“I visited Charleston [Farmhouse] last December on an extremely cold, gray, day, and immediately felt its Chekhovian beauty and sadness. The place has been preserved in its worn and faded and stained actuality. It is an artist’s house, a house where an eye has looked into every corner and hovered over surface, considering what will please it to look at every day – an eye that has been educated by Paris ateliers and villas in the South of France and is not gladdened by English prettiness. But it is also the house of an Englishwoman (an Englishwoman who on arriving at her rented house in St. Tropez in 1921 wrote to Maynard Keynes in London to ask him to send a dozen packages of oatmeal, ten seven-pound tins of marmalade, four pounds of tea and ‘some potted meat’) – a house where sagging armchairs covered with drooping slipcovers of faded print fabric are tolerated, and where even a certain faint dirtiness is cultivated.”
Janet Malcolm “A House of One’s Own” (The New Yorker June, 5, 1995)
Starting and ending this week with Vanessa Bell seems perfect. I am in the middle of reading Janet Malcolm’s delicious book “Forty-one False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers,” and included is “A House of One’s Own,” Malcolm’s story of the sisters Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, and the circle around them more than a hundred years ago, known as Bloomsbury.
Published in The New Yorker in 1995, I have the paper copy of the article still, much thumbed and practically memorized, because it set me off on years of wonderful reading about the characters featured in what Malcolm calls the “Bloomsbury novel.” They were writers and artists, critics and an economist, people who liked to make things and write things, and the whole complicated tale of Bloomsbury can be joyful about work, heartbreaking about life, and very complicated.
So I loved coming upon Vanessa in the V&A collections this week I loved doing all the drawings, and I thank those of you who follow along in the daily form – it’s always a treat to see your “likes” or comments.