Oil painting

A Garden Scene

1925 (painted)

Bell, Vanessa

Height: 256 cm measured 02/10/08, Width: 216.8 cm measured 02/10/08, Depth: 3.8 cm measured 02/10/08

P.2-1953 PDP

Mural painting, 'A Garden Scene, Vanessa Bell, 1925 (part of set by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant for the sitting room of 6 Endsleigh Place, London, WC1)

Large mural depicting a red curtain with yellow/cream lining being pulled back at either side of the painting to reveal a garden scene. In the foreground, positioned diagonally on a dark area of ground, is a rectangular table half-draped with a plum coloured swath of material that cascades down to the floor. On the area of this cloth which covers part of the table-top are depicted an open book (possibly of music) and two stringed musical instruments (lute and violin?). At the centre of the image is a statue in the form of a female nude - the statue is in the centre of a small pool (so could be a fountain) and is located at the centre of a triangular crossroads of garden paths. The top left and right corners of the image show two patches of numerous tightly packed swirls of different shades of green, apparently representing vegetation.

This mural painting is one of a set of five given to the Victoria and Albert Museum by Mr. Raymond Mortimer in 1953. All five paintings came from the sitting room of 6 Endsleigh Place, London, WC1, where they had formed part of that room's interior decoration since their execution in 1925. The murals were designed by Vanessa Bell (1879-1961) and Duncan James Corrowr Grant (1885-1978). According to Mr Mortimer, this particular mural was painted by Bell. Bell and Grant worked together on many interior decoration schemes for private patrons. The only ones still surviving in their original setting are the mural decorations (1940-42) at Berwick Church, Sussex and the rooms at nearby Charleston, Firle (which became Bell's country home in 1916 and after her death was preserved by a trust for the public benefit). In addition to her proficiency as a painter, Bell was also accomplished in producing textiles, ceramics, painted furniture, and book jackets (designed for the Hogarth Press). This ability and interest in working in a variety of media was largely fuelled by her involvement in the Omega Workshops, an organisation founded by Roger Fry (1866-1934) in 1913 to enable artists fired by post-impressionism to apply their gifts to the decorative arts. Bell, together with her sister the writer Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), was also an active member of the literary and artistic circle known as the 'Bloomsbury Set'.

Given by Raymond Mortimer, 1953 Historical significance: This decorative mural painting is one of a set of five given to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1953 by Raymond Mortimer, one of the most notable critics of his generation, literary editor of the New Statesman (1935-47), and chief reviewer for the Sunday Times (1948-1952). The paintings all came from Mortimer's sitting room at 6, Endsleigh Place, London WC1, where they had formed part of the room's decoration since their execution in 1925 by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell (Mortimer had moved out of the flat in 1952 to a house in Islington, prompting the gift). In asking Grant and Bell to decorate his flat, Mortimer was inspired by the decorative paintings which they had done in the flat belonging to his friend Clive Bell (Vanessa's estranged husband) at 50 Gordon Square. Grant and Bell were co-directors of the Omega workshops which was founded by Roger Fry in 1913. With the Omega firm they sought to break down what they saw as the false distinction between the fine and decorative arts, bringing to their designs the visual language of Post Impressionism: bright colours and bold, simplified forms. In 1944 Raymond Mortimer contributed a volume on Duncan Grant to the influential Penguin Modern Painters series.

Given by Raymond Mortimer

Location: In Storage

View this object on the V&A website