University of Sussex
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The politics of partnership: Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, 1912-1961

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posted on 2023-06-08, 15:55 authored by Darren Clarke
This thesis analyses the relationship of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, artists that were central to the visual culture of the Bloomsbury group. The title of this project positions ‘partnership’ as a connecting force between the two artists, a term I interpret as a series of layers, boundaries, and thresholds that are in a constant state of flux, over-lapping, layering and leaking. By mapping the artists’ presence I am able to construct a new model of partnership. Chapter one considers the artists’ signing and marking of their work, examining the variations of the signature, tracing its evolution, its presence and its absence, its location on the work and the calligraphy of the mark. By examining the various ways that Bell and Grant had of signing and of not signing their work and the use and function of the mechanically reproduced signature, I demonstrate the uneasy relationship that can occur between objects, names and signatures. Chapter two focuses on the pond at Charleston, the home that the artists shared for almost half a century, which is central to many of the narratives and mythologies of the household and is the subject of many paintings and decorations. I chart how the artists map this space by repeatedly recording it and how the pond acts as a layered topography for the exploration and presentation of gender, queerness and familial relationships. Chapter three continues the process of examining boundaries and layers by exploring the artists’ often problematic relationship to clothes and to the delicate threshold between fabric and skin that often loosens and gapes. I cast the artists as agents of disguise and masquerade in which uncertain and unstable boundaries are created. I map the transference of fabric and demonstrate how this textile threshold ruptures, how the body leaks, leaving marks and traces.


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  • eng


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