Duncan Grant

Vanessa Bell Pregnant

Artwork Detail

For many years this painting was lost from sight, being the reverse side of a later work by Duncan Grant, A corner of the Crown Inn, King's Lynn. In 1918 Vanessa Bell became pregnant to Grant, who was sharing Charleston, her house in Lewes, along with David Garnett, another conscientious objector. Bell's husband, Clive, took the news in remarkable spirit, agreeing to accept the child as his own at a time when society was still intolerant of such matters. According to the 1999 catalogue The Art of Bloomsbury: Roger Fry, Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, the portrait probably belongs to the early autumn when Vanessa Bell suffered a haemorrhage and was advised to rest. Portraits of pregnant women were rare in this period of British art, although Augustus John had set a precedent with Ida Pregnant, c1901. Vanessa went into labour earlier than expected, and gave birth to a daughter at two in the morning on Christmas Day. The child was registered Helen Vanessa but finally called Angelica. Vanessa later recorded: 'It was very romantic that first Christmas of peace and a most lovely moonlit, frosty night. I remember waking up - the early morning after she had been born and hearing the farm men come up to work singing carols and realising it was Christmas Day and it seemed rather extraordinary to have a baby then . . .'. (from The Guide, 2001) [second image on reverse]

Vanessa Bell Pregnant
Duncan Grant
Production date
oil on canvas
660 x 583 mm
Credit line
Mackelvie Trust Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased with the assistance of the National Art Collection Fund, 1992. Frame sponsored by the Portrait Group
Accession no
Copying restrictions apply
International Art
Display status
On display

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