Martin Ferguson Smith
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“New” portraits by Roger Fry of Helen Fry and Vanessa Bell
in In and out of Bloomsbury
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Essay 1 presents two recently discovered portraits by Roger Fry. One is an unsigned drawing of an unnamed woman. The identity of the artist is certain, as is that of the sitter. Comparison with other images proves that she is Roger’s wife, the artist Helen Coombe. The drawing was made on their wedding day in 1896. The occasion is indicated by her dress and jewellery and clinched by a passionately loving note in her handwriting. The other portrait, executed in pencil and gouache on paper, is of Vanessa Bell. Roger and Vanessa had fallen in love on a visit to Turkey in the spring of 1911, and his “new” portrait of her is to be dated 1911–1912, when their affair was going strong, his style was much influenced by Matisse, and he had recently put on the first of his two post-impressionist exhibitions in London. So the second portrait, like the first, belongs to a very important time of his life.

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In and out of Bloomsbury

Biographical essays on twentieth-century writers and artists


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