Vase, potted by Quentin Bell, decorated by Edward Le Bas, c. 1940

Clive Bell’s Study: The artist Edward Le Bas was a very good friend of both Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, as well as being a regular visitor to Charleston.  He led a dual life as a businessman and artist, and as a lover of both men and women.

The only son of an iron and steel magnate, Le Bas was born in Hampstead and educated at Harrow where he became friends with Cecil Beaton. He attended the studio of Herman Paul, a disciple of Cézanne, and later studied architecture at Cambridge. In 1924 he enrolled at the Royal College of Art where contemporaries included Henry Moore, John Piper, and Eric Ravilious.

Vase, circa 1940, glazed ceramic, potted by Quentin Bell, decorated by Edward Le Bas

Vase, circa 1940, glazed ceramic, potted by Quentin Bell, decorated by Edward Le Bas, marked with Quentin Bell’s mark and Edward Le Bas’s initials, 12.5 cm x 19.5 cm x19.5 cm

His friendship was Grant and Bell was long lasting, and included holidays to Venice and Provence.  A substantial legacy after the death of his father in 1934 enabled him to acquire a significant collection of paintings, which were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1963.  His collection had particular strengths in the Camden Town Group and also in Bloomsbury artists, especially Duncan Grant.

This vase was potted by Quentin Bell around 1940, and both Bell’s and Le Bas’ identifying marks are on the base of the piece. Le Bas was primarily an oil painter but perhaps in response to his surroundings at Charleston readily applied his brush to ceramics.

Le Bas posed for Grant for the Berwick Church murals in 1944, tied to an easel for the Crucifixion.  His friendship was particularly welcome in 1946 following the death of Maynard Keynes, as Spalding notes ‘for this talented painter and discerning collector was also a witty and generous host.’[1]

He was made an RA in 1954, in 1957 he became a CBE.  He died in 1966. As Frances Spalding wrote in her biography, when Duncan Grant heard the news he ‘cried, alone, at the loss of so close a friend. “Edward le Bas’ death was a great blow to me,” he told Richard Morphet.’[2]

[1] Frances Spalding, Duncan Grant: A Biography, London: Chatto & Windus, 1997, p.397.

[2] ibid, p. 454.

What's on

28 Feb
Bloomsbury at home: bodies

Immerse yourself in all things Bloomsbury with our reader in residence Holly Dawson

19 JulWorkshop
Painting in the Garden | Summer

Join artist Julian Le Bas for a day’s intensive painting, and lose yourself in the atmosphere of the walled garden.

31 JulMusic
CROWLINK | Shirley Collins

2021. Legendary folk singer Shirley Collins in a unique collaboration with Brian Catling and Matthew Shaw.

01 AugMusic
CROWLINK | Shirley Collins

2021. Legendary folk singer Shirley Collins in a unique collaboration with Brian Catling and Matthew Shaw.


Get involved