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Bell, Vanessa, 1879–1961
Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant letters to Kenneth Clark and Jane Clark, ca. 1920-1969.
Physical Description:
0.42 linear feet (1 box)
Rare Books and Manuscripts
MSS 39
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
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Copyright Status:
Copyright Not Evaluated
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View a description and listing of collection contents in the finding aid
Archives & Manuscripts
The collection is open without restriction.
Duncan Grant (1885-1978) and Vanessa Bell (1879-1961) were British painters and designers associated with the Bloomsbury Group--an influential set of writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists who lived or worked in around Bloomsbury, London in the first half of the 20th century. The recipients of Bell and Grant's letters, Kenneth (1903-1983) and Elizabeth “Jane” Clark (née Martin) (1902-1976), met as students at Oxford University and married in 1927. Jane was the Irish daughter of Emily Winifred Dickson, the first female Fellow of any Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland or Britain. Kenneth Clark was a prominent British art historian, aesthete, author, museum director and broadcaster. Greatly influenced by John Ruskin, Clark began his career as fine art curator at Oxford University's Ashmolean Museum, before going on to be the director of the National Gallery (at the age of 30).
The collection comprises correspondence from the artistic partners, Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, to the art historian Kenneth Clark and his wife, Elizabeth “Jane” Clark (née Martin). The correspondence was written over a course of approximately fifty years, with the earliest letter dating from circa 1920 and the latest from 1969. Seventeen letters in the collection are undated. The letters are broad in scope and give a deep insight into the artistic endeavors and personal lives of these four prominent figures of the artistic and cultural scene of twentieth century Britain. A large portion of the collection pertains to major artistic, often collaborative, works by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell and reflect their eclectic creative range. Eighteen letters relate to Kenneth Clark's commission for Grant and Bell to decorate a full dinner service on the theme “Famous Women” and give an account of the discussions between the trio surrounding the commission's theme, where to have the service pieces manufactured and who the “famous women” subjects should be.
The correspondence gives details about a variety of exhibitions and artistic events taking place in and around London and Sussex (where the four were variously resident) and shows the respect Grant and Bell had for Kenneth Clark's opinion on such matters. The collection provides a glimpse into the wider connections the letters' authors and recipients held in the artistic, literary and cultural world of twentieth century Britain. Throughout the correspondence, references are made to a plethora of artists, authors and other creatives who make visits to Grant and Bell, collaborate with them on projects and invite their involvement in various exhibitions and events.
The letters convey close friendships between the four and record many important and poignant moments in their personal lives. Throughout the collection, Grant and Bell send their support to the Clarks on the occasion of family illness and thank the couple for their best wishes for their own household's health, in turn. In one letter, Vanessa Bell thanks Kenneth Clark for his sympathy note after the suicide of her sister, Virginia Woolf, in 1941. She writes that “it is a help to know that those besides those who her knew her well understand what they have lost” and encourages Clark, and the younger generation more widely, not to lose courage. Twenty years later, Grant pens similar letters to the Clarks on the death of Vanessa herself. A letter from Grant to Jane Clark in July 1937 relays the “terrible news” of the death of the poet, and son of Vanessa and Clive Bell, Julian Bell, while working with the Red Cross during the Spanish Civil War.
The collection is arranged chronologically.
Subject Terms:
Art galleries, Commercial.
Art, British.
Ashtead Pottery.
Bell, Julian, 1908-1937.
Bell, Vanessa, 1879-1961 -- Correspondence.
Bloomsbury group.
Clark, Elizabeth Winifred Jane, 1902-1976 -- Correspondence.
Clark, Kenneth, 1903-1983 -- Correspondence.
Cunard White Star, ltd.
Fry, Roger, 1866-1934.
Grant, Duncan, 1885-1978 -- Correspondence.
Interior decoration -- Great Britain.
Josiah Wedgwood & Sons.
Millers Gallery (Lewes, England).
Painters -- Great Britain.
Painting, British.
Poole Pottery.
Potters -- Great Britain.
Pottery, British.
Women -- Great Britain.
Woolf, Virginia, 1882-1941.
World War, 1939-1945.
Grant, Duncan, 1885-1978.

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