Philobiblon: A question of taste

Sunday, September 12, 2004

A question of taste

More on Vanessa Bell. (Although I'm not usually into the Bloomsbury set, I think I would have liked her.)

"Her love of strong shapes and unusual colours was deeply rooted, and in her heart she was quite unapologetic. She could be fiercely condemning of other people's taste when it fell into what she saw as the fatal traps of prettiness and refinement. Staying with her lady artist friends Ethel Sands and Nan Hudson in Oxfordshire she found herself repelled by the contrived and excessive care that had gone into their choice of decor - everything matched, merged and chimed; she found it dispiriting." (p.111,112)

Having been scarred for life by a youthful exposure to such "taste", and cushions always at a 45-degree angle, I can only sympathise.

"At Asheham, the Bell's first Sussex home, Vanessa hung up flame-orange curtains lined with mauve. At Wissett Lodge, her rented home in Suffolk, she and Duncan distempered the walls a brilliant blue, and dyed the chair-covers with coloured ink. They even painted the hens' tails blue. When they moved to Charleston Vanessa pained her bedroom black with red strips down the corners. Her son Quentin's early years in London were stamped with the consciousness the the family were quite different from their neighbours - because all the other houses in Gordon Square had sober front doors while theirs was "a startling bright vermilion". (p.115)

Let's see: my hall and study are brilliant pink, my bedroom turquoise, my living room deep blue: getting there!

From: Among the Bohemians, Experiments in Living 1900-1939, Virginia Nicholson, Viking, London, 2002.

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