus offers a fresh examination of the Scroll, revealing its relationship to cubist collage and to Grant’s work with Vanessa Bell at the Omega Workshops. New research considers the technologies that would have made it possible to experience Grant’s Scroll in his time, and draws connections between the Scroll and the writing of Grant’s friend Virginia Woolf. A specially made film reconstructs how Grant’s visitors might have experienced the Scroll – its movement, lighting and music – in a domestic setting at the time of its production in 1914.

Published in December 2020, the project is authored by Christopher Townsend (Royal Holloway, University of London), Alexandra Bickley Trott (Oxford Brookes University) and Rhys Davies (Royal Holloway, University of London).