Bloomsbury Rooms: Modernism, Subculture, and Domesticity

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The first decades of the twentieth century brought enormous change in Britain. Men's and women's roles came under scrutiny, class and social structures were transformed. This book casts new light on the notorious Bloomsbury Group and how the issues of their day influenced their interpretation and decoration of the home. Christopher Reed analyzes the rooms designed by Bloomsbury artists as spaces in which to be modern. The book traces the development of Bloomsbury's domestic aesthetic from the group's influential promulgation of Post-Impressionism in Britain around 1910 through the 1930s. In detailed studies of rooms and environments created by Virginia Woolf's sister Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, and Roger Fry, Reed challenges the accepted notion that these artists drifted away from modernism. He presents their work as an alternative form of modernism, later suppressed by sexist and homophobic attitudes that disparaged the decorative arts and domesticity in general, as well as Bloomsbury in particular. The aesthetic and ideological implications of the Bloomsbury interiors were international in scope, Reed argues, and these domestic designs served as an important marker along the route to modernity.

Author Biography: Christopher Reed is Chair of the Art Department at Lake Forest College. This is his third book.

Published in association with the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this beautifully illustrated (50 b&w and 130 color reproductions) and well-documented contextual approach to domestic interiors created by members of Bloomsbury, Reed (art, Lake Forest Coll.) convincingly historicizes the group's accomplishments within early 20th-century art movements. He argues that while its domesticity was alienated from mainstream culture, it formed a vital, alternative subculture within increasingly popular, avant-garde developments in the art world such as postimpressionism. Divided into five sections, 14 chapters cover the time prior to the group's coalescence around 1910 until its demise in the 1930s, featuring notorious and lesser-known English interiors created mostly by Vanessa Bell, Roger Fry, and Duncan Grant for themselves and their associates. Overall, this expert survey presents an intellectual rather than a visual analysis, explicitly addressing the homoerotic nature of many of the Bloomsbury settings from a favorable and enlightening viewpoint. Of significance to scholars and graduate students of art history, design, and literature, as well as cultural and social history; highly recommended for academic and large public, research-oriented collections.-Cheryl Ann Lajos, Free Lib. of Philadelphia Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300102482
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 5/10/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 324
  • Sales rank: 1,211,462
  • Product dimensions: 8.66 (w) x 11.66 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Heroism and housework : competing ideas of the modern 1
Sect. I Rooms of one's own : three early domestic environments 19
1 Vanessa Bell and 46 Gordon Square (1904-12) 20
2 Roger Fry and Durbins (1909-19) 35
3 Duncan Grant and King's College, Cambridge (1910) 51
Sect. II Sailing to Byzantium : post-impressionist primitivism 65
4 Greek loves : mediterranean modernism and the Borough polytechnic murals (1911) 68
5 Forging a feminist primitivism : Byzantine women by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell (1912) 81
6 Country and city : Asheham and Brunswick Square (1911-12) 87
Sect. III On to omega : the workshops' origins and objects 109
7 The origins of the omega 111
8 A modern eden (1913-14) 133
9 Abstraction and design (1914-15) 147
Sect. IV An aesthetic of conscientious objection : Bloomsbury's wartime environments 165
10 Outposts of peace : Eleanor and Wissett (1915-16) 169
11 Making Charleston (1916-17) 182
12 Urban outposts : River House and 46 Gordon Square (1916-19) 199
Sect. V Re-imagining modernism 213
13 Public figures' private spaces : King's College, Cambridge, and 52 Tavistock square (1920-24) 217
14 Signifying subculture : Gordon Square houses and Charleston (1924-28) 231
15 The end of amusing : interiors and commissions (1927-36) 251
Notes 278
Bibliography 303
Index 310
Photographic acknowledgments 315
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