Duncan Grant (1885-1978) and Vanessa Bell (1879-1961)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more A Highly Important Collection of Works by Bloomsbury Artists from a Private North American Collection
Duncan Grant (1885-1978) and Vanessa Bell (1879-1961)

Eight Studies for Murals at John Maynard Keynes' rooms, Webb's Court, King's College, Cambridge; The Muses of Arts and Sciences

Details
Duncan Grant (1885-1978) and Vanessa Bell (1879-1961)
Eight Studies for Murals at John Maynard Keynes' rooms, Webb's Court, King's College, Cambridge; The Muses of Arts and Sciences
each oil on canvas
33 x 14 in. (83.8 x 35.5 cm.) each
Painted in 1920.
8 (8)
Provenance
Commissioned from the artists by John Maynard Keynes in 1920.
Purchased by the present owner at the 1987 exhibition.
Literature
D. Todd and R. Mortimer, The New Interior Decoration, London and New York, 1929, pls. 24 and 25.
M. Keynes, 'The Picture Collector', Essays on John Maynard Keynes, 1975, p. 286.
R. Shone, Bloomsbury Portraits, Oxford, 1976, pp. 234-5.
Exhibition catalogue, British Modernist Art 1905-1930, New York, Hirschl and Adler, 1987, no. 136, illustrated.
Exhibited
London, Edward Harvane Gallery, A Homage to Duncan Grant: on his ninetieth birthday in company with a few friends: Vanessa Bell, Roger Fry, Simon Bussy, Edward Wolfe, Keith Baynes, Edward Le Bas, February - March 1975, no. 7 (one panel).
Liverpool, Bluecoat Gallery, Duncan Grant, Designer, February 1980, no. 45 (2 panels).
London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, The Omega Workshops Alliance and Enmity in English Art 1911-1920, January - March 1984, no. 78.
New York, Hirschl and Adler, British Modernist Art 1905-1930, November 1987 - January 1988, no. 136.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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Lot Essay

At King's College, Cambridge, John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) occupied the same set of rooms in Webb's Court for over thirty-five years. In 1910 he commissioned his friend Duncan Grant to paint a mural on part of the main wall of his sitting room. This was one of Grant's first large-scale works, a four-part painting of grapepickers at left and right with a circle of dancers in between. Echoes of Grant's devotion to Piero della Francesca blended with contemporary French influences. By 1911 he had still not finished the work to his satisfaction (years later, he remembered throwing his brush to the floor in tears of frustration); and by 1920 he had no objection to the mural being hidden beneath a new scheme of decoration, undertaken by Vanessa Bell and himself. This covered the length of the main wall, divided by a bookcase. The muses of the arts and sciences was the ostensible subject, with four near life-size figures by each artist, the males by Grant, the females by Bell. The eight studies offered here are preliminary to the large canvases painted in the summer of 1920 in a temporary studio (an army hut) just outside the walled garden at Charleston. The decorations are still in situ at King's College, with Grant's earlier mural under the right-hand panels.

Earlier in 1920 Grant, Bell and Keynes had spent a month or more in Italy, mostly in Rome and then in Florence. Renewed contact with Italian Renaissance fresco painting certainly influenced these decorations - in colour, figurative pose and the marbling that forms the background of each panel, partly emulating the marbling found in many Italian church interiors. Grant greatly admired Andrea del Castagno's frescos in Sant' Apollonia in Florence, particularly the figure of Boccaccio. These had considerable impact when he and bell came to design the Keynes murals. But perhaps more directly influential was an illustrated article published in 1919 in The Burlington Magazine on two paintings of saints by Bono da Ferrara then owned by the collector Henry Harris who had had a room in his London house decorated by the Omega Workshops. The two Italian paintings are startlingly similar in conception to the Keynes murals - the figures also stand with their individual attributes, are strongly contoured and surrounded by freely painted marbling. Grant is known to have drawn inspiration from illustrations in the Burlington (often sent to Charleston by Roger Fry) and this is almost certainly the case here.

The whole room was eventually finished in 1922 with the addition of large appliqué curtains by Bell and several pieces of furniture upholstered in Omega fabrics.

The sketches have a lively spontaneity which is somewhat lost in the more careful treatment and fully realised volumes of the final decorations whose muted colour was very much in accord with aspects of the rappel à l'ordre of the post-War years.

R.S.

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