Adrian Stephen by Duncan Grant, c. 1910

John Maynard Keynes’ Room: Adrian Stephen was the younger brother of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell. He was a lover of Duncan Grant before Grant had a child with Stephen’s sister Vanessa.

Following in his elder brother Thoby’s footsteps, Adrian Stephen went up to Trinity College, Cambridge before moving to the Bloomsbury district in London.

Adrian Stephen by Duncan Grant, c. 1910. Photo © Penelope Fewster.

Adrian Stephen by Duncan Grant, c. 1910. Photo © Penelope Fewster.

Adrian Stephen and Duncan Grant became close friends when both lived in Fitzroy Square. Grant was such a frequent visitor to the home of Adrian and Virginia Stephen that the maid Maud remarked, ‘That Mr Grant gets in everywhere’.[1] They went on to have a sexual affair which began in 1909, during which time Grant painted three portraits of Stephen of which two now reside at Charleston.

In 1910 Adrian participated with Duncan, Virginia and others in the famous ‘Dreadnought Hoax’, in which the group gained a tour by the admiralty of their most prized warship, pretending to be an envoy of Abyssinian princes. The episode gained notoriety in the national papers and was a cause of great embarrassment for the navy.

Like many of the Bloomsbury group, Stephen was a conscientious objector during the First World War. He married fellow student Karin Costelloe in 1914, who was an authority on Henri Bergsen. Together with his wife, Stephen developed a deep interest in Freud and was a psychoanalyst during the very earliest stages of the profession in the UK.

Of the two portraits that reside at Charleston, Frances Spalding has noted that both ‘catch the pallor of his long face and the steadiness of his gaze, which conveys a subdued watchfulness. The impression remains of hidden depths, of a character whose complexities are withdrawn and possibly too deeply entangled to allow for any surface indication of them. Awareness of this may eventually have helped Adrian in his final choice of career: psychoanalysis.’[2]

The brutality of World War II let Stephen to abandon is pacifism and he volunteered as an army psychologist at the age of 60. Stephen died in 1948.

[1] Duncan Grant “Virginia Stephen” in Virginia Woolf: interviews and recollections, ed. J H Stape, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, 1995, p. 135.

[2] Frances Spalding, Duncan Grant: A Biography, London: Chatto & Windus, 1997, p. 92.

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