A Bloomsbury Garden: SEPTEMBER 19TH - OCTOBER 12TH, 2019
VERNISSAGE: THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 19TH, 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Artist Talk: September 21st, 11AM - 2PM at the Wallack Galleries.
We invite you to attend the opening of an exhibition of recent paintings by Karen Kulyk.
Please join us and meet the artist at Wallack Galleries on Thursday, September 19th, 2019, from 6:30pm - 8:30pm.
In 2016, while in England, I sought out Charleston, the home and studio of Bloomsbury artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. After exploring the striking embellished interior, I wandered the garden designed for the couple by Roger Fry, who recognized its Elizabethan origins. Dedicated gardeners, Vanessa and Duncan enjoyed its cultivation and were rewarded with an inspirational source for subject matter. I made a drawing on the spot of an ancient apple tree. That spurred me on to try my hand at capturing this beautiful serene space still vibrating with the energy and creative spirit of the inspired artists, musicians, writers and performers who were drawn there to define modern artistic aesthetic in the early Twentieth Century. The following year, I accepted an invitation from the director to return to Charleston to view the garden from inside the house to recapture the views beloved by Vanessa Bell including those from her private studio on the second floor.
THE STORY BEHIND THE GARDEN
Vanessa Stephen was already a modern woman by the turn of the nineteenth century. Born into a privileged upper middle class family with literary interests, she and her sister Virginia were progressively educated first at home, then at King’s College, London. On graduating, her father recognized Vanessa’s natural talent for drawing and permitted further training at the very respectable Royal Academy. There she discovered James McNeil Whistler and studied under John Singer Sargent, contemporary artists aware of new art movements emerging across the channel. Students were encouraged to embrace impressionism, natural light and colour.-On the death of her father, as eldest child, Vanessa assumed responsibility of her siblings Thoby, Virginia and Adrian. Her first decision was to take them abroad to explore European culture and on their return she moved the family from Kensington to the less fashionable Gordon Square in Bloomsbury. Frail Virginia retreated to stay with friends in the country as she battled serious depression, returning to London as she grew stronger. Thoby and Adrian, graduates of Cambridge, filled the new flat with school friends who quickly bonded to create a group that met regularly to debate philosophy and modern ideas. Dubbed the Bloomsbury Group, they encouraged freedom of thought and deed without prejudice. The vivacious, witty and beautiful Vanessa was encouraged to participate in the lively discussion that ensued.-As an independent woman hoping to develop an artistic career, and with a need to economize the family income, she left the Royal Academy for The Slade but soon became dissatisfied with its teaching methods. Influenced by Whistler and Sargent, she painted her rooms white to encourage natural light to enter, and set up her easel to make a studio at Gordon Square. Vanessa began to invite other artists interested in modern ideas to a Friday Club and it was there that she met a young painter, Duncan Grant, encouraged to attend by his cousin Lytton Strachey, a prominent Bloomsbury member.-Through the Group, Vanessa met her future husband, art historian Clive Bell and her greatest supporter, fellow artist, art critic and museum director Roger Fry. She refused Bell twice preferring her new found independence and enjoyed the stimulating association with Fry who recognized and supported her particular talent. Devastated by the untimely death of her oldest brother which sent Virginia into a suicidal spiral, and unable to cope with the stressful direction life took them, she finally accepted Clive Bell in 1907. Initially it was a good decision that brought her support, peace and a new strength to continue painting. She and Clive had two sons born in 1908 and 1910 but his meandering ways disappointed Vanessa and her independent spirit led her in another direction. Roger Fry, always a great source of solace and a champion of her work won her affection and they became lovers.-The aggressively modern Vanessa was not about to withdraw with her children into a submissive, subservient relationship with her husband. Instead, encouraged by Roger, she accepted commissions and became co- director of Fry’s Omega Workshop with Duncan Grant. This modern design group employed artists, providing stability so that they could pursue their independent careers free of economic restriction. There they received their first interior design commissions.-Vanessa and Duncan quickly developed mutual respect for each other as they experimented with and incorporated modern ideas into their art under the influence of Roger Fry. In his curatorial capacity he introduced London to modern art through two seminal exhibitions in 1910 and 1912. He in fact coined the title Post Impressionism to define it and honoured Bell and Grant by exhibiting their work in the 1912 show. Pre-war London was set on end by the arrival of Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes and like Picasso in Paris, Vanessa and Duncan were involved in costume, set and curtain design. It was a heady time and by 1914, the young artists recognized a mutual attraction fuelled by their total commitment to artistic creation. Vanessa began to pull away from Roger towards Duncan.-With the outbreak of war in 1914, the pacifistic Bloomsbury Group sought alternative ways to serve their country. Duncan left for Sussex with David Garnett to harvest crops and Vanessa followed with her children. Virginia’s new husband Leonard Woolf found the farm house Charleston in 1916 which was close enough to their home to keep the sisters in touch. On their arrival, Vanessa and Duncan began embellishing the walls with free hand patterns and colourful murals. The Bloomsbury crowd came frequently to escape the stress of London and horror of war; Lytton Strachey, Dora Carrington, Maynard Keynes, Lydia Lopokova, Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Roger who always adored Virginia and his new partner Helen Anrep, and Clive her wayward husband with the latest mistress. Duncan and Vanessa remained partners for life despite his frequent homosexual relationships and in 1918 they celebrated the birth of their daughter Angelica. In 1939, with another war looming, they made Charleston their permanent home. It remains a vibrant testimony to modern art and design and mutual commitment.-To learn more about the history of the Bloomsbury garden and Vanessa Stephen click here.
Karen Kulyk’s creative curiosity has led her around the world, to studios in France, England, and Italy, to Thailand and South America and the Caribbean. In these places, she experienced varied and contrasting images, but the sensibility and imagination with which she interpreted them remained a constant.