The National Portrait Gallery Features Exhibition on Life of Virginia Woolf, July 10
The National Portrait Gallery, London, has announced today, Thursday 3 April, that it is to hold a significant exhibition exploring the life and achievements of Virginia Woolf, one of the most important and celebrated writers of the twentieth century. Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision, on display from 10 July until 26 October, will feature painted portraits, photographs, drawings and rare archival material, including a letter to her sister, Vanessa Bell, written shortly before her suicide.
Guest curated by biographer Frances Spalding, Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision will explore Woolf as a novelist, intellectual, campaigner and public figure. The exhibition looks at Woolf's early life, literary interests and remarkable achievements, her fascination with London, awareness of modernity, and her developing feminist and political views. These are brought into focus through in-depth research and an array of archival material, including letters to and from her friends and acquaintances, extracts from her personal diaries, and original books that were first printed through the Hogarth Press.
Highlights of the exhibition include distinctive portraits of Woolf by her Bloomsbury Group contemporaries, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Roger Fry, as well as a collection of photographs by Beresford, Man Ray, and Beck and McGregor who photographed Woolf for Vogue. The exhibition will also feature portraits of those she was closest to, including a selection of intimate images recording her time spent with friends, family and literary peers.
Born Adeline Virginia Stephen in London in 1882, Virginia Woolf was the third child of Leslie and Julia Stephen. Leslie Stephen was a renowned author, literary critic and a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery, although he was principally remembered as a literary biographer and the first editor of the Dictionary of National Biography. Woolf was home-educated in Kensington by her parents, in an intellectual household that was well-connected to Victorian literary society.
Despite her Victorian upbringing, Woolf was determined to establish new forms of creative writing and criticism. In 1905, Woolf and her sister Vanessa Bell began to host weekly gatherings held at 46 Gordon Square, which led to the development of the Bloomsbury group of writers, artists and intellectuals, of which the sisters were central figures. The group included notable names such as John Maynard Keynes, Roger Fry and Lytton Strachey. In 1912, Woolf married Leonard Woolf and together founded publishing company the Hogarth Press in 1917.
In 1910 and 1912 Roger Fry brought French Post-impressionism to London and introduced England to modern art. From then on Woolf's development as a modernist writer was to an extent influenced by her thinking about painting. In her novels, she demolished accepted conventions and transformed ideas about structure, plot and characterisation. In her most notable novels Jacob's Room (1922), Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse(1927), and her most experimental novel The Waves (1931), Woolf pioneered the 'stream of consciousness' style of writing. To this day, Woolf's work continues to inspire contemporary authors and has been adapted for both screen and stage.
The exhibition will consider Woolf's political awareness, which was particularly prominent during the Spanish Civil War. In her novel Three Guineas, published in 1938, Woolf asks "What can we do to prevent war?" Woolf also supported fundraising events for those affected by the Spanish Civil War. The exhibition will include one of Picasso's Weeping Woman drawings which he created specifically for a fundraising event at the Royal Albert Hall, at which Virginia and Leonard Woolf sat on the platform.