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Beyond Bloomsbury: Life, Love, and Legacy


Prolific, passionate and hugely gifted, their story is just as compelling as the remarkable work they created.

York Art Gallery, 4 March – 5 June 2022

A major new exhibition, in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery and Sheffield Museums, is set to open at York Art Gallery, exploring the lives and work of an extraordinary group of writers, artists and thinkers, known as the Bloomsbury Group.

The Group, who met for thirty years, were active in England in the first half of the twentieth century. They included the writer and feminist pioneer Virginia Woolf and her sister, the painter, Vanessa Bell as key figures. The Group had a profound effect on British art and literature.

In the new exhibition, opening on Friday 3rd March, displays will showcase more than 60 major loans of oil paintings, sculpture, drawings and photographs by Bell and her contemporaries, including Dora Carrington, Roger Fry, Duncan Grant, Paul Nash, Gwen Raverat and Ray Strachey.

Alongside them, will be new works by the artist Sahara Longe specially commissioned by York Museums Trust and Sheffield Museums to respond to the exhibition and the work of Bloomsbury artists.

Included in the exhibition is the exclusive premiere of Bloomsbury-inspired murals designed by graphic artist Lydia Caprani. Caprani also worked collaboratively with York LGBT Forum and Kyra Women’s Group to create decorative pieces that feature in the exhibition.

The Bloomsbury group are famous for their unconventional relationships with one another. Writer Dorothy Parker famously remarked that the Bloomsbury Group “lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles”. Members of the group are credited in helping with monumental shifts in the LGBTQ+ rights movement. Works displayed at York Art Gallery will examine the close circle of friends, their ideas, creative activities and celebrate the LGBTQ+ relationships of the Group.

Becky Gee, Curator of Fine Art at York Museums Trust said: “We are thrilled to be able to tell the stories of not only the artists, but the writers, dancers, activists and philanthropists that were connected to the Bloomsbury Group. We’re also delighted to be working with painter Sahara Longe who has produced four new portraits that will sit beautifully alongside those from the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection.”

Visitors will move through three parts of the exhibition. The first, introduces the figures associated with the Bloomsbury Group, highlighting the importance of personal relationships, conversation and the privilege of time and space in which to pursue creative practice.

In the second part, the exhibition centers on the Omega Workshops, an enterprise established by Roger Fry in 1913 that sold furniture, fabrics and homeware designed by leading artists of the day, emphasising Bloomsbury’s engagement in the Decorative Arts.

The concluding section of the show focuses on activism and philanthropy, identifying causes of particular importance to individual members, but also recognising how such beliefs and actions shaped the mentality of the Group as a whole. The Bloomsbury Group were involved in establishing the Contemporary Art Society.

Rosie Broadley, Head of Collections Displays (Victorian – Contemporary) at the National Portrait Gallery, said: “We are delighted to be lending some of the National Portrait Gallery’s most important Bloomsbury portraits to this exhibition at York Art Gallery while our building in London undergoes a major transformation programme, Inspiring People. Created by and depicting many of those most intimately connected with the Bloomsbury Group, these portraits bring to life an intensely creative group of people who were passionate about their work and about each other.”

Beyond Bloomsbury: Life, Love and Legacy opens at York Art Gallery on Friday 4th March and continues until Sunday 5th June. Tickets can be booked now for £10 per adult, concessions available. To book click here