The Textiles of Charleston Farmhouse
This week, on Wednesday 12 May, we were delighted to host an evening of talks focusing on the history and legacy of Charleston Farmhouse. Read on for an excerpt of our article, An artist’s palette, in Issue 28 Literary where we introduce the Bloomsbury group and their pioneering decorative schemes for their Sussex home.
Charleston provides a rare opportunity to see textiles by Bloomsbury group artists, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, in their original setting. It was the artists' Sussex home from 1916 until Duncan Grant's death in 1978. The interiors are preserved almost exactly as they were in Bloomsbury's hey-day when Maynard Keynes, Roger Fry, and Vanessa Bell's sister, Virginia Woolf, were frequent visitors to the unconventional household.
The Bloomsbury group was a famous and influential circle of artists, writers, and intellectuals who gathered around Vanessa Bell’s London home. Although they had no formal manifesto and worked across many creative fields their theories on art, life, literature and economics changed the shape of British cultural life and society. Charleston, their summer retreat, is now a museum, with exacting environmental conditions, but there are no labels or information panels - it still has a lived-in feel.
Quite aside from their reputations as painters, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant were among the most fashionable designers in Britain in the 1920s and '30s. Their interiors were featured in Vogue and their decorated ceramics, manufactured by Clarice Cliff and Foley, were previewed at Harrods.
Charleston is the most complete surviving example of their decorative work. Pelmets are decorated with loops of woollen rope; armchairs are furnished with canvas work cushions designed by Bell and stitched by Duncan Grant's mother, Ethel Grant, and in the studio a canvas work panel hangs alongside the artists' paintings and murals.
Vanessa Bell collected textiles. She bought them on her travels and stashed them in a painted cupboard in her bedroom. The cotton squares covering chair backs throughout the house were picked-up in French markets, and her embroidered bedspread was acquired on a trip to Turkey in 1911. She put the family heirlooms to use in the first house that she decorated, draping Indian shawls over the furniture at 46 Gordon Square in Bloomsbury, London where she moved with her two brothers and her sister, Virginia, after the death of their father in 1904. As her style became more assured and progressive, she played a central role in developing textiles for the Omega Workshops...
Read the rest of our article An artist’s palette: the textiles of Charleston Farmhouse in Issue 28 Literary.
Thanks to all our speakers who took part in our Charleston Farmhouse event this week and all of the people who attended. If you missed out, you can view our other upcoming talks on our events page: Selvedge Magazine workshops and talks