Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell: A Very Close Conspiracy

Woolf by Jane Dunn

One sister an artist, the other a well-known writer, these two sisters were the force that established the “Bloomsbury set”, a gathering of talented artists, and thinkers that would meet on Thursday evenings to discuss art, literature and ideas. Such figures as Lytton Strachey, Maynard Keynes and Roger Fry gathered at Charleston, Vanessa Bell’s rambling farmhouse every week.

The two sisters in 1894

The two sisters in 1894

Having suffered many losses together and living in a male-dominated household, these two became life-long allies that encouraged each other in their artistic endeavors, consoled and strengthened one another. Vanessa married Clive Bell and devoted herself to painting. It was a new and exciting time when Impressionist painters like Picasso were making bold new ventures in the art world.

Virginia Woolf by Vanessa Bell

Virginia Woolf by Vanessa Bell

The world of literature was opening up too. VIrginia Woolf drew on her own family relationships to write such books as To the Lighthouse and Jacob’s Room. Often given to bouts of debilitating depression, Virgina finally took her own life.

Her well-known books, illustrated by Vanessa and published by their own Hogarth Press

Her well-known books, illustrated by Vanessa and published by their own Hogarth Press

But she has left behind a great body of work which lives on. This dual biography was surprisingly readable and I would recommend it as a story of the closeness of two sisters who continually gave each other strength and encouragement in their own field while sometimes being somewhat competitive. A good read!

VirginiaSimple

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