Charleston

In Colour – Sickert to Riley

Positioning the work of former Charleston residents Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant within a century of great British colourists.

Curated by London-based textile designer, Cressida Bell, granddaughter of artist Vanessa Bell, ‘In Colour – Sickert to Riley’ featured a broad-ranging and highly personal selection of works that reflect Cressida Bell’s personal aesthetic as well as her artistic heritage.

Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant were two of the first abstract painters in Britain, and, even when they were creating figurative and representational work, the abstract qualities of colour remained a dominant element.

Drawing on loans from private and public collections, the show featured works by some of the greatest painters of the last century’ including: Eileen Agar, Robert Bevan, Francis Cadell, Patrick Caulfield, Robert Dukes, Mary Fedden, Mark Gertler, Patrick Heron, John Hoyland, Stanislawa de Karlowska, Paul Nash, Glyn Warren Philpot and Sean Scully, as well as the Bloomsbury artists Bell, Grant and Roger Fry.

Virginia Woolf called her sister Vanessa Bell “a poet whose medium was colour”. The Bloomsbury group’s modernist treatment of colour broke with accepted artistic conventions of the day. The freedom of abstraction allowed Bell and Grant to play with colour and shape in new ways; their paintings, typical of the 20th century, move towards colour dominating composition. This abstract idiom provides a new context for examining the painting of the Bloomsbury group, as radical painters who saw colour as the most vital component of an image.