Friday, July 15, 2011

Lady In Red

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.  


  1. Wow - that painting takes my breath away, particularly knowing that it's hanging in your home. I love his paintings, and saw a photo of a really interesting one the other day, that didn't look like his normal style at all, but still gorgeous. The color palette of yours is exceptional.

  2. i love these paintings!! Matt will have to tell you about his "collection" some day. :) :)

  3. Sorry to so closely echo my wife, but double wow! What a gorgeous painting. Your story of finding it also gave me goose bumps. I've experienced something similar while looking for a california plein air painter that we collected. His prices are unfortunately now way out of reach.
    But I so treasure the few works of his we have. You've really opened my eyes to a wonderful group of artists that I only knew of very casually before. Thank you.

  4. BREATHTAKING! The Lady in Red is a stunning painting. How very fortunate for you to ask and how lucky your were she arrived at the gallery right before you. A lovely piece for your collection..........thank your for sharing the lovely lady.

    The French Hutch

  5. Sunday your work of art is breathtaking! That is indeed the way to acquire art and how fortunate to come across it!

    So glad to know more of Duncan Grant and and Vanessa Bell.


    Art by Karena

    Come and join my Giveaway of a very special painting!

  6. Your painting is lovely - what a lucky find!! I knew so little about him - you always have such enlightening information!! I'm sure you'll have more to share soon!!