South East Hidden Paintings

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South East

Kathryn Rayward uncovers the hidden art of the Bloomsbury Set in Sussex, and follows the trail of the set's artistic legacy to the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery.

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Hidden away in the countryside, in the shadow of the South Downs, this


farmhouse is being woken from its winter's sleep. And the paintings


inside reveal secrets and about the people who lived here. The artists


who loved and lost, but led This corner of Sussex became the


focal point for the greatest painters and writers of the 20th


century. The Bloomsbury set, including a ground-breaking


novelist, an eccentric painter and her gay lover. Virginia Woolf,


Vanessa Grant and Duncan Grant. What was created here at Charleston


had a far reaching influence on how we view art. Not just in the south-


east, but across the whole world. The pictures they chose to paint


reveal so much about their characters and their extraordinary


legacy that they left behind. But not everything is on show. Just


like any gallery, some paintings have rarely seen at the light of


day. In this programme, we shine a light on the works of art hiding in


I'm Katherine Raywood. I'm an interior designer. I live in Sussex,


and Charleston's art has been an inspiration. So I am going behind


closed door to discover to discover the treasures of Bloomsbury, in the


most surprising of places! Oh, my goodness! Look at that! My journey


is part of a new project. The BBC has joined forces with the Public


Catalogue Foundation to show the nation's collection of oil


paintings on line. There are thousands of paintings, in museums


and art galleries, owned by you and me, that aren't on display. I am


I am starting the search for hidden art at Charleston, as near Lewes.


First, there's work to be done. Look at that beautiful needlepoint!


Wow! Today, Maggie and an army of volunteers are getting ready to


reopen Charleston Farmhouse for to the public for the spring. The


House draws visitors from around the world, keen to explore the


country home of the Bloomsbury Group, as it was in the past.


That's beautiful, right there. Last autumn, every every piece of art


was carefully covered up to protect them from damage During the winter


months. Some of the paintings are coming out of storage to go on


display. Let me have a look at that This is Duncan Grant's bedroom. He


used do this for years and years, didn't he? That right. Everything


here's wrapped up for the winter every year, painstakingly unwrapped


in time for the spring? Everything is cleaned and covered, either with


the tissue hats off the dust sheets, and the textiles under the sheet


have got acid-free tissue on them as wellto protect them. When you


uncover them, everything is ready. They've been protected for the


winter. Does it feel like the house is breathing a lovely sigh of


relief to be opened up again? Does it feel like that? I think so. The


colour disclose when you uncover it, because they've been veiled for the


winter. When you uncover it, it looks better than ever. The colours


just seemed to hit you. You get used to it all again. Is it nerve-


racking, or have you done it so many times now, you're not worried


about breaking things? No, I think if you start to worry, then


accidents happen. You just have to be safe. There's a good reason for


wearing white gloves. These precious artefacts have an amazing


history. In 1916, Charleston became home to a very unconventional


household. Vanessa Bell moved here, not with her husband, Clive Bell,


but with her lover and fellow artist, Duncan Grant, who was gay.


Vanessa's sister, Virginia Woolf, who was later to take her own life,


Vanessa Bell came from a privileged London background, and her and


Duncan Grant's ideas about art were radical. They painted everything


and anything in sight. Their use of colour was bold and ground-breaking.


They offered up a challenge to Victorian morality, and were far


ahead of their time. One of the rooms that had already been


unwrapped a offers clues to their complex lives. And into the studio.


This is the most amazing room, because Charleston Farmhouse feels


quite dark and cosy and room-like, but then you come into the studio,


and all of a sudden, they're huge windows letting in all of this


You can see why Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell spent nearly every day


in here painting and talking to each other. There are some


fantastic paintings in here. This one is very special. It's a self-


portrait of Duncan Grant when he was a young man up. Look how


handsome he was. He was renowned for being utterly beautiful And


utterly charming. Practically everyone he met fell madly in love


with him. Talking of which, under that, we've a portrait by Duncan


Grant of Adrian Stephen, who was Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf's


brother, but also Duncan Grant's lover. You can see how that got


What else have we got here? Look at this fabulous picture. This is a


portrait of the Vanessa Bell by Duncan Grant. I love the face in


here. There's something really special about artists' studios


anyway, and it's so wonderful to come in here and see all of the oil


paintings, and the little clues around us to how the pair of them


live their lives here. It's really Vanessa Bell's granddaughter,


Virginia Nicholson, has happy memories of Charleston. I remember


Duncan sitting there with an easel. Do you? Yes. I was only six when


Vanessa died, but I do remember her well, because we came here when I


was 12, every summer holiday, for sometimes six weeks at a time. And


there was my grandparents, Vanessa and Clive, and Duncan, and I


suppose, I never had any idea that that was a bit unusual, that I had


three grandparents and not the usual two On that side of a family!


You were just lucky! It was a bonus! Virginia remembers being


painted by both Duncan and finesse that in the Charleston studio. She


was not an easy subject. Vanessa dreamed up a way of getting my


attention and stopping me fidgeting, and the St "can I see? Can I see?".


I desperately wanted go the other side of the easel, and you'd see


them dabbing away. What did she do? What she did was look at the


pictures on the walls behind her in the studio, and tell stories about


them. So I used my imagination and started telling her stories. The


hour would pass. She did have a lovely, imaginative relationship


with her grandchildren. Duncan, no relation, but he might as well have


been a grandfather. There was something very innocent, very


childlike about him that children responded to. He had a kind of


almost naivety, a sort of innocence about him. He adored anyone who was


involved in painting or drawing, and we did nothing else as


children! He just thought that was Wow! Are these Duncan Grant's


glasses? So brilliant. Look at Oh, it's Angelica! Hello, Angelica!


There she is! Hello! She's come out for the spring! Angelica Bell was


Duncan and Vanessa's daughter. It's great to see this painting on


display, but not all Charleston's art is on sho. I am interested in


tracking down a portrait of Julia Stephen, who was Virginia Woolf's


and Vanessa Bell's mother. A haunting figure who cast a shadow


over their lives. Curator Wendy Hitchmow has brought the portrait


out of storage, as it's never been on display at Charleston. This is a


painting of Vanessa's mother? This Is Julia Stephen, mother of


Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf.and not painted by Bell or grant? No,


by a very famous Victorian painter called Frederick Watts. And as far


as we know, it was never hung at Charleston. So there was a very


special relationship between Virginia and Vanessa and their


mother? Was she inspirational to them? I think it was a bit of a


double edged sword. On one hand, she really represented the


Victorian womanhood. She was committed to good work, to nursing


the sick, helping the poor, so she represented all of those things,


the angel in the House that Virginia Woolf had to kill off in


order to fight in that room of one's own. -- write. On the other


hand, Julia Stephen represented a fantastic creative legacy. Her aunt


Sarah entertained everyone from Gladstone and Disraeli to Tennyson,


Rossetti. That is a fantastic feminine powerhouse. Is there some


sort of significance for the beautiful red dress? The red


dresses very interesting and very important. Julia Margaret Cameron


photographed Julia Stephen extensively in 1867 always wearing


that dress. You began to wonder whether she had another dress!


Perhaps she didn't! So then, there were images of Virginia Woolf in a


similar red dress as well. When Virginia Woolf was photographed for


Vogue, the vogue Hall of fame around 1925, she was photographed


wearing her mother's dress, although, yes, I'm no! If you were


going to be photographed for Vogue, Are there any occasions of Vanessa


wearing it as well Or wearing red? Yes, and that's very interesting.


She took one of Julia Margaret Cameron's photographs of her mother,


and from that, made a portrait of Judea Stephen that was also sort of


a self-portrait. That portrait is now in the reserve collection at


Brighton Museum. And hidden and not I am intrigued to tracker down, so


are have come to Brighton Museum and Art Gallery to find Vanessa


Bell's portrait of her mother that has been in storage for years, but


Jenni Lund is taking me behind Under here, big locks and keys!


Well, here it is. Hidden in the Bells of the Brighton Museum and


Art Gallery. This is Vanessa Bell's dress from 1929. So it's by Vanessa


Bell. It's a portrait of the artist's mother, who we know was


Julia Stephen. Do you think that the red is very significant Here?


Yes, I do. I do think that she is translating this black-and-white


image into this very powerful artistic expression. Showing the


playfulness of the light falling on the red dress. It's very beautiful.


If I didn't know, I would think it was a painting of Vanessa Bell.


It's quite uncanny, really.her grea yes, she is almost incorporating


her mother and her great aunt into herself portrayed. -- self-


portrait. Yes. I love the wooden frame on it as well. It's


completely different to all the other pictures round here. Is it


going to stay like that when it goes on display? Yes. It'll stay


like that. And I think the frame fits very well with the quite feel


of the painting itself. The what painting of Julia Stephen in


Charleston has just arrived, and Janet Brough is finally giving it a


frame. It too is having a rare moment on display at Brighton's


exhibition, Radical Bloomsbury. fits! Let me just put that on the


easel. Look at that! What a difference. What a difference a


frame makes! She looks terribly grand. She really is. She's


vulnerable and fragile. And now she is fit to go out! Fits for a great


exhibition as well. That's amazing, Back at the gallery, the Vanessa


Bell's painting of her mother is finally coming into the light under


the close direction of Jenni. careful about the bench behind you


there. The moment of truth. Brought up from the lower basement. And now


up on to the first floor. How exciting it back it's on. Is it on?


Wow. Happy? Happy. She looks like she should have lived here all


along. She's this wonderful welcoming presence to everybody


who's going to come into the exhibition. Yes. It's so exciting


to take paintings out of storage. Is it? Even though you've been


doing this for years? It's still an exciting feeling? Yes because you


get a new life when the space around you changes. I think she


And how great to see both paintings on display after years of being in


storage. I wonder what Julia Stephen would have made of the


impact of her daughters, a Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, had on the


Back at Charleston, volunteers are hard at work sprucing up the house


for spring. Think of all the very famous people would have sat in


these chairs. Charleston became a country retreat for the Who's Who


of society. How is that? Guests included the economist John Maynard


Keynes, artist Roger Fry, author Ian Forster, and of course,


I am a massive fan of Virginia Woolf. Her novel, To the Lighthouse,


was voted one of the top 100 reads of the 20th century. It was


Virginia who helped Duncan find Charleston, because she lived near


by at the time. She wrote to Vanessa at the point she found the


house. "The house is very nice, with large rooms, and one room with


big windows, fit for a studio. The house once doing up, and the


wallpapers are awful! But it sounds a most attractive place for, and


only four miles from us, so you won't be badgered by us! "There's


absolutely no doubt that they were drawn to Charleston because of the


beauty of the surrounding However, there's another very good


reason why they chose the farmhouse. Because Grant was a conscientious


Moving to the Sussex farm in the middle of the First World War was


one weight for Duncan to be sent to the front. This didn't go down well


with the locals. In 1941, in the midst of the second world war,


Work on a collection of paintings destined for the nearby church at


Berwick. It was one way to build a bridge with their neighbours but


with the Charleston household involved, controversy was never far


Wow! This is amazing. It's been said before that looking into


Berwick Church is a bit like stepping out of England and into


Italy. I can certainly see why. It's not hard to imagine why these


paintings came as a shock to the These two paintings here on the


side are Vanessa's. Vanessa Bell. We've got, the denunciation, over


here, which is Angelica, who's the model for Mary. And the very


beautiful angel Gabriel his Angelika's best friend, who she met


at drama school. She's called Chatty Salomon. Such a brilliant


name! Over here, we've the Nativity, which is really lovely, and again


we've Angelica as Mary, and apparently the model for the baby,


the baby looks very much like Quentin and Julian Bell, Vanessa's


I look at these and I think he must have been quite sad and quite


poignant for Vanessa or to paint these, because it was only three


years ago that she had lost her son Julian, who was of fighting in the


Spanish Civil War. Of course, the junior war had only just taken her


life as well. -- of the genial This must have stirred up lots of


the motions as she was painting them. Behind me up here, we've


Christ on the cross, which was painted by Duncan Grant. That's


really striking and quite a scary image. They're Post-Impressionist


colours, with the orange and the blue. A little bit frightening. In


a funny kind of way, I prefer Vanessa's paintings. But over here,


the huge one, and the one that knocks you for six as you come in,


was Christ in Glory. Again painted by Duncan. I love this one as well.


I like the voluptuous cherubs, again all models, all friends of


Angelica's. It's really touching. I think it's an amazing thing to do.


I am sorry that they upset some of the villagers, because I think


Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell were really trying hard to make amends


So how on earth did this project get off the ground? We know that


forward-thinking Bishop Bell commissioned Duncan and Vanessa to


paint the murals, but why? Clues to their origins can be found in


Eastbourne. Some of the original sketches are held at Towner, the


Teri Hansen has invited me behind the scenes. They had quite a lot of


baggage with them, didn't they? Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. I


wondered whether the villagers didn't like the idea of wild,


louche artists being let loose on their precious church. That had an


impact. I think the worst thing was that they were known for that


lifestyle. Yes, some of them were atheists, but don't forget they


were pacifists. This was a very sensitive time politically for


Britain. And they were being let into the church and painting the


walls of a really ancient church. It goes back to the 12th century.


But Bishop Bell was very adamant. He didn't want the Church to be


like a mausoleum Or a traditional stone just standing there. It had


to have a living purpose. That living purpose was to encourage


parishioners to come in through very difficult and very unstable


All they had to do was sit down in the pews and look around them, and


see that Christian narrative just all round them. Just to look and


read for themselves. In the beautiful colours. They made these


small sketches. By I presumed they didn't immediately jump on to


canvas. Did they do larger sketches? Yes they did, actually. I


have more to show you over here. That exciting. On one of your


racks? On one of my racks! Are you ready for this? I am! Oh my


goodness! Look at that! Is this a life-size, or real to the size of


Jesus in Berwick Church? Pretty much. It's quite different from the


finished article. The original sketches were considered, Christ


was considered to look too fleshy, to real, too attractive, too


handsome, and the idea was to make We've the model, slightly


contraposto there. He didn't quite get into the position that Duncan


wanted. The story goes that he tied him to his easel and applaud him


would lot of whisky until the So he had that look of... Drunk,


basically. Yes. He's probably had a few there. And tied to his easel?!


Tied to his easel until he finished. He was a devil! Hearing all the


complications of his love life with Vanessa Bell, I'm surprised he


isn't considered the villain of the story. No, never. Despite his many


love affairs. He had relationships with Vanessa's family, didn't he?


He did. He was quite notorious. He was faithful to Vanessa in his way.


He always came home. A friend of Quentin's said that this made the


home so perfect for him that he'd just want to come home. So he just


went off. Yes, he had affairs with other men, but she accepted this,


and loved him. I really believe that he loved her in his way. He


was just so very attractive. He was a very attractive younger man. He


just had this charisma. He was like the Cary Grant of Sussex. Nobody


The Sussex that so influenced Duncan and Vanessa still inspires


local artists today. I like to brush up on my painting skills, so


I am joining a class in Lewes, where budding artists are having a


go at oils. Today's subject is... Make it a little bit lighter. This


artist is showing me the ropes. Keep working at an to you have much


it. It is harder than it looks. But what is it about red that is so


striking? Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant's paintings. There's a lot of


bright red. She loved wearing it. Sometimes what you wear... You


think people can express themselves more in their colours -- paintings?


When Devon League learning something. It has made me realise


that when I do my own paintings when I get the chance, you can


become quite obsessed with little tiny bits of it rather than looking


at it as a whole. Vanessa Bell at - - and Duncan Grant were good at


making these paintings that are fully of life, and beautiful marks


with the paint brushes, and yet, they look quite detailed and... It


I do not like this bit. I have ruined that bit pull stop no, you


haven't. Don't worry about it. Stop fiddling. Leave it, leave it!


I had done. What do that. The myth. Well done, you! Not a bad start,


but goodness knows what Vanessa and Duncan would have made of it. They


were prolific artist, and there art was not confined to canvas. They


painted ceramics, text dials and furniture. -- textiles. The


Bloomsbury group set up this workshop as a design enterprise. It


was not a huge success. The work was expensive and did did not last.


But it did help to establish art in its own right. They were far ahead


of their time. They were in the throes of a voyage of discovery.


They were discovering Post- Impressionism. No one knew about it


until they brought across those Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh. They


were brought across to the horror of the British public, who describe


them as a scrawling on the walls of a urinal. These are paintings that


the queue up to see at the Tate Modern or wherever. One of the


important things about Bloomsbury is that they were radical. They


moved to Sussex. To move with your homosexual lover, and not your


husband, was an extraordinary thing to do. They stood for toleration,


for the reason, are for pass a prison, for friendship, it has


taken us a long time to take to catch up. Thankfully, today, we


live in a world that tolerate homosexuality, but tolerate


minorities. We tolerate a lot of things that the boom Shreeve group


tolerated first. I have come to end of my journey, and what a privilege


to uncover so much of the art that is owned by you and me are the


public collection. But I do wonder what on earth Duncan and and the


LSO would have made of the fuss over their work. I do know, however,


Interior designer Kathryn Rayward uncovers the hidden art of the Bloomsbury Set in Sussex, where a long-hidden painting of a lady in a red dress sheds light on the tangled love lives of novelist Virginia Woolf, painter Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. She follows the trail of Bloomsbury's artistic legacy to the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery to unearth more hidden art, and visits the stunning murals at Berwick church and goes behind-the-scenes at Towner in Eastbourne.