Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


Revisiting Bell's Collection

[Detail, White, the Victoria and Albert Museum.]

[The back of a sample of White, a printed, Vanessa Bell-attributed furnishing linen from the Courtald Gallery's  2009 exhibition, Beyond Bloomsbury: Designs of the Omega Workshops 1913–19. Numbers indicate fabric color and production. Image is from the catalogue Beyond Bloomsbury.]

Before she was designing printed fabrics, like White, the 1913 Omega Workshops linen we discussed last year, Vanessa Bell was collecting embroidered and block-printed textiles, in addition to paintings, that caught her eye when she traveled abroad. Whether it was a Picasso picked up in Paris or a bedspread in Turkey, her tastes seemed to be ahead of her time. These collecting habits, as well as those of Duncan Grant and Clive Bell, are the focus of an ongoing special tour of Charleston, their former home in Sussex.

But if you can't be there in person, Charleston's online database offers a chance to peek at all sorts of decorative pieces acquired -- and created -- over the years. The mix encompasses late-17th-century majolica, antique decanters, a glazed porcelain Chinese Foo Dog, rugs, curtains, a groovy needlework pillow designed by Bell, and much, much more. On the downside, the images are a bit small with no zoom option. Still, I found White made into chair cushions and was able to confirm that this print was among the Bloomsbury-related fabrics reproduced by Laura Ashley in 1986.

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