First Previous 1 OF 37 NextLast

Virginia Woolf

1 of 37 portraits matching 'vanessa bell'

Virginia Woolf, by Vanessa Bell, 1912 - NPG 5933 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

  • Larger Image
  • Image zoom
  • Buy a print
  • Use this image
  • ShareShare this

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
Primary Collection
NPG 5933

On display in Room 30 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Vanessa Bell (née Stephen) (1879-1961), Painter; sister of Virginia Woolf. Artist associated with 14 portraits, Sitter in 19 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

Events of 1912back to top

Current affairs

The 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 science

George 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.


Scott 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.

Tell us more back to top

Can you tell us more about this portrait? Spotted an error, information that is missing (a sitter’s life dates, occupation or family relationships, or a date of portrait for example) or do you know anything that we don't know? If you have information to share please complete the form below.

If you require information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service. If you wish to license this image, please use our Rights and Images service.

Please note that we cannot provide valuations.

We digitise over 8,000 portraits a year and we cannot guarantee being able to digitise images that are not already scheduled.

Ebba D. Drolshagen

07 November 2016, 11:57

I wish to point out that Woolf is not crocheting, but knitting. This is obvious from the way she holds her hands, but also because it is known she was a knitter. It is said that she wrote to Leonhard before their marriage, “Knitting is the saving of life.” And Edith Sitwell’s said, that VW was ‘a beautiful little knitter". Thank you for your brillant work and the great website.

What can you tell us?close

There are occasions when we are unsure of the identity of a sitter or artist, their life dates, occupation or have not recorded their family relationships. Sometimes we have not recorded the date of a portrait. Do you have specialist knowledge or a particular interest about any aspect of the portrait or sitter or artist that you can share with us? We would welcome any information that adds to and enhances our information and understanding about a particular portrait, sitter or artist.


How do you know this? Please could you let us know your source of information.

* Permission to publish (Privacy information)
Privacy Informationclose

The National Portrait Gallery will NOT use your information to contact you or store for any other purpose than to investigate or display your contribution. By ticking permission to publish you are indicating your agreement for your contribution to be shown on this collection item page. Please note your email address will not be displayed on the page nor will it be used for any marketing material or promotion of any kind.

Please ensure your comments are relevant and appropriate. Your contributions must be polite and with no intention of causing trouble. All contributions are moderated.

Your Emailclose

Contributions are moderated. We'll need your email address so that we can follow up on the information provided and contact you to let you know when your contribution has been published.