Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review – Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision, National Portrait Gallery , 10th July to 26th October 2014

Exhibition Review – Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision, National Portrait Gallery , 10th July to 26th October 2014

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Virginia Woolf was one of the most celebrated writers of the twentieth century. This extensive exhibition of portraits and rare archival material will explore her life and achievements as a novelist, intellectual, campaigner and public figure.

Curated by biographer and art historian Frances Spalding, the exhibition includes distinctive portraits of Woolf by her Bloomsbury Group contemporaries Vanessa Bell and Roger Fry and photographs by Beresford and Man Ray, as well as intimate images recording her time spent with friends and family. Woolf’s early life and literary achievements, alongside lesser known aspects of her time in London and political views, are brought into focus through in-depth research and a remarkable array of personal objects including letters, diaries and books.

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Visiting London Guide Review

Virginia Woolf  is one of the iconic figures of the 20th century, but she is also something of an enigma.

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Her often troubled life is the subject of the National Portrait Gallery exhibition which features a wide range of material including paintings, photographs, letters, diaries and books.

Part of  her enigma was the way  that her mental illness and breakdowns  often associated with her complex childhood was overcome to some extent to produce a number of influential books and to enable her to become  a focal point of the Bloomsbury group .

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In Bloomsbury, Woolf came to know Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, Duncan Grant, Leonard Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, Roger Fry  and others whose presence in the exhibition  illustrated  the many aspects of the cultural and political world they were involved in at the time.

Interest in the Spanish Civil War  bought contact with celebrated artists such as Picasso who contributed a drawing to one of the groups fundraising events.

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The complex relations of the Bloomsbury set  and rather scandalous at the time, sexual mores is alluded to by the paintings and photographs of the main actors , whose respectability masked the often tangled web of deceptions.

However Woolf’s unusual marriage to Leonard Woolf does seems to have provided some sense of normality in her often chaotic world.

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Virginia Woolf’s letters and diaries show that her mental illness was always in the background and finally she could take no more and her walking stick found on the river bank is a poignant reminder of her suicide  by drowning  in 1941.

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This exhibition offers some insight into the often complex world of Virginia Woolf  and would appeal not only to the many fans of Virginia Woolf  but to anyone who is interested by the often misunderstood Bloomsbury group.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

Standard tickets
•Full price £6.30
•Senior citizens £5.90
•Concessions £5.40
Children 12–18 years, registered unemployed, students, disabled people (with free entry for one carer)
•National Art Pass holders 50% discount

For more information and to book tickets , visit the National Portrait Gallery website here

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