DETAIL : John Singer SARGENT, The fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy 1907, The Art Institute of Chicago, American Art Collection DETAIL : John Singer SARGENT, Almina, daughter of Asher Wertheimer 1908, Tate, London, presented by the widow and family of Asher Wertheimer in accordance with his wishes in 1922
Vanessa BELL | Virginia Woolf

BELL, Vanessa
England 1879 – 1961
travelled frequently to France after 1904
Virginia Woolf 1911-12
oil on board
40.0 (h) x 34.0 (w) cm
National Portrait Gallery, London

‘For now she need not think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself … All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself … Although she continued to knit, and sat upright, it was thus that she felt herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures.’

When Virginia Woolf wrote this of her character Mrs Ramsay in To the lighthouse (1927), Woolf could just as easily have been describing herself as she was painted by her sister in this work. Bell’s portrait captured a moment of quiet intimacy between the sisters, with Virginia knitting or sewing, quite unselfconsciously ‘being herself’.

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