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This week is your last chance to see the first retrospective of Vanessa Bell’s work, featuring fine and applied art, plus a contemporary addition from Patti Smith, on display now at London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Vanessa Bell, born in London in 1879, was a pioneering female artist. Her work however has often been overshadowed by her love life and famous counterparts, (she was a central figure in the famed Bloomsbury group, a favourite of KITRI girl Fee Greening). This exhibition finally focuses on Vanessa as an artist in her own right and highlights the importance of Bell’s legacy.

As her first ever retrospective, the show has been curated to display her adapting and forward-thinking view on the world. Opening with strong portraiture, self-portraits sit alongside her images of her sister Virginia Woolf, the writer Lytton Strachey, the poet Iris Tree and many influential friends throughout her life. Alongside the one hundred paintings on show, including landscapes and still life, we see a glimpse of Bell as innovative homemaker and a free-spirited mother. From her creative farmhouse at Charleston, the Bloomsbury base, to her fabric work with the Omega Workshop.
Vanessa’s personal photography albums are also on display for the first time and are complemented by images from the equally legendary Patti Smith, a long-term fan of Bell’s work. Vanessa’s personal photographs showcase how she used the camera to inform her paintings, plus behind-the-scenes daily life. Smith’s selection of black and white photographs are the product of her residency at Charleston in 2003. Capturing the lingering remnants of Bell’s life and documenting female creativity that continues to this day. 

This retrospective is not only insightful and pleasing to see, it invites you to develop a new perspective on Vanessa Bell as an artist - don’t miss it!
 The Vanessa Bell retrospective is on until 4 June 2017. Find out more information here.


Words by Abi Corbett
Image credits: 

The Other Room, photo credit: Bill Philip Photography. Nude with Poppies, photo credit: Henrietta Garnett. Tents and Figures, photo credit: Victoria and Albert Museum. Virginia Woolf, photo credit: National Portrait Gallery. Photographs by Vanessa Bell and others, photos credit: Tate Archive