Last weekend, I strolled through the pretty streets of Holland Park (mercifully quiet for a sunny Saturday) to the Piano Nobile Gallery to see their exhibition, From Omega to Charleston. The exhibition explores the creative partnership between Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant and shows some of the artwork they created from the years 1910-1934.
Vanessa Bell, sister to Virginia Woolf, was a prominent member of the Bloomsbury Group and a talented artist. The painter Duncan Grant was an important influence on her life and work, and they eventually lived together at Charleston, Vanessa’s home in East Sussex.
The Piano Nobile Gallery exhibition has brought together rarely seen works by Grant and Bell held in private collections, some pieces on loan from Charleston and a few items for sale (prices on request). The exhibition ends on Saturday, so I thought I’d share some highlights for those who won’t be able to make it (although if you are in the area, I highly encourage you to go!).
The gem of the show is the incredible display of the Famous Women Dinner Service that Bell and Grant produced in the early 1930s.
A whole wall in the gallery is hung with the 50 plates, depicting famous women through the ages, such as Queen Victoria, Anna Pavlova, Greta Garbo and Jane Austen. Half of the plates were painted by Bell and half by Grant on Wedgwood creamware blanks.
Here are a few of my favourites:
Aren’t they beautiful? The Famous Women Dinner Service was a joint project for Grant and Bell, which they began in 1932, commissioned by the director of the National Gallery, Kenneth Clark. When Clark died, his widow Nolwen de Janzé-Rice took the plates to France. After her death, the collection was sold at auction in Germany, and its whereabouts remained unknown for years, until the plates were purchased by a private collector and returned to Britain. Now, the plates are available through Piano Nobile and are being publicly shown for the first time.
The collection is priced at a whopping £1million, but there is hope that Charleston will be able to acquire them, as the plates are being held on reserve to give Charleston a chance to raise funds. I do very much hope they will end up somewhere that the public will be able to view them.
There were also several beautiful paintings by Bell and Grant on display, as well as different ceramics, painted furniture and an embroidered footstool.
I was delighted to get the chance to see this small, but fascinating exhibition, and now I want to plan another trip to Charleston!