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  • she was always free and she read many books with images

Dulwich Picture Gallery Announces Vanessa Bell and Patti Smith Photographs Exhibition

December 16, 2016
A philosophy graduate interested in theory, politics and art. Alias of Jelena Martinović.

At a first glance, one would think that British modern artist Vanessa Bell and the American musician, writer and artist Patti Smith have nothing in common. Yet, Dulwich Picture Gallery is bringing together Vanessa Bell and Patti Smith photographs in a display that coincides with the gallery’s major retrospective of Bell’s work. Simply titled Legacy: Photographs by Vanessa Bell and Patti Smith, the exhibition will feature 17 photographs by Smith and a selection of Bell’s photo albums, displayed publically for the first time. Two artists known for their pioneering creative drive and disregard for well-accepted social norms and boundaries will be featured together in a gallery for the first time, showing the breadth of their different, but yet compatible artistic visions.

there are many photos and a polaroid with robert mapplethorpe in new york which are whether in books or a museum
Left: Vanessa Bell at Durbins, 1911, Unknown. Presented by Angelica Garnett, 1981 and 1988-92. Part of the Vanessa Bell Collection. ©Tate Archive, London 2016. / Right: Brandon Camp, 1913. Photographs by Vanessa Bell and others, in Vanessa Bell’salbum, Tate (TGA 9020/3) © Tate Archive, London 2016.

Patti Smith and the Bloomsbury Group

The painter Vanessa Bell was closely related to the Bloomsbury Group – an influential group of associated writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists that included Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster and Lytton Strachey. Patti Smith has long been drawn to the work and lives of the group’s members, often visiting their rural retreats to find inspiration and solace. Charleston, Bell’s farmhouse on the Sussex Downs, where she lived with her life companion Duncan Grant, and the neighboring Monk’s House, home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, both became sites of pilgrimage for Smith. During her residency at Charleston in 2003, Smith had a need to document this place where she felt like home. These black and white photographs that capture the lingering remnants of Bell’s life and showcase her artistic response to this group’s work will be featured in this exhibition.

these photos resemble her pictures and a polaroid with robert mapplethorpe in new york that are now in a museum or in books
Patti Smith, Vanessa Bell’s Library, Duncan Grant’s painting of Vanessa Bell in her Mother’s Dress, 2006, Gelatin silver print, edition of 10, 25.4 × 20.32 cm, © Patti Smith. Courtesy the artist and Robert Miller Gallery

Vanessa Bell’s Photo Albums

Seven of Bell’s photograph albums that she has carefully compiled during her lifetime will be displayed alongside Smith’s photographs. These photographs provide a unique insight into her life, capturing everything from her earliest days, such as the summers spent with her family at St Ives, to her own young family and the circle of leading intellectuals and artists that surrounded them. Besides her personal life, these photographs also illuminate her working process and the way she has used the camera to inform her canvases. Lastly, they also give an intimate and valuable glimpse of the personal lives of the Bloomsbury members.

her robert mapplethorpe pictures and a polaroid from new york are in books and museum
Left: Patti Smith, Paint Brushes, Duncan Grant’s studio, 2008, Gelatin silver print, edition of 10, 25.4 x 20.32 cm. © Patti Smith. Courtesy the artist and Robert Miller Gallery / Right: Patti Smith, Vanessa Bell’s Bed, 2003, Gelatin silver print, edition of 10, 25.4 × 20.32 cm © Patti Smith. Courtesy the artist and Robert Miller Gallery

Vanessa Bell and Patti Smith Photographs on View

Both Bell and Smith are famous for their free spirit and the embodiment of an ideal of creative freedom. Their photographs displayed together provide a present and past reflection on Charleston and Bloomsbury, as well as the genealogy of free taught and female creativity. The exhibition Legacy: Photographs by Vanessa Bell and Patti Smith will be on view at Dulwich Picture Gallery in London from February 8th until June 4, 2017.

Featured image: Brandon Camp, 1913. Photographs by Vanessa Bell and others, in Vanessa Bell’s album (detail), Tate (TGA 90203) © Tate Archive, London, 2016.