This is Clive Bell’s study. The authors of the book point out the ‘primitive’ electric fire. Some of us still use one exactly like this! We refer to it as the Virginia Woolf fire as she had one exactly the same in her bedroom at Rodmell. The table is useful rather than beautiful, ditto the carpet, but that is the essence of Charleston: it follows William Morris’s maxim of not having anything that isn’t either beautiful or useful rather than obsessively honing every last detail.


Duncan Grant died in 1978. We were lucky enough to visit Charleston, pressing our noses to the windows, the following year. And when the Charleston Trust was formed and there was a question of what to do with the old Aga (seen in the famous painting of Grace Higgins at work in the kitchen here) we were vociferous about retaining it or a successor. Which is, thank heavens, what happened. For those unfamiliar with Agas: you lift the lefthand lid to boil the kettle. And put the ‘tennis racket’ (hanging on the wall) under the righthand lid to make toast.

MondayVisitors to the shop often comment on the ‘Bloomsbury’ atmosphere – which is appropriate as Lamb’s Conduit Street is in the heart of Bloomsbury. But another important influence is Charleston: its aesthetic and its values, grey (for example) being a very Charleston colour. So for those readers of the Post who haven’t yet made it to the house itself (it’s in Sussex, an hour from London by train) this week’s Post will have five photographs from a book we sell ln the shop: Charleston, A Bloomsbury House and Garden by Quentin Bell and Virginia Nicholson with photographs by Gavin Kingcome. It’s an £18.99 paperback with hundreds of beautiful pictures and interesting text, and we highly recommend it. Here first of all is the house itself.


This is Anne Killigrew again: Venus attired by the Graces. This painting may allude to her relationship with Mary Beale, who was often cast as a modern-day Venus. There is a piece in Apollo magazine (headed A Studio of One’s Own) which is excellent about the exhibition and the three women painters (here).


This is Joan Carlile again – The Stag Hunt 1650s which anticipates the Georgian ‘conversation piece’ by some 75 years. There is a very informative blog about Joan Carlile here.


Joan Carlile (c. 1606-79) painted Portrait of a Lady in the 1650s. She can claim to be the first British professional woman artist – she seems to have turned a pastime into a career through financial necessity (like so many women novelists).


Mary Beale (1633-99) painted The Young Bacchus in the 1660s, it’s normally at Moyses Hall Museum, Bury St Edmunds. Mary Beale was born in Barrow, near Bury St. Edmunds. Although the historian George Vertue suggests she was a pupil of Sir Peter Lely, in fact her early training is unknown. By 1670 she was established in Pall Mall as a professional portrait painter, rising to the peak of her success in 1677. She was able to adapt to the change of fashion in portraiture after the sudden death of Lely in 1680. Early on she realised that the way to professional success and yet to stay respectable was to paint clergymen (she was the daughter of a Puritan rector). Her devoted husband acted as her colour man and managed her studio


An exhibition finished last week at a gallery in London (Lyon and Turnbull) called Bright Souls: The Forgotten Story of Britain’s First Female Artists. It featured three artists – Joan Carlile, Mary Beale and Anne Killigrew. None of them had the advantage of a professional artist in their family and how they learnt to paint is not clear. But what extraordinary paintings! This is a self-portrait by Anne Killigrew (1660-85), normally at Berkeley Castle. Anne Killigrew’s death at the age of 25 prompted the then Poet Laureate John Dryden to write: ‘Still with a greater blaze she shone, And her bright soul broke out on ev’ry side.’


John Piper’s Christ Church, Newgate Street’ 1941 is of course very reminiscent of The Stones of Bath which we used as the endpaper for Adam Fergusson’s The Sack of Bath. This painting belongs to the Museum of London: ‘Incendiary bombs gutted Christ Church during the Blitz. Impression of east end of church, built by Wren, as it looked from nave the morning after it had been gutted by incendiary bombs from a Nazi air attack.Because of the Pastoral Reorganisation Measure in 1949, a number of the City parishes amalgamated, including Christ Church. Christ Church merged with St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, where services are now held. Christ Church steeple, also seriously damaged, was re-erected in 1960 but the church was never fully restored. The tower was refurbished as office space and the nave area turned into a rose garden with public seating. This is one of a group of paintings John Piper produced in December 1940 and January 1941 featuring London’s bomb-damaged churches.’ Re the Guildhall exhibition: the Guardian has more images, as does the RIBA journal.


Newton, Algernon Cecil, 1880-1968; The Backs of Houses, Harley Street, London

‘The Backs of Houses, Harley Street, London by Algernon Newton 1925 depicts the slightly absurd ad hoc cityscape of attenuated chimneys, random accretions and a collage of brick, plaster and slate so characteristic of the place. For these houses there is the Georgian front, genteel, regular, decorous; then the rear – unregulated, messy, inventive but with its own separate life, a Jekyll and Hyde urbanism’ (Financial Times).

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59 Lamb's Conduit Street, London WC1N 3NB