Sunday, 10 June 2012

Strudland Beach, Vanessa Bell

Strudland Beach by Vanessa Bell,  Into the Light exhibition at Compton Verney.

Bell completed this in 1912. It has been described  'in its move towards abstration as of the most radical works of the time in England'. The painting emphasizes what Clive Bell called 'significant form' , e.g. a painting that has been purged of narrative, sentiment or circumstantial detail.  The figures in the foreground seem to be watching the ones in the upper right corner, calling to attention the act of perception involved in a painting. All the figures face away from the viewer, oriented like the painting itself towards the sea.

As the art historian Lisa Tuckner has shown, Bell's painting served as an inspiration to her sister Virginia Woolf who wrote in To the Lighthouse (1927) of the artist's struggle to fulfill her vision in terms of the relation between masses:

'It was a question, she remembered, how to connect this mass on the right hand with that on the left. She might do it by bringing the line of the branch across so; or break the vacancy in the foreground with an object (James perhaps) so. But the danger was that by doing that the unity of the whole might be broken'.

The painting represents a scene of calm, in which nature and people are held together by compositional form.

(Sources: Pericles Lewis, Introduction to Modernism
                Lisa Tickner, Modern Life and Modern Subjects)

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