Charleston

Portrait of Vanessa Bell

Throughout their lives, the artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell painted many portraits of each other. This early example was painted in 1915.

Throughout their lives, the artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell painted many portraits of each other. This early example was painted in 1915, possibly on top of an old table-top or door. Grant combined oil painting and collage techniques to build texture in the surface of the picture and recreate the paisley pattern of Bell’s red ballgown. Grant completed three paintings of her wearing this dress, one of which is in the National Portrait Gallery‘s collection.

‘This early portrait of Vanessa Bell by Duncan Grant is one of the most beautiful and significant works to enter Charleston’s collection.’

– Nathaniel Hepburn, Director and Chief Executive, Charleston
Painted shortly before the artists moved to Charleston together in 1916, this portrait reflects a time during which their friendship evolved and they became lovers. A portrait of an artist by an artist, of a friend by a friend and of a lover by their lover. We acquired this painting in 2020 through the Arts Council’s Acceptance in Lieu scheme and it now hangs proudly in the house, in the library, which was originally Bell’s bedroom.