7 of 63 portraits of Virginia Woolf
by Vanessa Bell
oil on board, 1912
15 3/4 in. x 13 3/8 in. (400 mm x 340 mm)
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, 1987
Sitterback to top
- Virginia Woolf (née Stephen) (1882-1941), Novelist and critic; sister of Vanessa Bell. Sitter in 63 portraits.
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
A central figure of the Bloomsbury group, Virginia Woolf (née Stephen) is one of the major writers of English fiction of the twentieth century and a pioneer, in works such as To the Lighthouse (1927) and The Waves (1931), of the 'stream of consciousness' novel. A Room of One's Own (1929) remains a classic in the canon of feminist writing. This portrait of her knitting is by her sister, the Bloomsbury artist Vanessa Bell, and was painted before her marriage to Leonard Woolf. The writer was working on her first novel Melymbrosia which was published in 1915 as The Voyage Out. Acquired with the help form the National Art Collections Fund.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Audio Guide
- 100 Pioneering Women, p. 82
- Clerk, Honor, The Sitwells, 1994 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 14 October - 22 January 1995), p. 70
- Eger, Elizabeth; Peltz, Lucy, Brilliant Women: 18th Century Bluestockings, 2008 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 13 March to 15 June 2008), p. 143
- Gibson, Robin; Clerk, Honor, 20th Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, 1993, p. 15
- Motion, Andrew (edited), Interrupted Lives: In Literature, 2004, p. 55
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 677
- Spalding, Frances, Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision, 2014 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 10 July 2014 - 26 October 2014), p. 80
- Spalding, Frances, The Bloomsbury Group, 2013, p. 14
- Spalding, Frances, Insights: The Bloomsbury Group, 2005, p. 14
- Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 188
Events of 1912back to top
Current affairsThe Royal Flying Corps is established. During the Great War, planes and balloons were used mainly for reconnaissance and observation before technological advances made them fast enough and manoeuvrable enough to attack enemy positions and fight in the air. Arthur (Bomber) Harris won distinction as a pilot destroying five enemy aircraft in the war. In the Second World War he became Marshal of the Royal Air Force.
Art and scienceGeorge Bernard Shaw writes Pygmalion.
Charles Babbage's invents the Analytic Machine. Considered to be the forerunner to the modern computer, the machine was able to make automatic mathematical calculations.
Edward Bulwer-Lytton publishes his hugely popular, but now largely neglected, novel Last Days of Pompeii, set in the Italian city at the time of Mount Vesuvius' eruption in 79AD.
InternationalScott leads the British Expedition to the South Pole reaching it in January 1912 only to discover that the rival Norwegian party had beaten them by a month. All members of Scott's team perished on the return journey. Captain Oates' famous last words were immortalised in Scott's diary: 'I am just going outside and may be some time.'
The 'unsinkable' Titanic strikes an iceberg and goes down on its maiden journey between Southampton and New York.
See this portrait
On display in Room 30 at the National Portrait Gallery
Tell us more
Help us conserve a portrait of a female adventurer, poet and medical pioneer