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Tuesday, 17 June 2014

A Country Retreat

The lovely midsummer weather prompted me to make a visit to Charleston Farmhouse in Sussex. Charleston was the country retreat of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. They moved there in 1916 at the height of World War I. (Grant was a conscientious objector and didn't enlist.)

 Grant and Bell pursued their art in between hosting visitors from the Bloomsbury set, including Bell's sister, Virginia Woolf, and her husband, Leonard. Visitors also came from the liberal intelligentsia and the world of politics. One can't help feeling though that it must have been a strange existence, living in the peaceful Sussex countryside but knowing that barely twenty miles away across the Channel, the horror of the trenches swallowed thousands every day.

The village church at Firle which Grant decorated during the war years is a strange mixture of nostalgia for a vanishing rural idyll and recognition of the sacrifice being made by the men who fought.

Today, Charleston remains much as it was in Grant and Bell's day and contains a marvellous collection of their work as well as works by some of their friends and contemporaries.