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Aldous Huxley

3 of 113 portraits of Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley, by Vanessa Bell (née Stephen), circa 1931 - NPG 6717 - © estate of Vanessa Bell courtesy of Henrietta Garnett

© estate of Vanessa Bell courtesy of Henrietta Garnett

Aldous Huxley

by Vanessa Bell (née Stephen)
oil on canvas, circa 1931
28 in. x 22 in. (711 mm x 560 mm)
Purchased with help from the Dame Helen Gardner Bequest, 2005
Primary Collection
NPG 6717

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Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Vanessa Bell (née Stephen) (1879-1961), Painter; sister of Virginia Woolf. Artist associated with 14 portraits, Sitter in 18 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Bell's portrait was commenced in 1931. It depicts Huxley on the eve of his emergence as an author of the first rank, and in the midst of his association with the Bloomsbury circle. As an undergraduate he had begun to write poetry and short stories and began to frequent Garsington Manor, home of Lady Ottoline Morrell. It was there that he met the Sitwells, Lytton Strachey, Maynard Keynes, Roger Fry and others associated with Bloomsbury. Around the time Bell was working on the portrait, Huxley was also sitting for Fry who encouraged Bell to use, in her work, the new Maroger medium. This medium accounts for the work's slightly oily surface quality.

Events of 1931back to top

Current affairs

Sailors at the Invergordon navel base mutiny in response to pay cuts. The cuts of up to 25% were part of the government's attempt to deal with the Great Depression by reducing public spending. Sailors protested by holding meetings and refusing orders. Dr Harold Moody founds the League of Coloured Peoples, lobbying for equal rights for black people in Britain and for international civil rights.

Art and science

The modern tube map is introduced. Harry Beck's design was unique in following the properties of a circuit diagram rather than the geographical location of the stations. The Vic-Wells Ballet company is founded by Dame Ninette de Valois and housed by Lilian Baylis at Sadler's Wells Theatre. It was granted a Royal Charter in 1957 and became the Royal Ballet.


The Second Spanish Republic is established. Following an election dominated by the Republicans, King Alfonso XIII abdicated and a new constitution was drawn up. The Statute of Westminster grants legislative equality to the self-governing Dominions of the British Empire. The Statue decreed that the British Government could no longer make ordinary law for the dominions unless it was at their request and with their consent.

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