Chattie Salaman painted by Duncan Grant in 1942
I love this painting. (sigh...yes, this is part of my passion for Bloomsbury art) When I was visiting London about 12 years ago with my family, we went to a gallery called "The Bloomsbury Workshop." I thought this was a very promising name. I had known about the gallery and was thrilled to be able to visit it. I wasn't sure my teenage daughters would enjoy the experience, although they were familiar and very patient with my love (obsession?) of Bloomsbury.
I nervously asked the gallery owner if he had any paintings by Duncan Grant, a favorite artist of mine who was also a member of the Bloomsbury Group. He said he didn't think so, but he would check the back. He walked out with a canvas that was only visible from the back and casually said, "Oh yes, this came in yesterday. Why don't you take a look?" As I could barely speak, I stared at this lovely painting of a woman reading, noting that it was a typical Bloomsbury subject -- an informal portrait in an interior, relaxed in mood with a vivid personal presence. After very little thought, we became the proud owners of this painting.
Who was the subject of this portrait? The gallery owner told us a little bit. Her name was Chattie Salaman and she was a friend of Duncan's daughter Angelica. She often sat for Duncan's paintings, including the murals that he and Vanessa Bell painted for the Berwick Church in Sussex, England. When I visited Charleston Farmhouse, the home of Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell home in Sussex last summer, I was excited to see another portrait of Chattie. This one was painted by Vanessa Bell and hangs on the wall in one of the bedrooms.
Chattie Salaman painted by Vanessa Bell in 1940 (image from the Charleston website)
Recently I have been reading about Duncan Grant who was born in Scotland in 1885. One of the books I have been looking at is "Duncan Grant and the Bloomsbury Group" by Douglas Blair Turnbaugh, published in 1987. It has a forward by Andrew Devonshire, the Duke of Devonshire. He was the husband of Deborah Mitford, the author of the memoir "Wait for Me" that came out last year. He and his wife knew Duncan Grant. This is what Andrew Devonshire wrote about Duncan Grant's paintings:
"They reflect his character, giving warmth to rooms in which they hang. They portray a world distant from that we live in now, one in which the pace was slower, manners were better, a place more civilized to live in."
Perhaps it was the personal charm of Duncan Grant, for which he was famous, that comes across in his art and makes it so appealing. I cannot wait to read more about one of my favorite artists.