on the cliffs laura knight sotheby's

And finally this heavenly painting by Laura Knight. It was sold a few years ago at Sotheby’s, details here. On the Cliffs is c. 1917 and, as the Sotheby’s catalogue says (referring to all Laura Knight’s Cornwall paintings of this period): ‘the days painting in the summer sun were idyllic but it is noticeable that there are no men in these cliff-top pictures as most were across the ocean facing the horrors of war. In her paintings of the Cornish coast Laura Knight defiantly celebrated the glorious British shoreline which although threatened by invasion by enemy forces remained impenetrable. The majestic rocks that these two women have scrambled across to watch the setting sun have a silent, eternal monumentality whilst the silver light mirrored by the ocean suggests the hope of the future.’

the-beach-alfred-victor-fournier 1929

Another Frenchman, but of course on the day when a new prime minister signals that he will do everything in his power to tear us away from the Europe of which, at the moment, we are so proudly and so happily a part, it cheers us up a tiny bit to look at this: Alfred Victor Fournier (1872-1924) painted La Plage in 1909 and we salute him. (We have had this on the Post before, and it is all over the web in numerous different reproductions for sale, but it it so lovely that no apologies are necessary.)


Boudin, Monet’s mentor and friend (Madame Boudin is on the right in Monday’s painting) was the painter of beach scenes par excellence and of Trouville in particular. This is dated 1881.

along the shore joseph southall.1914

A great favourite which has surely been on the Post before: a wonderful evocation of the carefree seaside but painted in 1914 and therefore, in retrospect, we cannot help but impose a historical context and the mood becomes not so carefree. It’s Joseph Southall’s Along the Shore.

the beach at trouville claude monet 1870

Bloomsbury is noticeably emptier as so many people have gone away. And a heatwave is forecast. So, because the Persephone girls are not at the seaside: beach scenes on the Post this week and we can be at the sea in our imagination. First, The Beach at Trouville 1870 by Claude Monet. Someone has written about it well here: ‘The ultimate en-plein-air sketch (embedded in the paint are specks of sand that blew onto the canvas), Monet executed The Beach at Trouville rapidly, and on a small scale, revealing only the scene’s main shapes and colour notes. But in this breezy moment at the seaside is the essence of Impressionism  – a brief moment of sunlight and colour, captured on canvas. Neither figure is paid much attention, their faces are merely noted. Camille Monet, her face shaded by her parasol, looks into the middle distance, seemingly bored – her eye merely a brown triangle in a flesh-coloured face. Madame Boudin, meanwhile, is more ‘correct’. She is dressed in black, with a black umbrella, and all her attention is focused on her book or embroidery. Her tight white collar and general pose suggest self-imposed restraint. In contrast, Camille is dressed in a loose white outfit, and holds aloft a white parasol. She outshines her companion, as well as the uncertain, windy weather.’


Clive Bell had this armchair in his bedroom. This of course is the textile we have used on the endpaper for The Wise Virgins by Leonard Woolf: it’s Vanessa Bell’s design called ‘White’ (after Amber Reeves/Blanco White whose novel A Lady and Her Husband we publish). These kind of books, French paperbacks with a uniform look, were a huge influence on the design of Persephone books in 1999.  .


This is The Garden Room at Charleston. The paisley pattern was stencilled on the walls by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant in the 1940s. The cushion was designed by Vanessa Bell and worked by Duncan Grant’s mother. The curtains are of course Grapes 1932 (as used on Good Things in England). How amazed both painters would have been  that their shabby, comfortable, thrown-together garden room is now stared at admiringly by paying visitors!


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.

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59 Lamb's Conduit Street, London WC1N 3NB