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The Memoir Club

4 of 28 portraits of Duncan Grant

The Memoir Club, by Vanessa Bell (née Stephen), circa 1943 - NPG 6718 - © estate of Vanessa Bell courtesy of Henrietta Garnett

© estate of Vanessa Bell courtesy of Henrietta Garnett

The Memoir Club

by Vanessa Bell (née Stephen)
oil on canvas, circa 1943
24 in. x 32 1/8 in. (608 mm x 816 mm)
Purchased with help from the Dame Helen Gardner Bequest, 2005
Primary Collection
NPG 6718

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Artistback to top

  • Vanessa Bell (née Stephen) (1879-1961), Painter; sister of Virginia Woolf. Artist associated with 14 portraits, Sitter in 16 portraits.

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This portraitback to top

The Memoir Club first met in 1920, some fifteen years after the original evening gatherings of friends at 46 Gordon Square which are usually taken to denote the beginning of Bloomsbury. It replaced the earlier Novel Club, which had met briefly in 1913. This portrait depicts eleven key figures associated with Bloomsbury, and is painted from mid-way through the life of the group. It depicts Duncan Grant, Leonard Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell, David Garnett, Maynard and Lydia Keynes, Desmond and Molly MacCarthy, Quentin Bell and E.M. Forster. On the wall behind are painted portraits of past members of the group: Virginia Woolf by Duncan Grant, 1911; Lytton Strachey by Duncan Grant, 1913; and Roger Fry by Vanessa Bell, c.1933. It thus includes David Garnett and members of the younger generation, such as Quentin Bell, who were later admitted. Bell's own depicted presence in the painting suggests this is an imaginative evocation, rather than the depiction of an actual meeting. The club continued in an evolved state until Clive Bell's death in 1964.