Newsletter Archive: Spring 2008
Vanessa or Virginia?
The Courtauld is delighted to announce the
gift of a portrait drawing by Duncan Grant, bequeathed by the Portuguese
poet Alberto de Lacerda (1928-2007) in memory of Edith Sitwell and Arthur
Waley. One of the finest poets of his generation, Lacerda moved to London
in 1951 where he earned the friendship and admiration of literary figures
such as Sitwell and Waley, who translated his first collection of poems, 77
Poems. Lacerda was also an art collector and acquired this large
informal drawing from the Bloomsbury Workshop, its provenance going back
to the estate of Duncan Grant.
The quickly sketched pencil drawing shows an elegant lady in an interior,
which is only sparsely described. As Duncan Grant signed the work on
the lower right the attribution of the work is undisputed. The sitter’s
identity, however, presents a challenge and is currently being researched.
The drawing came into the collection as a portrait of the famous writer
Virginia Woolf. Whilst the identification is plausible, there might be
even closer facial similarities to Woolf’s sister, the painter
Vanessa Bell. Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell started working together
in 1910, and by 1916 their relationship evolved into love, despite Duncan
Grant’s homosexuality. The portrait makes a fine and purposeful
addition to The Courtauld’s outstanding collection of works by
members of the Bloomsbury Group.
Dr Stephanie Buck ,Curator of Drawings
Duncan Grant, Portrait of Virginia Woolf or Vanessa Bell, c. 1916-18, detail