Duncan Grant painting in Staffordshire sale

An abstract painting by Duncan Grant, thought to capture his lover and fellow Bloomsbury set artist Vanessa Bell and their daughter Angelica, is set to sell at Staffordshire saleroom Bishton Hall.

The oil on canvas, which appears to be heavily influenced by the works of Matisse, is signed lower right, measures 59cm x 48.5cm, and will be offered with a guide price of £6,000-£8,000 

Grant (1885-1978), a Scottish painter and designer of textiles, pottery, theatre sets, met Vanessa (1879-1961), a painter, designer and sister of celebrated English writer Virginia Woolf, through the Bloomsbury Group, or Bloomsbury Set. This influential circle of artists, writers and philosophers included John Maynard Keynes, E M  Forster and Lytton Strachey. 

The loose collective of friends and relatives was closely associated with the University of Cambridge for the men and King’s College London for the women. They lived, worked or studied together near Bloomsbury, London. Though they denied being a group in a formal sense, they were united by their belief in the importance of the arts. Their works and outlook influenced literature, aesthetics, criticism, and economics as well as modern attitudes towards feminism, pacifism, and sexuality. 

Vanessa and Duncan demonstrated the latter. Though Vanessa married Clive Bell in 1907 and had two sons with him, they had an open marriage. Vanessa had affairs with art critic Roger Fry as well as Duncan, with whom she had Angelica in 1918.  

Vanessa, Clive, Duncan, and Duncan’s lover David Garnett moved to the Sussex countryside shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, and settled at Charleston Farmhouse near Firle, East Sussex. 

At Charleston, Vanessa and Duncan painted and worked on commissions for the Omega Workshops, a design enterprise founded in 1913 by Roger Fry. Despite their unconventional lifestyle the artists stayed together until the end.  In 1961, Bell died from a brief illness at Charleston, Firle, and was buried in the Firle Parish Churchyard. When Grant died in 1978, he was buried next to her. 

Auction house Hansons said: “The painting has emerged from a private collection. It has been in private hands for most of its life. If is does capture Vanessa and daughter Angelica around the age of five, it can be dated to circa 1923. This powerful painting reminds us of the far-reaching influence of the Bloomsbury Set and their attitudes to life and love.”