Vanessa Bell - Life and Works

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Vanessa Bell - Life and Works

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1Caroline_McElwee
Oct 22, 2009, 12:31pm

Vanessa was a renowned artist and with a rich life, lived both in Bloomsbury and at Charleston House, as well as in other parts of Europe. Here's the place to explore her world.

2tiffin
Oct 23, 2009, 9:16am

Here is a copy and paste of my review of her daughter's autobiography:
Deceived With Kindness: A Bloomsbury Childhood (Oxford Paperbacks)… by Angelica Garnett
Angelica Garnett was the daughter of Vanessa (Stephens) Bell and Duncan Grant, inner circle members of the Bloomsbury group. She didn’t learn that Grant was her father until she was 18, led to believe through it never actually being stated that her mother’s husband, Clive Bell, was her father.

“Deceived with Kindness” is the story of her childhood, adolescence and early twenties in this rarified atmosphere of art and artists, writers, musicians, actors, many of whom lived in defiance of the codes of conduct of the day. The Bells had enough income to be able to keep a home in London and one in the country, supported by a cast of cooks and servants. But there any semblance of convention stopped for their existence was bohemian and unconventional. Vanessa was the powerhouse at the centre of it all, her powerful personality guiding both Bell and Grant throughout the years. Bell had his own place in London but his wife continued to live with Grant, with whom she had a deep relationship around art, if eventually nothing else.

Angelica was a child with no fathers. Bell, not being her biological father, was steps removed from her. Grant was completely incapable of functioning as a father. Although she portrays him as sweet and somewhat vague, the image of him is of a rather spineless character who just wandered through life doing pretty much what he pleased.

This benign neglect on the one hand and the forceful personality of her mother on the other left Angelica a prime target for the machinations of Bunny Garnett, her father’s former lover. More than twice her age, he targetted her for acquisition at her cradle, a plan he carried out. Her marriage to him left her relationship to her mother permanently damaged.

The book is really an attempt to come to grips with all of this on the part of Angelica. In doing so, it sheds light into certain corners of Virginia Woolf’s personality, Vanessa Bell and the lives of the whole Bloomsbury group. But that illumination is incidental to the real purpose of the book: a deeply introspective look by an individual at what has shaped them to be the person they have ended up being. An interesting read.

I gave it 3.5 stars because although it was a fascinating look at the inner workings of some of the Bloomsbury group, it wasn't spectacular writing.