Whether you are interested in the Bloomsbury Group as artists, writers or extraordinary characters, this book is an essential summary of what all the fuss is about. The reproductions of the portraits of the members of the group are outstanding; one could only wish that they were larger and that the text was longer, but I suppose this would have made the book much more expensive.
As a longstanding devotee of everything to do with 'The Bloomsbury Group', I have a great many books, collected over years, detailling each & everyone in and around this remarkably talented 'set'. This book, however, is a delightful addition, with many photographs & information which would be especially useful for someone new to the subject, as would certainly "wet one's appetite" for more. The biographies are concise, but excellent and the book, overall, gives a good insight on these wonderful 'bohemians'.
Written by the “leading authority” Frances Spalding, this fascinating and very readable book which manages to cover in only a hundred pages an astonishing amount of information without seeming overloaded, begins with a brief explanation of the famous Bloomsbury Group before embarking on thumbnail biographies of many of its key members, each accompanying a full-page illustration of a painting from the National Portrait Gallery in London.
I have been forced to modify my view of the Bloomsbury Group (so-named after the district into which Vanessa Bell, as she was to become moved, together with her siblings including Virginia who was to marry the publisher Leonard Woolf. Having regarded them as a group of self-absorbed intellectuals, somewhat self-indulgent in the justification of their casual switching of partners, I now realise that their earnest discussion and experimentation was an important and inevitable response to the stultifying grip of Victorian moral conventions and unquestioning acceptance of religious teaching which linked ethics with behaviour. “Fresh questions had to be asked as to how and why they should be connected. What was the nature of good? How should you live? What philosophy could be found to support and justify the good life?” The Bloomsbury Group believed in honest personal relationships, and the value of enduring friendship, which could transcend a love affair which had lost its meaning. Virginia Woolf praised her Bloomsbury friends for “having worked out a view of life which still holds…after twenty years; and no amount of quarrelling or success, or failure has altered this”.
It is revealing how many of the photographs and paintings show the characters reading: the oddly charismatic, sedentary “man of letters” Lytton Strachey, was “often shown in a state of complete relaxation, a condition conducive to a life of intense mental activity”. This inspired the hopeless love of the probably somewhat neurotic artist Dora Carrington, whose portraits impressed me with their quality and realism: namely that of the handsome expert on Spain, Gerard Brenan, who in turn carried a torch in vain for her, and of E.M. Forster who shared Bloomsbury values while remaining on the margins of the group. The clarity and lifelike quality of Roger Fry’s self-portrait together with those of Bertrand Russell (whose mathematical mind and contempt for homosexuality may have distanced him from the Bloomsbury network, which he could not avoid because his wife Alys’s nieces married into it) and of Clive Bell, the longsuffering husband of Vanessa are at odds with Fry’s pioneering work “crusading passionately on behalf of Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Matisse,” to raise awareness in Britain of the Impressionist movement.
The author’s many insights into the lives and time of the Bloomsbury Group, are lightened by many anecdotes, such as the magnetic “cornflower-blue”-eyed David Garnett watching the weighing of Angelica, newborn daughter of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant with whom he lived in a menage à trois, and “conceiving the idea of marrying her” which he duly did more than twenty years later.
This brief book consists of visual paintings of the major charaters of the Bloomsbury group. Each illustration is accompanied by a brief biographical commentary of about a page in length. A good reference book for thsoe familar witht eh Bloomsbury group.
This is a really delightful book and very well illustrated, so much so that I told the author as much last week. But there is a suspicion that the 15 biographies listed in the Introduction do not really represent the whole of the Bloomsbury Group? (Even if the likes of Philippa and Marjorie Strachey, and Margery Fry or Bertrand Russell are added - that only makes 19.) This book makes you want to read more and the author has written biographies of Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell, and Duncan Grant. With the forthcoming BBC TV series on the Bloomsbury Group, this and other new books are going to be popular; perhaps the better places to start are the diaries of the late Frances Partridge: 1900 - 2004, for first hand accounts of the last living member of the Bloomsbury group? The author quite rightly emphasizes the strong connection between the Cambridge Apostles (such as MacCarthy, Woolf, Fry, Strachey, Keynes,and Forster) and the Bloomsbury Group. Overall this is an entertaining book but one is left wishing that there was more of it textually and fewer images.