“It’s absolutely perfect?”, wrote the artist Vanessa Bell when she moved to Charleston in 1916. For fifty years, Vanessa and her fellow painter Duncan Grant lived, loved and worked in this isolated Sussex farmhouse, together transforming the house and garden into an extraordinary work of art and creating a rural retreat for the Bloomsbury group. Now, Vanessa’s son, Quentin Bell, and her granddaughter Virginia Nicholson tell the inside story of their family home, linking it with some of the pioneering cultural figures who spent time there, including Vanessa’s sister Virginia Woolf, the economist Maynard Keynes, the writer Lytton Strachey and the art critic Roger Fry. Taking readers through each room of the house – from Clive Bell’s Study, the Dining Room, the Kitchen and the Garden Room, through to individual bedrooms, the Studios and the Library – Quentin Bell relives old memories, including having T.S. Eliot over for a dinner party and staging plays in the Studio, while Virginia Nicholson details the artistic techniques (stencilling, embroidery, painting, sculpture, ceramics and more) used to embellish and enliven the once simple farmhouse.
In this refreshed edition of the original 1997 publication, Gavin Kingcombe’s specially commissioned photographs breathe life into the colourful interiors and garden of the Sussex farmhouse, while updated text and captions by Virginia Nicholson capture the evolution of Charleston as it continues to inspire a new generation.
For lovers of literature, decorative arts, and all things Bloomsbury, Charleston: A Bloomsbury House & Garden offers a window onto a truly unique creative hub.